Chianti wines must contain at least 80% Sangiovese grapes to qualify as Chianti Classico wines, although during the 20th century cheap and inferior wines began appearing with greater frequency, prompting its regulators to use the symbolism of a black rooster as their symbol for regulation purposes.
Sangiovese is a thin-skinned variety that yields transparent red wines with complex aromas ranging from fresh red fruit, to tart cherries, dried herbs and balsamic vinegar.
Chianti wines typically employ Sangiovese grapes as their chosen grape, yielding vibrant acidity with subtle red fruit notes. Over time, quality bottles may develop earthy or savory notes from fermentation.
Tuscany's rolling hills host vineyards at elevations between 150m and 600m, giving their wines an inviting acidity. Additionally, Tuscany's unique geography helps shield its vineyards from extreme summer heatwaves and frosty winter weather conditions.
Chianti wines must contain at least 80% Sangiovese to be designated Chianti wines, although some winemakers also add indigenous grape varieties like Colorino or Canaiolo Nero in order to balance out its naturally high tannin and acid levels, or international varieties such as Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon may be added in smaller amounts. Chianti wines are typically aged for at least 18 months in large oak barrels known as botte, where they are blended at the end of aging for optimum development without losing its fruity characteristics.
Chianti wines tend to be light in both aroma and palate, showcasing aromas such as mineral (iron) and red fruit with an elegant yet crisp acidity and clean angular attack, finishing long with notes of bitter almonds.
Tuscany, an idyllic stretch of central Italy dotted with stone castles and cypress trees, is best known as the home of Chianti wine. However, before becoming an internationally recognized wine region it served as an important military league between Florence and Siena as they agreed that upon hearing of a certain rooster crowing they would send out knights - Florence being lucky in having its black rooster wake up before its Sienese counterpart and thus taking ownership of what became known as Chianti.
Today, Chianti wines are produced globally and typically consist of a blend of grapes containing at least 80% Sangiovese - though producers can tailor the formula to create various styles from light to full bodied wines and even sparkling ones!
Chianti wines are famous for their mouthwatering acidity, savory notes, and intense red cherry flavour. These moderately tannin wines increase in body as they age.
The gallo nero seal, also known as a black rooster, can be found on all bottles sold under the Chianti name. According to legend, this bird would begin its daily morning crow before dawn to alert horsemen guarding against invasion from invaders.
On a bottle of Chianti you will find its label displays Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG), Italy's highest legal certification of wine production. Riserva wines typically undergo wood aging for at least 38 months as part of Chianti DOC requirements - this helps identify top producers while smaller winemakers might not make such claims; this distinction depends on both grape quality and winemaker skill when crafting it into Riserva wines.
One of the worst mistakes ever committed against Chianti wine occurred after World War II when its wine authority, Consorzio, changed rules to expand the geographic area covered by Chianti wines while permitting up to 20% white grape blends into blends - this led to an emphasis on quantity over quality as generic plonk entered the market and forced prices lower than ever.
Chianti wine lovers should rejoice; the trend towards its classic style of Chianti is on a comeback. A quick search on Drizly shows several options packaged in classic straw-wrapped bottles known as fiascos.
No matter how you enjoy your wine, the straw-covered bottle has long been associated with Chianti and Tuscany. So popular was its use that Boccaccio, Botticelli and Ghirlandaio used it as part of their paintings; and its popularity is easy to see why it became such a visual marker for playful, enjoyable wines, not to mention easy transportation without fear of breakage.