Chianti is one of the most famous Italian wines and probably the most well known in the export market. Many wine drinkers won’t choose this wine if the price exceeds a certain amount, mainly because they associate Chianti with table wine. It is true that you can find many Chianti on the market, but some blends are simply exceptional and should be considered even if the price is a bit out of your comfort zone.
In this article, I will take you on an armchair tour of Tuscany essentially providing a focused Italian wine guide, which will introduce you to a few varieties of Chianti I recently had the pleasure of tasting during a wine event in New York. Some of them are not yet available for the export market because of technical reasons (i.e., finding a wine importer, too much Chianti already on the market…), but hopefully they will soon find their way to your local wine store wherever you are in the world. To understand wine you need to understand geography, so if you are not particularly familiar with Tuscany, open a map of the area on your computer so you can easily follow along as I provide you with several descriptions and explanations of the Chianti wine.
The Chianti Classico comes from the three villages of Castellina — Chianti, Gaiole and Radda, (also known as the Lega del Chianti) ““ the original region where Chianti was first produced. Recognized since 1716, it is the only wine region allowed to use the name Chianti (with the addition of the village of Greve). Today the DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) has changed the rules a bit, and since 1980, has included wine produced as far north as Florence and as far south as Siena.
The Chianti DOCG appellation encompasses a “¨large territory, spanning from the provinces of “¨Pisa in the west to Arrezo in the east, and from”¨ Florence in the North to Siena in the South, which overlaps with other DOCGs such as”¨Brunello di Montalcino or Vino Nobile di”¨Montepulciano. In the previously mentioned appellation, many subdivisions are possible including the the geographical sub-zones of Colli Aretini, Colline Pisane or Montalbano. Also from this DOCG you will find the Chianti Superiore, which was authorized in 1996 and follows other requirements as well.
In addition to regional requirements, Chianti can only contain allowable grape types such as: Sangiovese (from 75% to 100%), Canaiolo (up to 10%), and any other approved red grape varieties (up to 20%) such as Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon… The minimum aging is from four to seven months, with the Riserva being aged for a minimum of 38 months.
We begin our tour with the Emilio Chianti Superiore DOCG from Tenuta di Morzano. This winery is located in the heart of the Chianti region, 30 km north of San Gimignano and 30 km south of Florence. This is a 100 percent Sangiovese with fermentation occuring in a large cement tank and then aged for 12 months in old French oak barrels (the new barrels are used for their Riserva). You will find some red fruits and hints of spice in this delicious ruby-colored red wine.
Heading slightly northwest of Florence, we are now just outside of Pistoia situated on a hillside in this region. This is where the Azienda Agricola Marini Giuseppe winery has been producing wine for over 60 years. I really enjoyed tasting their Chianti DOCG. In this 100 percent Sangiovese, you will find hints of violet and red berries with a fresh finish. Perhaps on your next trip to Tuscany you can tour the farm and see how they produce their wine, olive oil and other typical products.
For the next stop, we will continue to head north close to Empoli to the Azienda Agraria F.LLI Bini, also known as Fattoria Bini. This winery immediately caught my attention because in addition to wine, they are also producing beer, which I found to be quite surprising given the diversity of products offered here. I was aware of the olive oil and vinegar production but the beer was quite an interesting addition. However, we will focus on their wine and more particularly on their Chianti DOCG. The 2010 vintage was a blend of Sangiovese (90%), Colorino (5%) and Merlot (5%) giving this wine a fresh, fruity flavor and ruby color. This is a young wine, so it’s perfect to serve at the start of dinner to prepare the palate for what’s to come.
We are still touring the Chianti region, this time stopping a few kilometers south of Florence to the Azienda Agricola Lanciola, located in Impruneta in the Colli Fiorentini wine area. Their Chianti, Colli Fiorentini DOCG, is a blend of Sangiovese (90%), Merlot, Canaiolo and Gamay. I was surprised by the use of Gamay, which is most often seen in Beaujolais wines. This fantastic wine has cherry notes and a green finish.
Traveling to the south of Siena, approximately one hour by car (close to Montepulciano) we arrive at a little city called Chianciano Terme where the Azienda Agricola Fontanelle is located. Here they produce a very nice Chianti DOCG RiVaLe, a blend of Sangiovese (90%) and Canaiolo Nero (10%). The name RiVaLe comes from the combined names of the three brothers who run the winery — Riccardo, Valerio and Leonardo — each an expert in a different area of winemaking. RiVaLe has hints of blackberry and raspberry with a green finish, some spice and a slight acidity.
To end our tour of the Chianti wine region, we are going back to Florence, more specifically to the hillside in the city of Fiesole. I always love staying at Il Salviatino when I am in the area as the view is simply spectacular and the food at the main restaurant is delicious.
The last winery we’ll visit is the Fattoria Poggiopiano, coincidentally it was also the last wine of the tasting. The Galardi brothers have produced wine in this area since 1935, but in 1985 after poor weather conditions damaged many vines in Tuscany, they decided to start fresh (re: planting of new vines, restoration of the old farm…). In the Chianti Riserva DOCG Galardi, a blend of Sangiovese (80%), Merlot (15%) and Cabernet Sauvginon (5%) you will find berry notes and hints of spice and vanilla.
Of course the best way to understand the wines of this region is to go there and visit several wineries. Many of them have wine tasting rooms and beautifully rustic restaurants where you can relax — glass in hand — and laze the day away — Cheers!
About Thibaut Asso
Born in Nice, France, Thibaut discovered his taste for wine at an early age with a bottle of Chateau Margaux introduced to him by his paternal grandfather. He continued to develop his knowledge for the delicious liquid through a friendship with the sommelier at the Hotel de Paris, working at the luxury Turnberry Resort in Scotland and by creating La Cave de La Samanna in St. Martin; which received the Wine Spectator’s “Best Award of Excellence.” Thibaut has enjoyed wine from all around the world through his extensive travels and participation in the Vinexpo in Bordeaux and Vinitaly in Verona, among others. He would like to share his passion with you through his wine newsletter. Cheers to all!
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