What is Chianti wine?

What is Chianti? Is Chianti wine sweet? What is the difference between Chianti and Chianti Classico? What is Ruffino Chianti? These are just some of the many questions that we receive when students come to learn about Tuscany’s wines. While most people have heard of Chianti red wine, unless you have spent time studying the Chianti wine region or Chianti red wine, chances are you may not know much about it. Where does it come from? Which kind of grapes are used to make it? What are some of its characteristics? What are some of its variations?

Chianti wine characteristics 

Well, Chianti is a dry, red wine that comes from a specific region in Tuscany – the Chianti region. Chianti grapes do not exist, rather, the Chianti red wine is made from Sangiovese grapes grown in the Chianti region. Chianti Classico comes from an even smaller region within the Chianti region.

One well-known brand of Chianti is Ruffino Chianti, a DOCG dating all the way back to 1877, when it was first produced. Ruffino Chianti is extremely well known in the United States because prior to World War I it was the only Chianti exported from Italy to the United States. It was a sort of Italian wine ambassador all around the world. Ruffino Chianti is made with a minimum of 70% Sangiovese grapes plus other red varietals such as Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon.

Chianti wine price

The pricing of Chianti wines varies significantly due to factors like the blend of grapes, organic certification, production methods, and aging processes. For example, a Chianti Classico often commands a higher price than a Chianti Colli Fiorentini, with the Chianti Classico Riserva usually being the priciest among them. Contrary to its reputation in the United States as an affordable table wine, Chianti can indeed offer exquisite quality for those who know where to look for.

Pairing and Cooking with Chianti

Chianti or Chianti Riserva are all best enjoyed served with food. The wines enjoy high acidity and course tannins, which cut through fatty dishes including those high in olive oil or animal fats. Some lower-priced Chianti wines are also excellent to cook with.  Open a bottle of Chianti, pour yourself a glass, and use some of the leftover to flavor Tuscan risotto with Chianti, or braise beef in Chianti wine to make stracotto al Chianti.

The Chianti region

Spanning the picturesque provinces of Florence and Siena, the Chianti region is a testament to Italy’s rich viticultural heritage, covering an expanse of 71,800 hectares. This area is celebrated for its diverse array of Chianti wines, each reflecting the unique terroir of towns such as San Casciano in Val di Pesa, where the tradition meets innovation; Greve in Chianti, known for its historic squares surrounded by vineyards; Tavarnelle Val di Pesa and Barberino Val d’Elsa, where rolling hills offer optimal vineyard conditions; Poggibonsi, with its robust Sangiovese grapes; Radda in Chianti and Castellina in Chianti, which are heartlands of Chianti Classico production; Gaiole in Chianti, steeped in medieval history; and Castelnuovo Berardenga, where the wines embody the soul of southern Tuscany.

The winemaking tradition in the Chianti region is governed by specific regulations that ensure the high quality of its wines, with a focus on maintaining a Sangiovese grape minimum in the blend. This practice is common across different Chianti zones, aiming to produce wines that are rich in flavor and complexity. Through a combination of Sangiovese with other grapes like Canaiolo and Colorino, as well as international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Chianti wines achieve a spectrum of tastes, from lively and fruity to robust and sophisticated.

The rich tapestry of Chianti’s winemaking zones not only contributes to the diversity of its wines,  but also tells the story of a region where every vineyard, every bottle, captures the essence of its homeland, making Chianti a symbol of Italian wine excellence recognized worldwide.

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

Wine tour Tuscany, 3 Chianti wineries