Since I live in Florence, when it comes to wine knowledge, my specialty is Tuscan. In particular, I’ve spent a lot of time learning about and indulging in that famous blend called “Chianti.”
It’s a name known all over the world, but it’s not very well understood.
Chianti (pronounced “key-ahn-tee” whatever you do, don’t say “chee-ahn-tee”), contrary to what a lot of people think, is a blended red wine. It’s not a grape!
It’s a wine produced from at least 80% Sangiovese grapes, with the remaining 20% left open to the winemaker’s fancy. It’s also highly controlled and regulated.
Watch Out for the Wine Police
For a wine to be called a Chianti, it must be grown in a designated area, and all aspects of production (from pesticides to watering) are highly regulated. There’s also a kind of “wine police” that checks to be sure, any bottle labeled as Chianti is following these strict rules.
If a wine is found breaking any regulation, it will lose it’s Chianti designation and the vineyard can be heavily fined or shut down.
What Should You Pair With Chianti?
Chianti is a wine invented to be paired with the rich foods of Tuscany.
It has high acidity which allows it to cut through fatty dishes like bistecca alla fiorentina (Florentine steak) and cinghiale (wild boar). It’s not a wine that you would necessarily drink alone, sipping in front of a fireplace, although some people do that too.
For me though, chianti is a wine to eat with, a wine to experience alongside the delicacies of the Tuscan kitchen.
It’s a Region AND a Wine?
Did you know though, that besides the actual wine in the bottle though, Chianti can also refer to a region? There’s the most well known, “chianti classico” region, which is just south of Florence, but all over Tuscany, you can find variations of chianti.
To the north west of Florence, you’ll find the Chianti Ruffina region, which produces some of my favorite chianti’s. Just because classico is the most famous, one shouldn’t underestimate the smaller growing regions like Chianti colline pisane (chianti from the hills around Pisa) that also grow great grapes and produces amazing chianti variations.
In all, Chianti has 8 sub-zones and various wine roads that wind through Tuscany.
You can actually travel them easily as they are now mapped out and accessible to tourists (check out this site for info).
Renting a car, or hiring a driver, is the best way to experience them and fully immerse yourself into the Chianti experience. Plan ahead and book a few tastings, and then get ready to experience the growing regions and the Sangiovese grapes that lend themselves to this ever famous Chianti wine.
What about you? Have you driven the hills of Tuscany in search of great wines? Do you like Chianti?