Chianti is one of my absolute favorite wines.
No longer perched in a basket sitting on the red and white checkered table in your favorite Italian restaurant, this world class wine from Italy is worth delving into.
“True” chianti wine comes from the Chianti region in Tuscany Italy. Its primary red grapes are Sangiovese and Canaiolo. A true chianti wine must use at least 75% Sangiovese grapes (and may use up to 100%). Not as widely known, the white varietals from Chianti are Trebbiano and Malvasia, although good luck locating a “white chianti”.
The confusing part for the everyday consumer of chianti is the labeling. Here is, hopefully, a simple breakdown:
“Chianti” and “Chianti Classico” are two distinct areas in Tuscany producing Chianti wine. They each hold their own status as a “DOGC” (Denominazlone di Origine Controllata e Garantita— denoting the highest quality recognition for Italian wines);
Chianti Classico must have a minimum alcohol level of 12% and have been fermented in oak for a minimum of 7 months; additionally, Chianti Classicos that are labeled “Riserva” must be aged at least 27 months at the winery, with a minimum alcohol level of at least 12.5%;
Chianti wine, from the Chianti DOGC, that meet some very stringent requirements (lower yield, higher alcohol content and dry extract and produced in the provinces of Arezzo, Florence, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato and Siena of the Chianti DOGC), may be labeled as “Chianti Superiore”
Chianti from the “Classico” sub-area is never allowed to be labeled as “Superiore”;
Chianti is generally a medium to full bodied wine. You can expect to experience tastes of cherries, plums, cinnamon, strawberries, vanilla, violets, and raspberries, but, similar to Bordeaux, each sub-region of Chianti produces its own unique flavor profiled wines. Chianti wines generally have a good amount of acidity and pair very well with food including beef, lamb, chicken and tomato-based sauces over pasta.
The DOCG in Chianti covers 5 provinces: Arezzo, Firenze, Pisa, Pistoria and Siena. Within the provinces are 7 subregions: Chianti Colli Aretini, Chianti Colli Fiorentini, Chianti Colli Senesi, Chianti Colline Pisance, Chianti Montalbano, Chianti Rufina and Chianti Montespertoli.
The Chianti Classico region covers an area of approximate 100 square miles (259 square kilometers) between the city of Florence to the north and Siena to the south. The four communes of Castellina in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, Greve in Chianti and Radda in Chianti are located entirely within the boundaries of the Classico region.
In Simple Terms. . .
The best news of us is that your “basic” Chianti is usually priced from $10.00 to $15.00 per bottle. For $10.00 more, generally, you can purchase a very good Chianti Classico.
Take a look at Chianti, if you have not done so since you last saw a bottle in a basket in your favorite Italian restaurant. They are great “value” red wines and at the Superiore and Riserva levels, are world class red wines.