above photo: © Luca_Daviddi via canva.com

Chianti is likely one of the most well-known and common red wines in countries outside of Italy. Hailing from Tuscany, one of Italy’s most famous Italian regions, Chianti is renowned for its vibrant flavors, rich history, and versatility. Whether you’re a seasoned wine enthusiast or just beginning your journey into the world of wines, Chianti is a wine to add to your repertoire. 

In this guide, you’ll discover what makes Chianti unique, from its primary grape, Sangiovese, to the diverse subregions that contribute to its distinct profiles. Also covered are the essential tips on how to enjoy and pair Chianti, ensuring you get the most out of every sip. So, pour yourself a glass, sit back, and join us on the journey. Cin, cin! (psst! That’s “cheers” in Italian)

Where Is Chianti Produced in Italy? 

The Chianti production zone is quite extensive, covering several subregions, each with its unique characteristics and regulations.

The designation, Chianti DOCG (Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin – is the highest classification for Italian wines that ensures quality and authenticity), encompasses several provinces within Tuscany, including Florence, Siena, Arezzo, Pisa, Pistoia, and Prato. This area produces a wide range of Chianti wines, offering diverse styles and qualities from a vast variety of wine producers.

Chianti Classico is the most historic and prestigious subregion, located between the cities of Florence and Siena. Recognized by the black rooster (Gallo Nero) emblem on its bottles, Chianti Classico has stricter production regulations to ensure higher quality. This region is known for producing more refined and complex wines, often with better aging potential.

Pro-tip: Although it is not a guarantee, if you’re looking to bring a bottle home to age, purchase one with the Gallo Nero emblem.

Done the Chianti wine region already or want to escape the crowds (it’s no secret Tuscany has A LOT of tourists)? 

Discover Italy’s most underrated wine region here where sangiovese is also used in the local production! 

chianti wine italy tours<br />

The History of Chianti

Chianti has a rich history dating back to at least the 13th century. Originally, it was a white wine, but by the 18th century, it evolved into the red wine we all know today. The name Chianti itself is thought to come from an ancient Etruscan family that lived in the central territory of Tuscany over 3000 years ago. 

Chianti owes much of its success to the first migrants who brought the wine to America in the famous “Fiaschi,” which is still easily recognizable today. This wine bottle is characterized by its distinctive round shape and straw basket covering, which was originally designed to protect the thin glass during transport.

The fiasco has now become a cultural symbol of traditional Italian wine, especially Chianti. It is often associated with rustic Italian dining and old-world charm. A historical remnant of past times, the fiasco has now been replaced mostly by modern bottles.

Not only has the bottle evolved over time, so has the grape content. Until the 18th century, the wine was only made with Sangiovese grapes, but around the late 1800s, the baron Bettino Ricasoli came up with a better formula to make this wine. He found the balanced mix was not 100% Sangiovese but 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo, and 15% Malvasia or Trebbiano. 

However, that has changed now, with most producers opting for small amounts of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, which was allowed to fit within DOCG standards in 2006. 

Most bottles available on the market are produced with 100% Sangiovese using a process called “in purezza,” meaning using a single variety of grape in the production of wine. 

Brushing up on your knowledge of Italian wines? Read the Quick Guide to Pecorino and the Quick Guide to Montepulciano D’Abruzzo! 

chianti wine grapes

Types of Chianti Classico

Within Chianti Classico, there are different classifications that indicate the quality and aging process of the wine.

Chianti Classico Annata is the standard Chianti Classico wine, often referred to simply as “Annata,” which means “vintage” in Italian. It represents the region’s freshest and most straightforward expression. The wine must be aged for at least 12 months before release, and the flavor profile is typically medium-bodied with red fruit flavors. 

Chianti Classico Riserva is a step up in quality and complexity from the standard Annata. Riserva wines must be aged for a minimum of 24 months, with at least 3 months of bottle aging before release.

Riserva wines are more structured and complex, with deeper fruit flavors, more pronounced tannins, and additional layers of spice, leather, and earthiness. 

Chianti Gran Selezione is the highest classification of Chianti Classico, introduced in 2014 to denote the finest wines of the region. These wines must be aged for at least 30 months, with a minimum of 3 months of bottle aging before release.

Gran Selezione wines are made from the estate’s best grapes, often from single vineyards or the best vineyard sites. They must also meet stricter production standards, including lower yields and higher quality grape selection.

Thinking about visiting Italy for some wine tasting? Read more about the best times to visit for wine lovers! 

chianti classico wine region tuscany italy

Taste Profile

Chianti wines, particularly those from the Chianti Classico subregion, are known for their distinct and appealing taste profiles. The primary grape used in Chianti is Sangiovese, which significantly influences the wine’s flavors and characteristics.

Chianti is renowned for its prominent red fruit flavors, particularly cherry, red plum, and raspberry. These fruit flavors are often vibrant and fresh, providing a juicy and approachable quality to the wine.

The wine can also frequently exhibit subtle herbal notes, such as dried herbs, thyme, oregano, and sometimes even green tea. As Chianti wines age, they may develop more complex secondary flavors like leather, tobacco, or cedar, especially in Riserva and Gran Selezione classifications.

Chianti wines are known for their high acidity, which is a key characteristic of Sangiovese grapes. This high acidity gives the wine a bright, refreshing quality and makes it particularly food-friendly, especially with tomato-based dishes and rich meats. The alcohol content in Chianti is generally moderate, usually ranging from 12% to 14% ABV (alcohol by volume). 

chianti wine pairings

Perfect Pairings for Chianti

Experiencing Chianti with some of Tuscany’s traditional dishes, like Ribollita and grilled meats or Fiorentina steak, is a must when visiting the region. 

If you’re at home, Chianti is best matched to roast beef and any grilled meats, but also to earthy soups with lots of vegetables, oven-roasted potatoes, and anything that has been slow-cooked, such as a stew. 

Pro-Tip: If the wine is more than a few years old, leave it open or decant it and bring it to room temperature for the best tasting experience!

How to Try Chianti Wine

Chianti is one wine where spending a bit more makes a big difference in quality and taste for the consumer. A bottle of Classico will cost around €10-15, with Riserva and vintage years being around €15-20, and Gran Selezione around €20-€35. A bottle of Chianti that is not Classico can be €5-10. 

There is a wide range of choices for Chianti, but if you want to try one of the best, start by choosing a year when the summer temperatures were very high and the region experienced little rain. One of these good years in the past has been 2015 and 2018.

It’s important to keep in mind that many producers today make wines for international markets. Often, making it difficult to find a wine that’s truly representative of what Italians deem a good Chianti.  This is why the best way to try any wine is by traveling to the region and visiting small producers that you can’t find at home. 

Can’t make it to Italy at the moment? Then the second best way to get a hold of a good Chianti is to seek out your local wine shop that focuses on small independent producers and has personally visited each of the winemakers they carry in their shops.

If you’re a wine lover, you’ve probably wanted to taste Italy’s finest wines like a local. While many think of Tuscany as Italy’s top wine region, the neighboring region of Umbria is a lesser-known hidden gem. 

When you join us on our Italy Uncorked tour, you’ll get three tasting experiences at award-winning wineries – plus a wine taste at a regional Enoteca! 

You’ll also Meet one of Le Marche’s Top Wine Producers to learn about the latest innovations in wine production and dine on a curated tasting menu overlooking the hills of Castelli di Jesi. As locals and travel/wine experts, we’ve crafted a once-in-a-lifetime experience for lovers of Italian wine like you!

From North to South, on every single one of our trips you’ll enjoy tasting menus paired with wine and visits to independent wine producers in Italy’s untouched territory away from the tourist track. Click here to discover all the trips to select your perfect fit!

 

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