The world's favourite symbols of love always include tokens from Italy, home to the most famous Latin lovers such as Romeo and Casanova—and even to St. Valentine and the little rascal, Cupid, himself.

Any time you plan an evening with an Italian menu and music—it's magnifico. Then, according to wine lovers anywhere today, if you add just the right Chianti your romance will know no bounds.

“Choose a Chianti for its quality and also for its ties to the romantic past,” says Ivano Reali, managing director at Gabbiano, a leading vintner in the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany. “The wine you drink should be worth talking about, especially when, like ours, it's been produced in the vineyards surrounding a medieval castle for close to a thousand years.”

Castello di Gabbiano was cultivating grapes as early as 1124 and its wine activities are still evident today in the cellars below the castle. In the early glow of the Italian Renaissance, documents show that the family was close acquaintances of both Michelangelo and Amerigo Vespucci. Today, the estate is more than 252 acres of prime Tuscan land, some of it cultivated
for olive oil production, but most dedicated to sangiovese vineyards, the dominant grape variety in Chianti Classico wines. The modern winery is reportedly equipped with state-of-the-art facilities for every step of the precision process.

So how does a shopper know the quality of an Italian wine?

“The appellations are reviewed by government experts and their findings are coded on the bottles,” Reali explained. “The higher the rating, the more details you get about the origin such as geographic location, vineyard, grape varietal and other wine making practices. DOCG is the top-of-the-line designation (Appellation of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin) and at
Gabbiano, even our popularly priced 2007 Chianti Classico is DOCG.

Just in time for Valentine's Day, this vintage was unveiled in Ontario last month and is differentiated as a “dry, medium- to full-intensity red wine” which will pair well with higher intensity foods including tomato-based dishes. The grapes were “sourced from select vineyards on steep and rocky hills” off the timeless estate. The wine is “spicy on the palate with
blackberry accents and smooth tannins.”

Also arriving this year is a Gabbiano specialty in the 'Riserva' line, a coveted designation for the best you can buy. For example, the Gabbiano grapes for the 2005 Chianti ClassicoRiserva DOCG were harvested from the oldest and best vines of the historic Castello vineyard and this highly anticipated full-bodied wine is due to arrive on Ontario shelves in June.