Chianti Wine: history, villages and traditions

Chianti wine

A Chianti wine is any dry red wine produced in the Chianti region, in central Tuscany. Chianti region is divided into 8 sub-zones: Classico, Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colline Pisane, Colli Senesi, Montalbano, Rùfina and Montespertoli. The blend for Chianti should consist of at least 75% Sangiovese, up to 10% Canaiolo and up to 20% of any other approved grape variety such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Trebbiano etc. Rules of production are much stricter for Chianti Classico sub-zone. Since 2006, the use of white grape varieties such as Malvasia and Trebbiano has been prohibited in Chianti Classico.

Chianti Regions

The Chianti regions lie in the Tuscan hills, in west-central Italy.  Think of the region as a Chianti pie sliced into eight Chianti zones and within the D.O.C.G. designated appellation, Classico is the most famous and the model for the eponymous wine. The general Chianti zone encompasses a large swath of land throughout the provinces of Florence and Siena; you may hear the distinction of “Florentine Chianti” and “Sienese Chianti.” Chianti Classico is a smaller area than Chianti, and it is the most historic and traditional territory for making this kind of wine. It is located right between the cities of Florence and Siena. Here, all the best vineyards are grown.

The distinction between Chianti and Chianti Classico goes back to the official edict of 1716 when the Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici clearly defined the territory’s borders—making the basis for one of the oldest DOCGs in Italy. It means that this year—2016—is the 300th anniversary of Chianti Classico! These were core neighboring districts that formed the nucleus of Chianti Classico. In time these were stretched outward and in 1932, the boundaries were defined to include the communes of San Casciano Val di Pesa, Barberino Val d’Elsa, Tavernelle Val di Pesa, Castellnuovo Berardengo, and finally Poggibonsi.

The Wine

The original Chianti wine was made predominantly with Canaiolo grape blended with several others. Modern Chianti can be traced back to an influential Chianti winemaker, Baron Ricasoli, who in 1872 declared a superior formula of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo, and 15% Malvasia. This became the standard formula and it was strictly regulated until 1984 when the DOCG regulations changed, allowing a minimum 75% Sangiovese with up to 10% non-traditional varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. In the present, Classico regulations allow up to 100% Sangiovese. The law stipulates a minimum of 75% Sangiovese, with a maximum of 10% Canaiolo, 6% white grapes, and up to 15% of Cab-Merlot-Syrah varietals.

Gallo Nero

This Gallo Nero has become the trademark symbol for Classico wines and represents a consortium of producers that banded together with the charter to protect authentic Chianti wines. They adopted the Gallo Nero to represent their consortium and to symbolize their commitment to quality and Chianti integrity. Why the Gallo Nero? Well, it is Italy after all and there’s a legend that pitted the perennially warring city-states of Siena and Florence over territory. A knight from each city was supposed to set out upon the rooster’s morning crow.

Super Tuscans

Just a word about Super Tuscan wines. These are from the renegade winemakers who wanted to break away from the strict formulaic structure of Chianti that many felt created ennui among winemakers and degraded the wine’s quality and prestige. Super Tuscan wines broke from the Chianti laws and traditions producing wine outside the regulated formula. Super Tuscans came into being during the 1970s, when rebellious winemakers in Chianti, in Tuscany, began to experiment with different types of grape.

The DOC laws at the time allowed for up to 20 per cent of a chianti to be the produce of white wine grapes. Winemakers attempting to cash in on the popularity of chianti in the 1960s would put in the maximum allowed, to ramp up profits, causing a drop in quality which, of course, resulted in a decline in both the sales and reputation of the region’s wines.
In 1982 Marchese Piero Antinori introduced his Tignanello made from 85% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc. He didn’t care if the word, Chianti, appeared on the label. He was looking to make a better realized wine dictated by good winemaking rather than tradition. He broke the mold and others followed him.

The Villages

Greve in Chianti is an important marketplace 31 km south of Florence. The beautiful Franciscan monastery is located in the heart of the old part of the village as well as the triangular market square, which has been trading for centuries with nearby castles and villages.

Castellina in Chianti is located in the midst of the valleys of the Arbia, Elsa and Pesa rivers and is together with Radda in Chianti the most beautiful of the 4 Chianti towns near Siena. The town has a historical and noble origin, built in the 13th century on a high mountain hill, probably on a Roman ruin. It has a medieval atmosphere with a number of religious buildings including the San Salvatore parish church.

Book now your special and exciting wine tour: Chianti and Super tuscan Wine Tour from Florence, 3 wineries

Wine tasting in Chianti

Duration: Every day from 9:30 am to 5.00 pm
People: min 2 – max 16, mixed
€170,00 p.p.