While we had an exceptional summer, part of me welcomes the changing leaves, grey cool days, slower pace, stars, and northern lights.

This change of season has brought me back to our kitchen, making pasta, pizza and roast meats. And my partner and I have rediscovered the pleasure of Italian Chianti wines from Tuscany.

We loaned our canoe to a friend for a trip from Carmacks to Dawson City, and when she brought it back she came with a Melini Chianti ($16.40 at the YLC), which led to a spur of the moment dinner party with homemade pizza — a perfect accompaniment.

When we opened the bottle, I poured it through a wine aerator to let it react with air, and open up faster.

When a wine interacts with air, the scent becomes more pronounced, and the taste less astringent and fruitier. As soon as it hit the glass, I could smell hints of red cherry in the bouquet, and a soft, not-too-tannic fruitiness that works so well with a wide variety of foods.

Melini has been making wines since 1705, and was one of the first wine makers in Tuscany to make Chiantis using a blend of local grapes, beginning in around 1800. The classic Chianti blend was roughly 70 per cent Sanglovese, 15 per cent Canalolo and 15 per cent Malvasia Bianca, which is a white wine grape.

This recipe changed over time, and in 1996 it was decreed that to be called a Chianti, the wine was required to have 75 to 100 per cent Sangiovese grape juice, and could be blended with up to 10 per cent Canaiolo, and up to 20 per cent of another red wine grape such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot or syrah.

In 2006, white wine grapes were prohibited from Chianti Classico wines.

The word Chianti refers to a region of Tuscany between Florence to the north, and Sienna to the south. Regular Chiantis must be aged for at least six months, while a Chianti Classico must be aged for a least a year in order to be called such.

This reminder of Chianti wines put us on a mission to compare several of the other Chiantis offered at the local liquor store.

We bought two related wines to compare: the Cecchi Chianti ($16.30) and its big brother, the Cecchi Chianti Classico ($20.35). The first Chianti tasted a little thin, as if it had been watered down, or made with not-quite-ripe grapes.

By comparison, the Cecchi Classico, for only $4.05 more, was lovely — a clear and rich cherry scent on the nose.

There is also a lovely earthy taste and smell to the wine, something I always associate with Tuscany. This one also had hints of leather in both the smell and the taste.

Key to enjoying Italian reds is letting them breathe, so either open them up one to one–and-a-half hours before consumption, or pick up a wine aerator.

If you get one, try the first mouthful poured straight from the bottle into a glass. Taste it, then pour a bit through the aerator, and taste that. It’s like night and day, and you don’t have to be a wine expert to taste the difference.