Chianti is one of the most well-known wines in the world. It is produced in great quantities and in varying qualities in the Tuscany region of Italy. Tuscany is a beautiful and highly visited area in the center of Italy that includes the cities of Florence and Siena. The weather is warm and dry and the soil is excellent for wine growing.
Wines have been produced in Tuscany since well before the Roman Empire. The early wine growers learned how to graft vines and to create hybrids and the wine quickly improved in both yield and quality. Tuscany’s ancient relationship with wine-making has been recognized by wine appreciators worldwide.
Many people in the US think of Chianti as a quintessential, inexpensive, but very drinkable wine. They may associate it with a red checkered tablecloth mom and pop spaghetti restaurant. Though this may still be true in some cases, recent controls on production have improved the overall quality of the wine.
There are a variety of denominations or regions in which Chianti is grown and the bottles are labeled as “Chianti” plus the name of the region. Three of the most well-known examples are the following:
- Chianti Classico (grown around Florence and Siena)
- Chianti Florentini (from the region around Florence)
- Chianti Rufina (near Rufina)
At one time Chiantis were generally distributed in squat bottles with a straw basket around them, but this tradition has abated and most Chiantis are now found in regular bottles. Chianti is normally a blend of mostly red grapes, but with some white grapes for balance. The classic recipe is about 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo and 15% Malvasia bianca but there are many variations. Some Chiantis may be entirely Sangiovese.
Chianti which has been aged more than three years may be labeled as Riserva. The wines that are made to higher standards, with controls on the yields and processing may be labeled as Chianti Superiore.
Three Chiantis recently recommend by foodandwine.com are the following:
2010 Toscolo Chianti ($10). This is a very basic Chianti but one that displays the full fruited character of the vine.
2009 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico ($18). You’ll find this one to be a bit richer than the Toscolo. It’s a good example of how Chianit Classico can be full-bodied and fruity.
2007 Ruffino Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico ($22). This is a reserve Chianti. It is a bit more expensive, but because it is from the large vintner Ruffino you’ll probably be able to find it in your local wine store.