The Chianti region
Chianti, one of the most common and talked about Italian wines all over the world, which hails from the region of Tuscany in central Italy. Chianti wine has endured a prior history of being produced in high quantities affecting the quality of bottles produced, but has come a long way in terms of quality and today there are plenty of fantastic Chianti bottles being produced throughout the Chianti region.
Chianti is a territory within Tuscany with multiple zones or communes that each lend their own characteristics and qualities into each individual bottle. What some may not know is that Chianti is not the grape, it is the area from where the wine originates from. The primary grape used in the production of Chianti is the Sangiovese Grape. Many producers will produce Chianti made from 100% sangiovese. Depending upon which wine designation the winemaker abides by they use a minimum amount of Sangiovese with some allowance of other potential grapes. These may include Colorino, Canaiolo, Ciliegiolo, Mammolo and other international varieties like cabernet sauvignon, merlot and Syrah.
Sangiovese and Chianti blends
Sangiovese is a thin-skinned, late ripening grape well known for its high acidity and firm tannins with rustic, earthy charm. It can be tart with notes of cherries, violets, tobacco, cedar, balsamic and herbal notes. It’s typically ruby red in the glass with some orange color around the edges as the wine ages. There are also many clones of Sangiovese grape that are used to produce some of the other highly regarded wines of Tuscany and Italy including Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
The original blend of Chianti was created by Baron Ricasoli in the late 1800’s consisting of the grapes Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Trebbiano and Colorino. Today the blend now longer permits to use white grapes. Wine producers add other grapes to their blends that each add their own traits. For example, Colorino mostly used for its color. The grape Ciliegiolo, meaning cherry in Italian, does exactly that and lends cherry nuances to the wine it is used in. The use of Canaiolo grape serves to soften the Sangiovese. You may also see some Mammolo and the international varieties mentioned previously.
Mind to the label!
When looking for a bottle of Chianti reading the label can tell you a lot about the wine. The label Chianti identifies wines made from anywhere within the region of Tuscany. On the other hand wines labelled as Chianti Classico come from the most historical part of the region. Typically the wines produced here are held to higher standards, therefore resulting in better quality wines.
The labeling with also give you an idea of how long the wine has been aged. Standard Chianti Wines are aged at least 6 months. Chianti Superiore labeled bottles are a minimum of 3 years. Chianti Riserva wines age a minimum of 2 years. Lastly, the new Gran Superiore designation created in 2014 requires a minimum aging of 2.5 years.
How to pair it
Chianti is a natural food pairing wine due to its high acidity. Enjoyable as a pizza and pasta wine, it can equally stand up to many meat dishes of its Tuscany region where it’s paired with a classic Bistecca alla Fiorentina. If you haven’t tried it then it is a must on your next trip to Tuscany.