Chianti, situated in Tuscany in central Italy, is home to probably one of the best-known and most iconic Italian wines in the world. Although Chianti is a wine of ancient origin, it has only been recognized by its geographical area since the Middle Ages. The official zone was demarcated by Cosimo Medici III in the early 18th century, and the wine’s defining character came about under the craftsmanship of Barone Ricasoli in the late 19th century. Back then, it was made using a wide range of local grape varieties, including white grapes, and eventually became the Chianti DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) in 1967.
Chianti wine was first documented in the 13th century. Surprisingly these early Chianti wines were actually white, but over the centuries they evolved into a red. The villages of Castellina, Radda and Gaiole gained particular recognition for their production of fine wines and formed the Lega del Chianti (League of Chianti). In 1716 the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo III de' Medici issued legislation that the three villages within this League of Chianti, as well as the village of Greve, were the only officially recognized producers of Chianti. In 1932 the Italian Government expanded the Chianti zone, including Chiocchio, Robbiano, Barberino Val d'Elsa, San Casciano in Val di Pesa and Strada. In the mid 1980's the original area was given it's own DOCG and is recognised as a seperate area to the greater Chianti region. This area is now known as the Chianti Classico zone.
In 1872 Baron Bettino Ricasoli created the first Chianti recipe which recommended 70% Sangiovese, 15% Malvasia Bianco and 15% Canaiolo. When the Italian government set the DOC of the Chianti region in 1967 it was stipulated that all wines carrying the Chianti label had to somewhat adhere to this recipe by using a Sangiovese base blended with between 13-30% Trebbiano and Malvasia. A number of growers disliked having to stick to this formula and, although not able to label them as such, began producing chianti styles wines that were 100% Sangiovese, even blending them with Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. These new Varietal's and blends gained world wide recognition and were coined “super Tuscans”. The government officals recognised the success of these wines and changed the DOC regulations so that these Super Tuscans could be labelled as Chianti wines.
The original Chianti region consisted of the villages of Gaiole, Castellina, Radda and Greve. In 1932 the Italian government expanded the Chianti region to include Barberino Val d'Elsa, Chiocchio, Robbiano, San Casciano in Val di Pesa and Strada. This area recieved DOC status in 1967.
In 1984 the Chianti Classico and the greater Chianti region were separated and each given their own DOCG ranking. The boundaries were to cover an area of approximate 100 square miles between Siena to the south and Florence to the North. The four communes of Castellina, Gaiole, Greve and Radda were included along with parts of Barberino Val d'Elsa, San Casciano in Val di Pesa and Tavarnelle Val di Pesa in the province of Florence as well as Castelnuovo Berardenga and Poggibonsi in the province of Siena.
There are two main soil types within the region. To the North the soils tend to be chalky. While in the South they are more of a weathered sandstone base.
Chianti wines are dry and can range from light to full bodied. They display cherry and sometimes violet aromas, and flavors of tart cherries. They tend to be have medium to high acidity and medium tannins. Chianti is best enjoyed with tomato based dishes such as spaghetti bolognaise, or lasagne. It also pairs well with meats such as lamb and veal.