Like most other wines made in the Old World, Chianti derives its name not from the grape used to make the wine, which is Sangiovese, but from the region where it is made. The Chianti region is located in Tuscany, that romantic area of central Italy known for its sweeping landscapes, burning hot sun and its wealth of art and food history. It is from this region that we also get delicious olive oil and Michelangelo’s David.
For a Chianti to be a Chianti, it must be produced in the Chianti region and be made from at least 80% Sangiovese grapes. While most Chiantis are 100% Sangiovese, some winemakers in the region like to blend the Sangiovese with a little Cabernet, Merlot or Syrah to soften the finished wine.
Chianti Classico is considered to be more refined and higher-end than Chianti; this is because it’s produced from grapes harvested in the best vineyards of the region.
Chianti Classico is a DOCG wine and shows unique peculiarities and characteristics. It is not enough to be produced in within the Chianti region to be called a "Classico". In fact Classico wine has to respect specific rules. Its blend is at least 80% Sangiovese, the red grape typical of this area, with up to 20% of other grapes such as native grapes Canaiolo and Colorino, as well as other international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Its characteristics are a limpid ruby red colour, floral notes for its aroma and harmonious, dry and sapid flavor with a good level of tannin. The minimum alcohol level should be 12 degrees.
Whether the wine is Chianti or Chianti Classico will clearly be labelled on the front of the bottle.
In both versions of Chianti, you can expect a wine that is very earthy and rustic, high in tannins, has a smell and taste that is reminiscent of cherries and strawberries, and is high in acidity, which makes it go very well with food.
While many people love to pair this classic Italian wine with classic Italian food, Chianti goes well with whatever you feel like eating. It’s as much a pizza and pasta wine as a grilled cheese and fries wine.