Beautiful rolling countryside at dawn or sunset

Chianti, a red wine produced in the heart of Tuscany, Italy, is a wine with a complicated history. Once upon a time “Chianti” signified the white wines of the area. A couple hundred years later it had become red, and winemakers of the area were starting their slow march towards producing the wine we drink today.

Today, Chianti is a red wine made up primarily of a grape called Sangiovese. Sometimes, winemakers throw in minor grapes Canaiolo and Malvasia but even then, Sangiovese is the grape to know when talking about Chiantis. You may have also seen or tasted a wine called a Super Tuscan, which is also produced in Tuscany, but with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot instead of, or along with, Sangiovese.

In America, much of the Chianti consumed comes from the sub regions of Chanti known as Chianti Classico and Rufina. They tend to be medium bodied dry red wines known for their red fruit flavors. Wines from these sub regions tend to be more complex and are often considered the best wines of the Chianti region. Depending on the producer, Chiantis can be wines that show a fair amount of oak – as Italian producers prefer to use new oak barrels (often called American Oak) over the aged French variety. Similar to Rioja, Chiantis can be classified as “Riservas” which indicates that the wine has been aged for a period of 38 months before bottled.

VT Tasted:
Toscolo 2006 Chianti Classico – $18.00
Terrabianca 2006 Chianti “Croce” Classico Riserva – $32.00
Castello di Querceto 2006 Chianti “Il Picchio” Classico Riserva – $60.00
Castello di Monastero 2004 Chianti Classico Riserva – $39.00
Castellare di Castellina 2008 Chianti Classico Riserva – $20.00
Marchesi De’ Frescobaldi 2006 Chianti “Nipozzano” Rufina Riserva – $22.00

If you’re new to Italian wine, Chianti is a great place to start. However, if you’re interested in branching out a bit, here are some other suggestions we think you will enjoy.

Try: Brunello di Montalcino. This is a red wine made from Sangiovese grapes grown around the village of Montalcino. Brunello di Montalcino is a wine renowned for its full body, smooth tannins, and bright berry flavors that are often complimented with notes of chocolate or leather.

Try: A California Sangiovese. Winemakers in California have started to play around with making 100% Sangiovese wines and they’re very different from their Italian counterparts. The California examples tend to be fuller-bodied and show more fruit than the Italian Chiantis.

For more information on the episode featuring Chianti, click Episode Guide: Checking Out Chiantis from Tuscany.

For more information on the Italian wine classification system, click An Introduction to Italian Wine Classifications.

Photo of Chianti Classico courtesy of the Consorzio del Vino Chianti Classico Gallo Negro.