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Tuscany with its cypress and olive groves on picturesque hills, caressed by sea breezes, has given the world many outstanding red wines. The most famous among them is Chianti.
The first mention of Chianti dates back to the year 1398. In 1716, Chianti encompassed only four settlements: Castellina, Greve, Radda, and Gaiole. Today, these territories are collectively known as Chianti Classico. In 1963, with the introduction of wine classification in Italy, the Chianti region obtained the DOC designation. However, the zone was significantly expanded, and less significant territories were included. In 1984, the classification was upgraded to DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), and in 1996, this category was bestowed upon the historical lands of Chianti Classico, underscoring the region’s significance and distinct production style.
For over half a millennium, this herbaceous and spicy, moderately fruity wine was poured into plump bottles called ‘fiasco.’ The bottle, made of delicate glass, was wrapped in straw, protecting it from sunlight and impact.
The foundation of Chianti’s blend is Sangiovese (or Sangioveto), a local red grape variety with thin skin. Sangiovese is capable of altering its character based on the soil it grows in, and winemakers always capitalize on this, crafting new vibrant nuances for the renowned brand. In a glass, Sangiovese typically displays a semi-transparent red-ruby color.
In 1872, Baron Bettino Ricasoli ushered in a new era in the history of Chianti wine. After years of experimentation, he developed a “universal formula” for wine with a splendid bouquet—pleasantly tannic, powerful yet delicate, marked by refreshing acidity and notes of wild berries. According to his formula, Chianti was to be composed of 70% Sangiovese, 15% red Canaiolo, and 15% white Malvasia. However, the use of white varieties in Chianti production rendered the wine less interesting and more watery. The region’s finest winemakers demanded the exclusion of white grapes from the blend. As of 1995, the addition of white grapes to Chianti was prohibited.
In 1984, the formula was revised, resulting in the delineation of three primary Chianti groups. In 2014, another group was added:
Chianti Classico — the most prized wine in the Chianti lineup. It is produced within a small area between Florence and Siena. This classic Chianti zone encompasses 70,000 hectares of land across a dozen municipalities.
Chianti Classico is marked with a tax stamp depicting the silhouette of a rooster against a red circle. This seal has been applied since the 14th century as the emblem of the Chianti League, which once ruled the region. In the 20th century, it became the symbol of an Association with a 700-year history. Over 600 members of the Chianti Classico Association (also known as “Gallo Nero,” the black rooster, after Chianti’s symbol) produce over 70% of the wine with Chianti Classico qualifications. Apart from production and quality control, the Chianti Classico Association plays a vital role in marketing Chianti producers worldwide. Restaurants, wine boutiques, and supermarkets prominently display this wine. Chianti Classico is recognized as a distinct and independent wine, distinguished by its terroir, quality, and history.
In ancient times, the cities of Siena and Florence were in constant rivalry. Local wise men sought to put an end to these conflicts. They agreed that at a set time after sunset, following the crowing of the first rooster from each city, two horsemen would set off toward each other. The point where they met would mark the boundary between the cities. The rooster played a pivotal role in this contest. The people of Siena chose the most beautiful white rooster, feeding it premium grain and pampering it, while the Florentines subjected their black rooster to hunger. Consequently, on the day of the competition, the black rooster crowed even before darkness fell. As a result, the Florentine rider departed early and met his opponent 10 miles from Siena.
Chianti embodies a sour-sweet cherry style. The taste and aroma of young wines feature abundant red fruits, dried herbs, violets, and peppery notes. Aged samples showcase preserved cherries, balsamic vinegar, dry salami, espresso, and sweet tobacco. The wine’s zesty and fresh taste results from the combination of high acidity and robust, slightly coarse tannins inherent in the Sangiovese grape. The wine excellently cleanses the palate after consuming rich dishes and spicy tomato sauces, making it ideal for pairing with food. The alcohol content in Chianti varies from 11.5% to 14%, depending on the category and aging process.
Thanks to its combination of bitterness and acidity, Chianti perfectly complements most Italian dishes, including pasta with tomato-based sauces, lamb ragu, the famous Florentine steak Bistecca alla fiorentina, and braised pork. Light young Chianti pairs well with pizza, while more robust and spicy varieties enhance the flavors of Tuscan cheeses and cured delicacies like prosciutto.
National Chianti Day Is A Perfect Opportunity To Experience An Incredible Tuscan Red WineRead on Forbes