Chianti Classico – The darling of Italy

Chianti (Kee- Ahn- tee) is a classic wine of Tuscany (located near Florence, Italy), based on the Sangiovese (San-gee-Oh-Vase-see) grape.  To be called Chianti, the wine must be produced in the Chianti region and be made from at least 80% Sangiovese grapes.  It can be 100% Sangiovese, but winemakers like to blend in international varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah to round it out.

There is Chianti and there is Chianti Classico.  The difference is where the grapes were sourced.  Chianti Classico is the heart of the region that contains the best vineyards.  This region has the designation of DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Coltrollata e Garantita).  Which basically means it was produced within the specific region and that it meets a standard quality.  DOCG wine is tasted and analyzed by the Italian government before being bottled and sealed with a numbered governmental seal across the cap or cork. Thus GUARANTEEING the wine is good. This is true for all DOCG regions of Italy (36 wines in 20 regions).

All of Chianti Classico wine will also have the Chianti Classico black rooster seal. Why a black rooster?  Fun story…

Back in medieval times, Italy was a bunch of city-states warring each other. The city-states of Florence and Siena are in what is now Tuscany, would battle over the hills of Chianti.  So much blood was spilled over this land that they came up with a less violent alternative: Two horsemen would depart their respective city borders at the same time and where they met, would be the border between Siena and Florence.  There were no geo-synchronized timepieces at this point so they decided that the crow of a rooster would define the departure time in each city.

The folks of Siena chose a white rooster and fed it well. Thinking that the bird would get up, fully rested and crow with all his might to set their horseman off to victory.  The Florentines chose a black rooster and kept it hungry, hoping that the starving bird would wake up earlier and crow to demand his breakfast (kind of like my cat…). The people of Florence were right!  Their rooster was up well before dawn, cock-a-doodle-do-ing for his food and set the Florence horseman riding well before the Siena Champion.

The Florentine horseman made it to 12 kilometers outside of Siena before he met his counterpart. Thus claiming almost all of Chianti for the city of Florence and establishing the symbol of the black crow as the symbol of Chianti Classico to this day.

Chianti Classico is a dry red wine that is ALWAYS best with food. (Basically, all Italian reds are best with food).  Ranging from medium to full-bodied, with aromas of cherries, violets and has the flavor of tart cherries.  If the Chianti Classico has Riserva on the label it indicates that the wine was aged in barrel for at least 2 years and an additional three months in the bottle before being released to the public.

When in Italy- the wines are best paired with cuisine from that region.  Bistecca Alla Fiorentina (aka a really big t-Bone with herbs), Parpardelle con Cinghiale (wild boar pasta) are the main dishes of Tuscany.  These wines are also amazing with aged cheeses like Parmesan Reggiano or Pecorino Tartufo.  Or…Pizza.  Mmmmm pizza.

We currently have two Chiantis available to sample in the store: Chianti & Codirosso Chianti- a classic, dark cherry and herb styled wine and Busi Chianti Rufina- a softer, lighter version of Chianti & Codirosso. Both are great values and wonderful everyday reds.  Great ‘Wednesday’ Wines.  If you enjoy Merlot or Pinot Noir you will want to try these wines. Pop into your nearest Big Red and make your next Italian meal a feast!

Cin Cin!

Jill Pienta
Wine Specialist |Big Red Liquors