A spotlight on the region of Chianti
Tradition and a long-established viticulture have put the region of Chianti on every wine connoisseur’s bucket list. It is home to one of the most famous wine-producing regions around the globe, and with a vast array of different styles of Chianti wine on offer, there is sure to be one that is suited to your palette.
Chianti wine is often enjoyed on its own, although its level of high acidity makes it a great match for a wide variety of dishes. For many, Chianti wine is as essential to Italian cuisine as extra-virgin olive oil.
If you are planning on visiting one of our Chianti villas anytime soon, and want to know a bit more about the area, here are a few facts to get you started.
History of Chianti wine
Chianti wine is known for its traditional wine bottles in a straw basket, known as a ‘fiasco’. The swamp weed basket, as well as being pretty, was designed to have a flat base but support the traditional round-bottomed wine bottle, which was traditionally the easiest shape to form via glass blowing. The basket also acted as a protection aid for the bottle during transportation and handling.
Although the iconic fiasco is still used for decorative purposes in the region’s restaurants, it is used by few modern wine producers, with the majority favouring a more standard-shaped bottle. The main reason for this is thought to be the cost, as the fiascos were made by hand by skilled workers.
Chianti wine dates back to 1716, when Chianti was first defined as a wine area within Italy. It wasn’t until the middle of the 19th Century, however, that the recipe for Chianti wine was developed.
The creator of the original modern recipe for Chianti wine was Baron Bettino Ricasoli, who later became the prime Minister of Italy. His recipe, which his family-named firm still produces today, consisted of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo and 15% Malvasia Bianca.
During the late 20th Century, a group of ambitious wine producers began working outside of the regulations for producing Chianti wine to make what they believed to be a higher quality wine. These wines became known as ‘Super Tuscans’. This flurry of creativity and innovation led to popularity for these modern wines, eventually encouraging the government to reconsider its regulations and allow some of the wines back into the label of Chianti.
Nowadays Chianti wine producers use a variety of different recipes, with various blends of white and red grapes. It wasn’t until 1995 that it became legal to produce Chianti wine with 100% Sangiovese grapes. The current decree for Chianti wine is that it must include at least 80% Sangiovese grapes. To find out more on the how the wine is produced read our article ‘From Grape to Glass: Chianti Wine’.
Panoramic views of rolling luscious green hills dotted with olive groves and vineyards are abundant within all of the seven main Chianti sub-zones. Chianti covers a vast area of Tuscany, with each sub-zone having several overlapping boundaries.
When Chianti was first defined as a wine area in 1716 it included only three villages: Gaiole, Castillina and Radda. It wasn’t until 1932 that the Chianti area was completely re-drawn and sub-divided into seven areas. These sub-zones are:
- Colli Fiorentini – located in the south of Florence
- Chianti Rufina – located in the north-eastern commune of Rufina
- Classico – located in the centre of Chianti, spreading across Florence and Siena
- Colli Aretini – located to the east of the province of Arezzo
- Colli Senesi – located just south of the Classico region in Siena
- Colline Pisane – located in the provence of Pisa and is the furthest west of all the sub-zones
- Montalbano – located in the north-west above Colli Fiorentini
Chianti is nowadays often mentioned as having eight sub-zones instead of seven as part of the Colli Fiorentini sub-zone was re-named as Montespertolli in 1996, making an eighth and final sub-zone.
Each Chianti sub-zone creates a unique variation of Chianti wine, with major differences including how long they are aged, how much alcohol they contain and which dishes they are perfect for pairing with. The most famous and recognised wine producing area of Chianti is the region Classico.
Italian wine: Chianti Classico
Wine from Chianti Classico, a region that stretches between Florence and Siena, takes the longest to achieve its ideal age and is held up as the most appreciated wine from the whole of the Chianti region. The Chianti Classico area alone produces over 35 million bottles per year!
It is often asked what makes the Chianti Classico unique from all of the other Chianti wines produced. The high reputation is thanks to not just the quality of the wine but also to the wine-making traditions and procedures that are followed.
In order to protect and promote the wine, as well as prevent wine fraud, the Chianti Classico Wine Consortium was founded in 1924. This consortium is symbolised by the pink label with a black rooster seal that is found on the majority of Chianti Classico bottles. The black rooster signifies the peace between Siena and Florence, two Tuscan cities that had been rivals for centuries. Almost all producers of Chianti Classico belong to the consortium in order to ensure that the wine’s overall high level of quality is preserved.
Chainti Classico wines are aged for various lengths of time. In their youth, the wines are characterised by their floral and cinnamon bouquet, whereas when the wine has had longer to age aromas of tabacco and leather can surface. Tuscans say that once you have tried Chianti Classico you will never forget it!
For any budding wine connoisseur with an appetite to taste all the different variations of Chianti Classico, why not look into staying in one of our villas in Chianti and experience one of our Chianti wine tours where you will get to experience how the wines are developed in the exact place that they are produced.