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Region: Tuscany

Chianti DOCG

Facts about this wine

Wine: Red wine
Taste: Dry
Volume: Medium
Min. alcohol: 11.5%
Storage potential: 3 years

A gaze over the hills surrounding Florence and Siena is like looking at an old Renaissance painting. A classic, central Italian landscape with forest-clad hills and vineyards cultivated since the Etruscans over 3,000 years ago, a fact to which countless archeological finds testify. The Sangiovese and Trebbiano grapes can trace their history back to that time, albeit under other names, and the Chianti name is thought to have originated from an Etruscan family.

The first time a wine with the Chianti name appeared was in 1404, where it’s said that a certain merchant from Prato, Francesco Datini, had purchased a white "Vignamaggio" north of what is known as the Classico zone today. Around this time, wine production was more or less controlled by the powerful noble families, of which many still run successful businesses with quality wine, such as the Frescobaldi and Antinori families.

Chianti is cultivated in an enormous area, stretching from Florence to a good ways south of Siena, between the coastline in the east and the Apennines in the west. The zone includes the fields in Arezzo, Florence, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato and Siena, and the production constitutes more than 90 million liters a year, the largest of Italy’s DOC(G) classified wines. Chianti is only surpassed by Montepulciano d'Abruzzo DOC.

In 1967, Chianti was classified DOC and has been classified as DOCG since 1984. At that time, the type was under one appellation, and encompassed wine made in seven individual zones with corresponding fields, but that was a lot for the average person to control. So in 1996, Chianti Classico was separated from Chianti as an independent DOCG. Today, 'Classico' is viewed as the original zone.

A few years ago, the Chianti name was about to be ruined by mass production of fiascos, but DOCG changed all of that. They removed the permission to add large quantities of the green grapes, Trebbiano and Malvasia, along with the red Canaiolo, and today Sangiovese (locally Sangioveto) is now the primary grape, and is often used alone.

The original Chianti formula is attributed to Baron Bettino Ricasoli, who ”discovered” the wine on his estate, Castello di Brolio. The formula designated Sangiovese as the main grape, with the addition of a little Canaiolo to soften the wine. If the wine was intended to be consumed quickly, a little Malvasia del Chianti could also be added. A success was born.

To protect Chianti from plagerism, the wine producers formed the alliance ”Gallo Nero” in 1924, and in 1932, the Italian stated defined seven sub-zones for Chianti.

Under the Chianti DOCG, it is allowed to add Cabernet, Pinot Nero and Merlot, which improves the shelf life and makes Chianti a more fruity and ample wine. The current grape composition is Sangiovese (75-100%), Canaiolo (0-10%), Trebbiano Toscano and/or Malvasia del Chianti (0-10%), together with other, local red grapes (0-10%).

How does a Chianti taste? It is actually impossible to answer that question, due to the fact that the area has such a varied terrain and micro-climate. Additionally, each producer tries to give the wine its own unique characteristic. Thus, some wines can be big and round, others smooth and refined and others light and volatile. So there is no clear signal to the consumer about how a Chianti MUST taste.

Still you can put together a general description of Chianti as being a ruby red wine, that becomes more garnet red with age. The aroma is intensely vinous, and often with hints of violets, and the taste is dry, balanced, tasty, slightly tannic, smooth and, with age, more velvety. This is a moderately powerful wine, with a good body, but some producers have shown that reasonable aging gives even more with each glass.

There is also a rarely seen novelty: When the word ’Governo’ is on the label, it refers to the fact that the wine has gone through a process, where if, from the time the grapes have just had their shells removed, is slowly fermented and fresh must taken from slightly dried grapes is added. The result is a round and slightly bubbly wine.

If Chianti DOCG is on the label, it covers a rather large area with many different possibilities and experiences. The zone includes the provinces, Arezzo, Florence, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato and Siena.

Normally, a Chianti must contain a minimum 11.5% alcohol concentration, but if Superiore is on the label, it must contain a minimum 12%. The same is true for the Riserva types.

Beyond the great, vast Chianti DOCG zone, there are, as mentioned, 7 Chianti sub-zones: Going clockwise from the north, we have Colli Fiorentini, which lies south of the city, Florence; Chianti Rufina located in the northeastern part of the zone around the commune, Rùfina; Colli Aretini in the Arezzo province to the east; Chianti Colli Senesi, which is the largest sub-zone, situated south of Siena; Colli Pisane is west in the Pisa province; Montespertoli is actually located in the aforementioned Colli Fiorentini zone in the Montespertoli commune; and finally we have Montalbano in the northwestern part of what also includes the Carmignano DOCG zone.

For each of the aforementioned zones, there is a special set of laws and rules, which you can read about on their individual pages. Rùfina is known for its exceptionally high quality. But we are in Italy, where a delightful sense of anarchy often reigns, and that means we can’t always rust the label, since some producers don’t always pay that much attention to which zone their wines are cultivated in. Whether it’s Rùfina, Colli Senesi or Colline Pisane doesn’t mean so much. The most important thing for them is the wine.

We can be absolutely certain about one thing: All Chianti DOCG is red, dry and comes in a bottle.

Mandatory aging

  • Chianti DOCG: Until March after the harvest year
  • Chianti Superiore DOCG: approx. 11 months;
  • Chianti Riserva DOCG: minimum 2 years calculated from January 1 after the harvest year, of which 3 months must be in the bottle;
  • Chianti Superiore Riserva DOCG: 2 years, 3 months in the bottle, but this type must only take grapes from the Florence and Siena provinces. Grapes from the Classico area are not allowed. Finally, there is a requirement of a lower yield pr. ha.

Shelf life (average): Chianti up to 3 years. Superiore 5 years or more. Riserva 5 years or more.

Read more about Chianti Classico DOCG from the original, classic zone.

Click on the top menu on the left and read more about each of the seven sub-zones within the Chianti DOCG.