Chianti or Chianti Classico? When looks do not deceive

Chianti or Chianti Classico? When looks do not deceive

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It is a fact that Chianti and Chianti Classico are not synonymous. It is not a matter of rankings or credits, but rather a difference between  two  wines produced in two different areas and with two different rules of production. Today there  are still lots of people  misusing the word  “Chianti” as an all embracing word , assuming that  “Chianti Classico” as well as Colli Fiorentini, Colli Senesi, Montespertoli, Rùfina, etc.. are byproducts of the famous Tuscan benchmark.

It is time to clear up this misunderstanding. “Chianti Classico” isn’t  a “ Chianti ” byproduct. They  have been two different and separate DOCG labels since 1932,  when  a ministerial decree marked  the difference between them. There was a misunderstanding, however: Since the early 20th century , many wineries had begun producing “Chianti” outside the “Classic” area which had been established in 1716 by Cosimo III, the  Grand Duke of Tuscany. We could surely consider it as a commercial operation, since in the early 1900s the demand for this precious red berry nectar had risen significantly and the original area of production no longer proved sufficient. Hence the idea was to broaden production to other Tuscan areas by using the same original processes and vines.

When talking about “Chianti” and “Chianti Classico” the first element to take into account is geography. “Chianti” refers to the wine produced in the historical area between Florence and Siena, and is the only one to have naming rights for “Gallo Nero” (created in 1924 as the symbol of producer association). This area refers  to the municipalities of Castellina, Gaiole, Greve , Radda in Chianti, and partly to those of Poggibonsi, San Casciano, Tavarnelle in Val di Pesa, Barberino Val d’Elsa and Castelnuovo Berardenga. But beware, it is not only the geographical area that makes a wine “Classico”. In fact in 1996, when its birthrights were acknowledged, the Chianti Classico label became completely  autonomous in its own right.

It is in this area that the Sangiovese vines (the basis for every Chianti Classico) are cultivated, vines which give this wine its ruby red and garnet when aging colours. According to the rules of winemakers, Sangiovese is to be mixed mainly with native grapes(minimum 80% up to “pure”), for example Cannaiolo and Colorino, or with imported ones such as Cabernet and Merlot. Furthermore, to underline their particular quality, production has to be limited in low yields per plant (maximum 2kg per vine stock) and per hectare (maximum 75 quintals), so as to warn producers that if they exceed in production quantities it is no longer considered “ Chianti Classico”. Another element to take into consideration is the production date. You may start selling Chianti Classico no sooner than October 1st of the year following the harvest. Should you buy today, in March or April 2015, a Chianti Classico labeled 2014, be aware that somebody is swindling you.