What is Chianti: Chianti is the leading red wine from Tuscany made from the Sangiovese grape.
To many the name Chianti evokes the image of a bottle wrapped in straw, also known as Fiasco.
Winemaking in Tuscany dates to 8th century B.C. or approximately 2800 years ago when this region was controlled by the Etruscans.
The earliest records indicate that “Chianti” was actually a white wine.
During the Middle Ages ( 500 A.D to 1500 A.D.), the villages of Gaiole, Radda and Castellina near Florence formed the Lega del Chianti ( League of Chianti ) to produce and promote local wines.
By 1716, these villages where designated by Cosimo III de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany as the only place where Chianti can be made.
Today these villages form the heart of the Chianti Classico district.
By the early 1700’s, Baron Ricasoli created the ’Chianti” recipe of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo and 15% Malvasia. Over time both Trebbiano and Colorino grapes were added to the blend.
Today Francesco Ricasoli , the 32nd Baron of Brolio runs the winery which is Italy’s oldest. There Flagship estate is Castello di Brolio just released it’s 2008 Chianti Classico which received 92 Point’s from the Wine Spectator. This wines is a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot. Over 800 years of Tradition and Excellence.
In 1932, the Chianti region was redrawn and divided into 7 districts, Classico (17,640 acres) , Colli Arentini (1600 acres) , Colli Fiorentini (140 acres) Colline Pisane (1603 acres , Colli Senesi (380 acres) , Montalbano (786 acres) and Rufina (8,780 acres) . This was amended in 1996 when the Colli Fiorentini district was split in 2 and the new district is now called Montespertoli.(1,840 acres)
There are two types of soils in the region, crushed sandstone known as Alberese and a chalky marlstone known as Galestro. Known as the Chianti mountains for its rugged hills ranging from 700 feet to over 200 feet high creating many varied microclimates.
By 1995, a quality revolution was gaining momentum and the laws were changed to allow Chianti to be made from 100% Sangiovese .
Since 1996, the blend for Chianti has had been 75% -100% Sangiovese, up to 10% Canaiolo and up to 20 of the approved red grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and even Syrah.
Both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot where introduced to Tuscany in the early 1980’s by winemakers developing non traditional wines which became known as Super Tuscan’s.
While these wines have become some of the most sought after wines by collectors world wide. Since they did follow local laws they were given the lowest “quality” status Vino da Tavalo or Table Wine. Today they are known as Indicazione Geografica Tipica or just IGT.
Since 2006, both the white grape varieties Trebbiano and Malvasia have been prohibited in making Chianti.
Italian law mandate where grapes are grown, there yield, alcohol levels, aging and what grapes are allowed.
Chianti DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garanita)
This basic level covers the broadest footprint of those vineyards designated within the Chianti growing zone. The minimum alcohol level is 11.5%, vineyard yields of 4 tons per acre and can be released by March following the vintage year.
Chianti Superiore DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garanita)
This level is a little more stricter rules, it must have a minimum alcohol level of 12.% from lower yielding vineyards. Vineyards in Chianti Classico are exempted from using this designation. This wine must be aged for 9 months including 3 months in bottle before release in September.
Must have a minimum alcohol level of at least 12% with a minimum of 7 months aging in oak and can be released by the October following the vintage year. The vineyard yield can only be 3 tons per acre which contributes to its fuller flavors.