Chianti is the most widely produced wine in Tuscany. Indeed, the hilly landscape is often referred to as ‘the Chianti hills’, with the Colli Senesi and Colli Fiorentini, home to two of the region’s prestigious DOCG quality labels. The wine production in the region dates back to Etruscan period, giving the Chianti label a centuries-old prestige. Here at Tannico, you will find a selection of Italy’s best Chianti wines, from historic producers who have contributed to its well-deserved fame – such as Castello di Ama, Castello di Volpaia and Barone Ricasoli – and other smaller wineries and hidden gems.
What are the characteristics of Chianti wine? Chianti’s defining characteristics reflect the qualities of the Sangiovese grape with which it’s produced, and whose name derives from the Latin phrase sanguis Jovis, ‘Jupiter’s blood’. The Sangiovese gives well-rounded wines with good depth and robust structure, typically featuring notes of forest fruits such as blackberry and cherry. In this respect, Castello di Volpaia’s Chianti Classico is a perfect example. More characteristics, often emerging with age, may encompass spice, tobacco, earthiness and violet hints, just like in Volpaia’s Chianti Classico Riserva. Interestingly enough, despite the fact that Chianti is a red wine, until 2006 it was permitted to include up to 10% white grape varieties such as Malvasia. This is now strictly prohibited.
The precise flavour profile of Chianti depends partly on whether it’s produced under the Chianti or Chianti Classico appellation, as each has different rules for the variety and percentage of grapes allowed in the blend. The Chianti DOCG label comprises seven subzones, including Chianti Colli Senesi, Fiorentini and Rufina. These Chianti DOCG wines must contain at least 75% Sangiovese, with the remainder being completed by the native Canaiolo Nero or Colorino grapes, or the international varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah. Chianti DOCG is also available in Superiore or Riserva versions, with the latter needing to age for a minimum of two years prior the release.
The Chianti Classico DOCG is widely deemed to represent yet another step up in terms of quality and prestige. Geographically, this DOCG extends to nine communes, including Castelnuovo Berardenga and Castellina, home to the San Felice and Mazzei wineries respectively. Bottles produced under this appellation are easily identifiable by the black rooster logo – historic symbol of the town of Florence. These wines must contain a minimum of 80% Sangiovese, generally proceeding from vines grown at higher elevations. Chianti Classico wines are further divided into three subcategories: Annata, Riserva and Gran Selezione, being aged for at least 12, 24 and 30 months correspondingly, including at least three months in the bottle.
What food makes a good match for Chianti wine? In terms of food pairings, Chianti goes splendidly with Italian food, its fruitiness constituting a perfect match for anything with a tomato sauce base and paving the way for multiple pasta and pizza dishes. Its solid tannin content also makes Chianti the perfect complement to roasted or barbecued meats, game dishes, or a hearty smorgasbord of cold cuts.