Chianti, the area in which
the precursor of the Chianti Classico wine has been produced for centuries, is that part of Tuscany that is bordered to the north by the suburbs of Florence, to the east by the Chianti Mountains, to the south by the city of
Sienna and to the west by the
valleys of the Pesa river and the Elsa river (Val
The area is traversed by the
Chiantigiana. It is a land of ancient traditions that was
civilised long ago first by the Etruscans, who left many traces of their activity in the wine sector, and then by the Romans. In the Middle Ages, the cities of Florence and Siena battled for control over the zone. Villages and
castles and fortresses appeared during that period and many of them were later transformed into villas and country residences when times were more tranquil. It was then that spaces were cleared in the vast forests of chestnuts and oaks for the cultivation of vines and olive trees, an activity that progressively assumed major economic importance and established an international reputation.
The first notarial document in which the name Chianti appeared with reference to the wine produced in the zone dates to 1398 and in the
17 C exports to England became increasingly frequent. With the agrarian revival in Tuscany in the early
18 C, the sharecropper system came to dominate Chianti and the landscape was enriched because of the different way in which work was
organised. Many of the farmhouses, as well as the physical layout of the properties, which has survived, date to that period. From the end of the
19 C until the present, Chianti Classico wine has steadily increased in
popularity among wine lovers and thereby assured the prosperity and well-being of the region.
Sienna and Florence are the capitals of Chianti, which is shared between the provinces of the two
municipalities. The zone amounts to 70,000 hectares (172,900 acres) and includes the entire territories of the
Chianti, Gaiole in
Chianti, Greve in Chianti and
Radda in Chianti and parts of those of Barberino Val
Poggibonsi, San Casciano Val di Pesa and
Tavarnelle Val di Pesa,
together with many smaller villages such as San
Polo in Chianti and Lucarelli. Forests occupy almost two-thirds of the zone. Oaks grow just about everywhere, while chestnuts thrive primarily on the eastern side of the district. Conifers are concentrated at higher altitudes, while stands of pines are common on the low hills to the south of Florence. Wild animals are not as numerous as they once were but it is still possible to observe pheasants, wild boar, hares and roebucks in the zone.
The Chianti wine-producing area was delimited in 1932 by ministerial decree and the boundaries have remained unchanged since then. The decree described the district where Chianti Classico is produced as the "the oldest zone of
origin", thereby recognizing its primacy and according it a special identity. Even at that time, the Chianti territory, as it exists today, was
recognised as the original production zone of Chianti Classico wine, a wine that to be distinguished from Chiantis created later and produced in zones different from the Chianti territory, had to be identified by the term "Classico." Classico means, therefore, "the first" or "the original."
of the Chianti Classico DOCG and the wines of the region
by a nadir in the early 1950s and a fairly rocky upward climb in terms
Chianti Classico's single growers' union, or consorzio, split into two
separate entities in 1987. The one calling itself Vino Chianti
Classico took charge of technical and institutional functions
safeguarding the denomination, while the Marchio Storico took
over the marketing side and laid exclusive claim to the historical black
rooster icon. Chianti Classico's two consortia decided to reunite in 2005.
A benefit of this reunification is that all bottles of Chianti Classico, including those from Antinori and the less than five percent of producers who remain outside of the consorzio, are labelled with the black rooster, making it easier for consumers to differentiate Chianti Classico wines from the myriad other Chianti wines.
However, since the rules require only a minimum of 80 percent sangiovese, the remaining 20 percent can be nearly any red grape grown in the area. Besides sangiovese, favoured varietals include merlot and cabernet sauvignon, though traditional native Tuscan grapes such as canaiolo and colorino are making a comeback.
The use of white grape varieties, such as Trebbiano and Malvasia has not been allowed since the harvest of 2006.
The Chianti Classico climate is of a continental type, with relatively low temperatures in winter (4-5 degrees C. or 39-41 degrees F.) and dry, hot summers in which it is not rare for the mercury to rise as high as 35 degrees (95). Temperatures do not vary substantially in the course of a day, which is partly due to altitudes that range from 250 to 600 meters (820-1,968 feet) and exceed 800 meters (2,624 feet) in the Chianti Mountains.
The terrains in the zone are just as diverse as the altitudes and the various types of soil characteristic of the Chianti Classico zone bear no relation to the communal boundaries. However, it can be said that marl predominates at San Casciano in Val di Pesa, while calcareous clay is found in substantial quantity in the soils around Greve in Chianti as well as in all zones at lower altitudes. Sandstone constitutes the backbone of the Chianti Mountains, while limestone is substantially present in the central and southern parts of the district. Tufa is the characteristic stone of much of the countryside around Castelnuovo
Berardenga. Ridges consisting principally of sandstone have a severe and steep appearance, while those with substantial calcareous material are softer and more rounded in shape. The hills in which clay is the major component are even gentler. However, an abundance of fragmented rock in the form of stones and pebbles primarily of limestone is a common aspect of the Chianti Classico zone. As to meteorological conditions, annual rainfall measures about 700-800 millimeters. Rain falls principally in the late autumn and spring.
The characteristics of the climate, terrains and altitudes, which are
unfavourable for most crops, have made Chianti Classico a region that
now excels in the production of premium wines. Rows of vines alternating with olive
trees were once a characteristic feature of the Chianti landscape, but
now the vineyards and olive groves are separate. About 7,000 hectares (17,290 acres) of vineyards entered on the DOCG Register for the production of
Chianti Classico make this appellation one of the most important in
To the south of Sienna are several other famous wine territories,
including the zone around Montalcino,
home of the Rosso di
Montalcino and Brunello di Montalcino wines, two wines that, like
Chianti Classico, contain a high percentage of the sangiovese
More about Chianti