Some people ask about the difference between Chianti and Chianti Classico wines and many are not even aware that there is a difference.
As the name itself suggests, “Classico” means “classic” and we can therefore understand that it is somewhat the “original” one. In fact Chianti Classico, beside having a longer history, is also the wine that is produced in the heart of the Chianti region that is located in central Tuscany, between the towns of Florence and Siena. On the other hand, the wine that is simply called Chianti is produced in a much broader area, outside and around the Chianti region and spreading as far as near the towns of Pisa and Arezzo.
As both these wines belong to the top DOCG appellation, they both express characters that are considered unique to the areas where they are produced.
The fact that they both contain the word “Chianti” in their name obviously suggests that they share something in common and we could put that down to several factors. For example, both wines are made using the typical Tuscan grape variety sangiovese, that is commonly blended with other local or international varieties.
From this point of view they seem identical, but they are different!
Being classified as DOCG means that they are regulated by many restrictions, some of which are those that regulate the mandatory ageing before their release on the market and here is where we find the first BIG difference: Chianti wine can be released as early as in March of the year following the harvest. This means that it takes barely six months to be ready and as the ageing in wood is often not a common practice, Chianti wine tends to be quite light and simple, with high acidity, which makes it perfect for enjoying with everyday simple meals, including seafood dishes.
Conversely, Chianti Classico cannot be bottled before twelve months from the harvest, a whole year in the making, and though it is not mandatory, the ageing of this wine in wood, at least for a short period of time that often ranges from six to nine months, is a very common practice. The result of this practice is that Chianti Classico is a wine offering greater body, more complexity and also a smoother finish. It is still a very versatile wine, when it comes to pairing with food, but it is obviously better suited with the richer dishes, such as red meat and tasty cheese.
Another important difference is the yield restrictions that directly affect the different concentration of the grapes used to make these wines and which will always cause Chianti Classico to be more full body than Chianti.
The pricing of these wines is also different, but understanding what is behind the basic requirements for their production helps appreciating the fact that a bottle of Chianti Classico will always be more expensive than its “younger cousin” Chianti and, although both wines are usually drunk in the short term, Chianti Classico offers the possibility to be stored in the bottle for up to 7 years from the harvest.