I'm guilty of living a cliche: I went to Florence as a student on a summer study program, and that changed my life. How many wine-industry people have I met in the past 20 years whose obsession with wine began the same way?
What did I drink as a young, broke student in Florence? Whatever the law students in my pensione were pouring. And that invariably was basic Chianti (not the more upscale Chianti Classico), poured from an unlabeled bottle. Now, that changed my life. It showed me that wine could be delicious. Till then, I'd been a gin-and-tonic drinker (if I wasn't enjoying something more illicit). In high school, I'd tried wine, such as it was at the time—god-awful zinfandel, tart and thin Valpolicella, Blue Nun, Lancers—and failed to see the appeal.
So, like millions of travelers before me, I owe a debt of gratitude to simple, unpretentious Chianti.
And that's the subject of my current feature story in Tastes of Italia magazine: "A Ticket to Chianti: Sweet Dreams Are Made of This." Learn about Chianti DOCG and all the other Chiantis outside of Chianti Classico. Pick up the issue at Barnes & Noble, or read the story here.