Italian Red Wine
Italy, a country renowned for beautiful landscapes and exquisite cuisines, is also a land that prides itself on having perfect soil for growing grapes. Many Italians are rightfully proud of their country being home to some of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, representing roughly a third of the global production of wine. With over a million vineyards under cultivation, even a Sommelier takes years to learn everything about Italian wine.
Grapes are grown in almost every region of the country and are used to create delicious wine that is exported and enjoyed by millions around the world. One of the most famous areas for producing red wine is Chianti (Key-an-tee) within the beautiful region of Tuscany.
There are seven main sub-zones within the Chianti region, all of which make their own wine; the most popular districts for producing variants of Chianti are Classico and Rufina.
Chianti Classico is one of the best-known and appreciated wines, having been produced for more than 2,000 years. What makes it unique is not only the quality of the wine but the traditional wine production process, which is signified by a pink label with a black rooster seal. To find out more about the prestigious Chianti Classico wine read our article ‘Red Wine: A Spotlight on Chianti’.
Whether you are planning to visit Chianti on a romantic break for two or are staying in one of our many villas in Chianti with a group of good friends, there are so many different experiences and that you can choose to explore. Below we touch on one of our most popular experiences, a Chianti wine tour. If you have a taste for the finer things in life, you’re in for a real treat.
Chianti wine grapes and colour
The majority of Chianti wines are made from 100% Sangiovese grapes. Other types may contain a mixture of grapes such as Canaoilo, Colorino and even Merlot – however, they must contain at least 80% Sangiovese grapes in order to hold the title of Chianti wine. Sangiovese grapes are thin-skinned, ensuring that the wine is translucent as well a deep ruby red colour.
The Chianti wine making process
In order to uphold Italy’s reputation for the production of quality wine, the government has created rules and guides that wine producers must respect and follow in order to preserve traditional methods and techniques.
There are three main associations that provide rules on how the wine should be made; they state any wine that does not belong to one of these associations is considered to be a ‘table wine’. This doesn’t necessarily mean the wine in question is a ‘bad wine’; it just means that it cannot claim a specific title like Chianti on its label.
The process that the grapes go through in order to create Chianti wine is very particular; an overview is provided below:
Harvesting of the grapes
‘Vendemmia’, the harvesting of the wine grapes, is one of the most crucial stages in Chianti winemaking. The harvest starts at the end of August and beginning of September across Tuscany as this is the time of year that the grapes are at their most ripe.
Although manual labour brings increased cost, the grapes are hand-picked by workers. The need for gentle handling and the selection of only the healthiest grapes make this an easy decision for wine producers.
The grapes are quickly whisked off to the cellars where they start the next stage of the process: removal of the stems. The grapes cannot be stored as they will start to ferment, causing the quality of the wine to be damaged. The stems are removed by hand or by a machine designed to work smoothly to avoid any damage to the grapes.
The fermentation stage of Chianti wine production is the most crucial when it comes to ensuring the quality of the overall finish. You may picture Italian farmers stomping in wooden vats to crush the grapes; this did indeed happen in earlier times. Modern Chianti producers, however, use stainless steel machines that allow them to chemically control the fermentation of the grapes.
The machines house pistons that prompt continuous mixing of the crushed grapes to ensure they are always oxygenated. The process also pulls down the skins of the grapes so they don’t just lie on top; this ensures that the liquid is guaranteed to get the best natural colouration.
Each grape variety is fermented separately and this process takes up to 3-4 weeks. During this time the natural sugars from the grapes transform into alcohol with the help of natural yeast from the skins of the grapes.
Ageing of the wines
The next and longest stage is the ageing. This is done in oak barrels; the typical Tuscan barrel ‘botti’ is extremely large with the capacity to hold thousands of litres of wine. The barrels give tannins and flavours to the wine very slowly over time, although the win will preserve its fruity taste. The grapes continue to ferment while within the barrel and are always blended separately, with the final blend of grapes made right at the end of the process.
The general aging timescales for the different sub-zones within the Chianti region are:
- Colli Senesi: Aged for 6 months
- Colline Pisane: Aged for 6 months
- Colli Aretini: Aged for 6 months
- Montalbano: Aged for 6 months
- Montespertoli: Aged for 9 months
- Classico: Aged for at least a year
- Rùfina: Aged for at least a year
- Colli Fiorentini: Aged for at least a year
Once the grapes have been aged for the ideal amount of time, the wine is ready to be filtered, bottled and exported around the globe.
Chianti wine tours and wine tasting
A visit to Italy is the perfect opportunity to taste and learn more about different Italian wines. Why not immerse yourself in Italian culture by participating in a wine tasting experience?
If you love red wine and want the chance to try out Chianti in the very place it is produced (and witness the various stages of the winemaking process), we recommend booking one of our Chianti wine tours which are perfect if you are staying in one of our Italian villas.