As a name of a wine, Chianti is one of the most famous Italian wines, known throughout the world. This distinctive wine, from Tuscany, is made in many forms, from fresh and fruity to aged and complex. It justifiably has a loyal and dedicated following, particularly for its premium versions.
It originated on estates in Tuscany, from the native Italian grape grown there called Sangiovese. Blended with a few other local grapes, Canaiolo and Malvasia, it started to become noticed in the late 1800s.
Unfortunately, in America, starting about the same time, the name was exploited to market a copycat wine, using nothing like the same grapes. This has caused much confusion about this fine wine, which is now, at last, clearing up.
From the first, the old, noble family estates in Tuscany wanted to craft a superior wine. And so the blended grapes were no more than 15-20 percent of the total, with 80 percent being the sturdy Sangiovese.
Today Chianti remains available in bargain fruity styles suitable for a picnic, all the way to seriously complex powerhouses on the banquet tables of the nobles. The wines of the towns Montepulciano and Montalcino are complex, firm, stylish, pricey, and worthy of their history.
And happily, due to EU rules, those famous place-names such as Chianti can only be used by the product originating there, so confusing a California “jug” wine with the genuine article has passed.
There are many small producers offering Chianti in all price ranges now. And there is more freedom for the winemaker to blend in other grape varities too. For traditionalists, there is the trusty DOC and DOCG wines from the heart of the Chianti Classico zone, that beautiful hilly country between Florence and Sienna.
So reach with confidence for that classical-looking label, possibly with a portrait of a mediaeval Baron on it, and buy with confidence. There are many in the price range below and just above $20 and are worth it, as seriously sensuous dinner wines, matched with roast wild meats, roast duck, peppers, rissotto di funghi, and yes even pizza, of course.
And for that summer picnic of cold chicken, salumi, bread, cheese and grapes? There’s a perfect $12 Chianti for that too. Chianti remains one of Italy’s signature wines for good reasons.