The region of Chianti is a tiny area in the heart of Tuscany between Siena and Florence and overlooks the Elsa Valley. The land is fertile with olive groves, green forests, and those delicious grapes just waiting to be picked off the vine and smashed into the most heavenly of drinks-Chianti wine.
For many years, Italians have enjoyed the prestige of being recognized for having the largest harvest of grapes and the finest vintages of wine in the Mediterranean. The present day farmers can thank the Phoenicians for bringing vines to this area. They named the area, ‘Oenotria’, the ‘land of wine.’ The ripe fields, combined with the sun and Tuscan air led many others to this area to cultivate the grapes including, the Greeks, Etruscans, and Roman. In many cases, these cultures brought their own vines to mingle with the originals.
A plague of insects, called phylloxera, swept through Europe in the18th century effectively halting wine production in the area. The insects were known to feed on the roots and leaves, destroying the vines. Eventually Italian vintners triumphed over the insect and recovered from the loss.
In the late 1960’s the land of the Chianti area was in a down cycle and parcels of land were sold for very little. Visionaries, seeing the obvious advantages of such beautiful countryside and fertile soil, rebuilt the vineyards to become some of the most credited vines in the world.
What makes the land unique in the area is the climate of the region. The warmth which is constant, lasts much of the year with little rain fall. The soil is dry and full of stones infused with limestone providing many nutrients and minerals for the grapes. In addition, the clever vintners of the area only allow a limited amount of irrigation through the fields; therefore the vines have to delve deep into the ground to acquire water and nutrients.
The Italian government has its own classification for wine making with specific requirements for growing and making the wine. DOCG, which stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, and is similar to the French AOC. These government standards control the techniques from each of the eight regions of Chianti, keeping the regions wine making unique.
The regions of Chianti are Chianti Classico, Colli Arentini, Colli Fiorentini, Coli Senesi, Colli Pisane, Montalbano, Rufina, and Montispertoli.
Chianti Classico is the most widely known wine of the region, not only for its name, but also for the superb quality. This wine comes from the vines species called vitis vinifera, which is the starting point for 99% of the wines in the world. Of this vine, Italy grows more than 100 official varieties.
In the Chianti region, of which there are roughly 25,000 acres, two thirds of the land is given to the production of the Chianti Classico, and uses at least 80% of the Sangiovese grape. In the other 20% of the region other wines are made using Sangiovese blended with Canaiolo and Colorino. For the white wines a Trebbiano or Malvasia are used.
Again, the government controls the yields to nine tons in order to maintain a premium wine.
The lush red wine of the Chianti that pours into a glass like pooling velvet grows darker when aged. The flavors that wash across the tongue are dry, slightly tannic, with an intense aroma, sometimes hinting of violet. The vintners have no requirements mandated by the government regarding the aging process, but most use aged oak casks for their most savory bottles of wine called Riserva wines. They are 12% alcohol content by volume.
Like the Romans, the Chianti has stormed the land making it known to all points of the world. Yet it is the humble vintner creating this amazing wine under strict regulations that has the wine world at their feet.
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