Celebrated and famous, the Chianti is one of the most popular wines in Italy. The Chianti is produced from Sangiovese grapes that are grown in the region of Chianti, in ancient medieval Tuscany, between Siena and Florence. This region was established as a wine growing region by the Medici Grand Duke Cosimo III in 1716. The special recipe was invented and defined in the 19th century by Baron Ricasoli. Known in the beginning as a ‘quaffing’ wine, the Chianti was stored and bottled in a straw basket in the Bordeaux shaped bottle.
The vineyards are pruned as soon as the vine enters a dormant stage from the end of November to the end of February. The Tuscan arched cane and the Guyot are the traditional pruning systems that are used. Now the spurred cordon system is used that is good for mechanization and which accelerates premium products. If the traditional system of cultivation is followed, then the soil is plowed many times each year. The planting of grass among the vineyards has helped in drainage and preventing of erosion. Towards the middle of April, the vine begins to sprout and vegetate and tiny white flowers appear on the canes by June. The setting period occurs and the flowers are fragrant and look like snowflakes at the end of the month.
At first, the small Sangiovese berry is green in color but in the heat of July and the early days of August it starts to darken while the process is called veraison. With the start of the ripening process, the grape develops the substances of sugars and polyphenols that are necessary in the making of a good wine. At the same time, the level of acidity will decline to required levels. September is an important time and the most delicate period of the ripening stage. The variations in temperatures between sunny days and cool nights are necessary factors in the completion of this long process. Harvesting is carried out in October according to the type of grape and the degree of ripeness. In the lower zones (San Casciano, the lowest slopes of the hills around Greve, Castellina and Castelnuovo Berardenga), picking may begin at the end of September. Grapes at Radda, Gaiole, Panzano and the upper part of the Castellina zone ripen more slowly.
The grapes are removed from the stalks at the winery and pressed. The must is transferred to various types of containers where it begins to ferment. In its first phase, alcoholic fermentation is immediate and obvious as this process can generate temperatures as high as 30 degrees C. (86° F). The duration of the maceration of the skins varies in accordance with the vintage and consequently the characteristics of the grapes and can take a period of two weeks. During that period the skins of the grapes, forced upward by the gas produced by the transformation of the sugars of the must into alcohol are the result of the action of yeasts and forms a compact mass that is known as the cap. To get the most from the raw material, the fermenting wine is pumped over the cap, which is punched down and broken up. This process extracts from the skins the polyphenols that give the wine its color and assure its longevity besides providing the aromatic substances that will determine the complexity of the bouquet.
After the wine is de-vatted or separated from the pressings, it is drawn off into tanks where a second fermentation will occur before the arrival of spring. In this process of the malolactic fermentation, aggressive malic acid is transformed into softer lactic acid. To secure a perfectly limpid beverage, the wine is racked numerous times in March and April. According to tradition, the final racking occurs at the moment when the flowering of the vines announces the arrival of the summer heat. Then the wine that goes on sale remains in the tank or it is placed in casks for a short time. The Chianti undergoes a prolonged stay in Slavonian wood casks and is normally cellared for a period of three years in wine caves which hold the right atmospheric pressure with quaint tasting rooms. Being a noble wine, this full-bodied red wine has the delicate features of a fragrant bouquet with a balancing acidity. As a fabulous accompaniment to red meats, pasta and cheese the Chianti holds the aura of vanilla, cocoa and spice with the essence of character with aristocratic taste.
Since it was necessary to establish a legal wine production zone, a group of producers in Chianti formed a voluntary association. In order to promote and defend the production of authentic wine, the Consorzio per la difesa del vino tipico del Chianti e della sua marca di origine (Consortium for the Defense of the Typical Wine of Chianti and its Brand Name of Origin) was declared on May 14, 1924, at Radda in Chianti. The organization changed its official name several times and is now known as the Consorzio del Marchio Storico-Chianti Classico. The symbol has been the famous Black Rooster. As an interesting fact, the symbol of the Black Rooster has been to the age-old rivalry between Siena and Florence. As both cities vied to establish the boundaries of their land, there were constant tussles concerning this issue. A contest was declared to settle this dispute. A rider from each party had to ride out as early as possible and the one who reached the farthest was supposed to demarcate the respective boundaries. In order to be woken up early, each party chose a rooster to wake the contestants. The Sienese chose a plump white rooster that was well fed. The Florentines on the other hand chose a black rooster and starved it the previous day. As a result, the black rooster woke up earlier and crowed its morning call faster than the white one. This prompted the Florentine rider to set out early and met the other horseman at Fonterutoli, only a few dozen miles from Siena. For that reason, most of the Chianti zone passed into the jurisdiction of Florence, the Republic of the lily.
Although this account is just a legend, the profile of a black rooster has been the emblem of the historic League of Chianti, which governed the territory from the early years of the 14th century. Giorgio Vasari painted a black rooster on the ceiling of the Hall of the Five Hundred in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio as an allegory of Chianti. The Consortium therefore chose that symbol, more than seven centuries old, as a guarantee of the quality of its wines. From its inception in 1924, the Consortium had 33 producer-members. The membership has steadily grown and now exceeds 600, of which 250 of the producers, bottle wine under their own labels. There are now small, medium and major producers, cooperative wineries and industrial operations united under the rules imposed by the Consortium. With the issuance of the Ministerial Decree of August 5th, the Chianti became an independent wine only in 1996, under the stringent rules of the DOCG. The Chianti is the wine produced in the largest quantity (909037 hl in the vintage of 1993).
The Chianti gets its main bouquet from the Sangiovese grape and from the Canaiolo tempers the wine but retains its perfume. The Malvasia increases its flavor and gives it lighter touch. The Chianti that ensued was fit for everyday consumption with a medium bodied characteristic. With a leaning towards a garnet hue on aging, the Chianti has a bouquet of sweet violets, spices and small wild fruit, with its structured, harmonious elegant taste, keen and slightly tannic feature. Transforming into a velvety texture, the Chianti is a brilliant wine with its ruby red color verging on pomegranate red as it ages. Its smell is intensely winy with a scent of violet which is stronger in Chianti Classico and with a harmonic, dry, flavorsome and slightly tannic taste which alters into soft velvet with time. This is undoubtedly one of the most known and appreciated Italian red wines which makes Italian oenology so famous and respected. It is produced in six Tuscan provinces of Siena, Firenze, Arezzo, Pistoia, Pisa and Prato, from the vines of Sangiovese, Canaiolo Nero, Tuscan Trebbiano and Malvasia of Chianti.
Operation Chianti, in order to improve the quality of the wine, have replanted great many vineyards with the introduction of new clones to bring out the Supertuscans. With the appellation of DOC in ’67, the Chianti was promoted to DOCG in ’84. Chianti covers a vast area of central Tuscany with the sub-denominations ranging over Colli Aretini , Colli Fiorentini , Colli Senesi , Colline Pisane , Montalbano , Montespertoli and Rùfina. The production of Chianti has adhered to the observance of all the regulations envisaged in the production discipline. Chianti may be drunk as a young wine, fresh and pleasant on the palate. A superior quality Chianti can be marketed by reducing the maximum grapes per hectare yield to 75 quintals, employing the most stringent chemical-physical characteristics and prolonging the ageing period to 1st September of the year following the harvest. All wines from Tuscany are famous not only in Italy but also in many countries, with Chianti as one of the first wines to be exported abroad since 1700.
The Chianti is one of the most renowned of Italian wines. It is produced in various parts of Tuscany. It is made from Sangiovese grapes (75-100%) to which can be added Canaiolo Nero (maximum 10%), Trebbiano Toscano and/or Malvasia del Chianti (maximum 10%) and other red grapes recommended and/or authorized by the local administration of every zone of production with an alcohol percentage of 11.5% minimum for Chianti. The Sangiovese grape reflects the characteristics of the soil in which it is grown and is sensitive to the environment. This is the reason why the grape brings out the flavor of the sandstone which gives it, its floral bouquet. The calcareous soils add to the scent of wild berries, while the tufa or the volcanic soil offers an aromatic odor of tobacco. The aroma of violets is an intrinsic and innate quality that is brought out wherever the grape is grown. As the main and important grape in the making of the Chianti, the Sangiovese grape has balanced the harmony of taste and aroma. The Chianti is released for consumption only after October 1st of the year after the harvest. The serving temperature should be 15°-17° if young and the reserve should be served at a temperature of 18°-20°. Used mainly as a table wine when aged, the Chianti is an excellent wine for roast meat and game or with the typical Florentine steak.