DOCG area for red wine in the Italian region of Tuscany. If you ask ten people for the most famous wine in Italy, you will probably get the answer "Chianti" from at least eight. The wine is named after the hilly landscape between Florence and Siena. The name is probably derived from the name of an Etruscan family. The first mention of a Chianti wine dates back to 1404, when a merchant from Prato named Francesco Datini bought a white wine in Vignamaggio. Originally, Chianti was only valid for the areas around Radda, Gaiole and Castellina in the province of Siena, in the south of the present Chianti Classico area. The feudal lords of the Chianti Federation owned vineyards there as early as the 13th century.
There is a beautiful legend about the origin of the old borders. The enemy citizens of the city-states of Siena and Florence wanted to put an end to their eternal border disputes and determine the areas of influence through a competition. At the first cock-crow two riders - one from Siena, one from Florence - were to set out. Where they would meet was to be the final border between the two cities. The Sienese had a white cock, which they fed so much that it became fat and lazy and slept for a long time. The Florentines, on the other hand, had a black rooster, which they starved, so that it began to crow very early. Therefore their rider could start much earlier and met his opponent 15 kilometres before Siena near the village of Fonterutoli. This gave Florence a large part of the Chianti region. The landmark of Chianti-Classico is Gallo nero (black rooster) and reminds us of this perhaps not quite true story.
A red Chianti was already produced in the early Middle Ages, but the grape varieties used have certainly changed and were not so rigorously prescribed or, due to a lack of controls, not followed at that time. Probably every winegrower produced his Chianti according to the varieties available in his vineyard. According to documentation dating back to 1773, the Chianti of the time consisted largely of Canaiolo Nero with smaller portions of Sangiovese, Mammolo and Marzemino, i.e. red varieties throughout. But the white varieties "Tribbiano and San Colombano" are also mentioned (a Trebbiano variety and the Verdea). The legendary Baron Bettino Ricasoli (1809-1880) carried out numerous experiments from 1850 onwards in order to find an optimal recipe. In a letter from 1872, he summarized the results of his decades of experiments.
Baron Ricasoli recommended Sangiovese as the determining main grape variety (75%, for aroma and power) and for softening Canaiolo Nero (15%). The white Malvasia del Chianti(Malvasia Bianca Lunga) was suggested as an additive for wines that are young and ready to be enjoyed, but was expressly advised against for wines that can be stored for longer periods. The white Trebbiano Toscano was not included in his recipe, but was added later (up to 10%). Furthermore, other varieties (up to 5%) were also permitted. But until the end of the 19th century, most winegrowers continued to use the old recipe with a high proportion of Canaiolo Nero. The recommendations proposed by Ricasoli were only very slowly accepted by the wineries with a strong sense of tradition.
The Chianti vineyards have expanded enormously in all directions. This has taken place north to Greve and San Casciano, east through the Florentine mountains to Arezzo, south to far beyond Siena and west to Pisa, very close to the Tyrrhenian coast. The Grand Duchy of Tuscany under Cosimo III. (1642-1723) from the Medici family defined one of the first protected designations of origin for wine growing areas as early as 1716. This concerned Carmignano, Chianti, Pomino and Val d'Arno di Sopra. By decree, the boundaries were defined and it was forbidden for wines from other areas to be called so. This seems self-evident today, but at that time it was a groundbreaking renewal. Today's Chianti region, which has grown further in the meantime, is not a closed area, but overlaps with many other DOC zones, or, as the case may be, Chianti may be produced in other DOC zones. These are Carmignano, Montalcino, Montepulciano, Pomino, Val d'Arbia, Valdichiana Toscana and Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
Today's entire Chianti region (i.e. the two areas Chianti and Chianti-Classico) comprises vineyards in the six provinces of Arezzo, Florence, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato and Siena with around 7,000 producers in over 100 municipalities. The total area under vines is about 24,000 hectares, of which 7,000 hectares are dedicated to the Chianti-Classico area, considered the best in terms of quality. There is also a narrower designation of origin within the area with seven sub-zones that may be included on the label. These are Chianti Colli Aretini around Arezzo, Chianti Colli Fiorentini around Florence, Chianti Colline Pisane around Pisa, Chianti Colli Senesi around Siena, Chianti Montalbano around Carmignano, Chianti Montespertoli (only since 1997) and Chianti Rufina around Pontassieve. Rufina, Colli Senesi and Colli Fiorentini are considered the best. All other wines from the peripheral areas are simply called Chianti. Both received the DOC classification in 1967 and the DOCG classification in 1984.
In the middle of the 20th century, Chianti finally became a bulk wine, bottled in the typical fiasco bottles wrapped in bast and exported in large quantities. The 1967 DOC classification essentially still provided for the Ricasoli recipe, in which up to 30% white varieties were allowed. Also the yield of 80 hl/ha and the minimum extract content was still very generous. The DOCG status was associated with major changes. The white varieties Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia del Chianti were no longer compulsory, but were alternatively limited to a maximum of 10% for Chianti and 6% for Chianti Classico.
Furthermore, the yield has been greatly reduced and the age of the vines for DOCG Chiantis has been set at at least five years. This resulted in significant quality improvements, which had a particular effect on the shelf life of the wines. In addition, up to 10% of other red grape varieties were allowed, namely Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Also the Barrique development was permitted, which takes place however still to a large extent with substantially larger barrels (up to 100 hl). This changed the harsh style of the rather light red Chianti to a dark, tannin-rich and storable red wine, which belongs to the best in Italy by top producers.
The regulations were amended in 1996 with partly different regulations for Chianti and Chianti-Classico (see there). For Chianti, the regulations per subzone are slightly different with regard to yield per hectare, alcohol content and acidity. In principle, marketing may take place at the earliest on 1 March of the year following the harvest. The prescribed blend of grape varieties is at least 75 to 100% Sangiovese, a maximum of 10% Canaiolo Nero, a maximum of 10% other authorised red grape varieties and a maximum of 10% of the white varieties Trebbiano Toscano and/or Malvasia del Chianti(Malvasia Bianca Lunga). The maximum yield is 9,000 kg per hectare for normal Chianti and 8,000 kg per hectare for the seven subzones.
The residual sugar content must not exceed 4 g/l. The minimum alcoholic strength by volume is 11.5% for the normal Chianti and the subzones Colli Aretini, Colli Senesi, Colline Pisane and Montalbano; for the subzones Colli Fiorentini, Rufina and Montespertoli and the Superiore 12% vol. The Riserva is also 12% vol. and for six subzones except Montespertoli 12.5% vol. The Riserva must be aged for at least two years, at least three months of which must be in the bottle. In the entire Chianti area, around 100 million litres of wine are produced annually, with the Chianti Classico wine accounting for about a quarter. The technique of Governo, once widely used, is now rarely used. In order to give producers the opportunity to produce other DOC wines, the two designations Colli dell'Etruria Centrale and Vin Santo del Chianti were created.