The Long and Flourishing Life of Chianti Wine

Chianti wine is one of Tuscany’s best-known and most appreciated products. Its brilliant ruby color with a strong vinous aroma invites people from over the world to visit its production area. It is one of the most exquisite expressions of this region contained in a bottle.  It is because of its unique characteristics and the richness of its history that it is a worldwide famous wine. Chianti wine has gone through many changes over the centuries, not only in terms of composition but of regulations as well. From the Etruscans wine production in the Chianti area to the Chianti organic wine produced to this day. 

Chianti goes back all the way to the Etruscans, according to some vases from the VI Century BC found in Castellina in Chianti, vine plants were brought to this territory by this civilization. It is known that wine was produced in many areas of the Tuscan region. This type of wine was not yet known as Chianti, as we do today. Wine production and its continuing evolution carried on after the Etruscans and throughout the Roman empire period. After the fall of the Roman period, Benedictine monks and other religious groups continued their production in convents and monasteries. 

Medieval painting of Tuscan grape harvest

Winemaking continued to evolve, and in the 1400s after Chianti wine reached an excellent quality, concerns to protect and guard its production was raised. Some laws were issued in which penalties were imposed on those who counterfeited Chianti wine. In 1716 the Grand Duke Cosimo III issued an edict for official regulations that controlled Chianti’s name, production, and sales. Furthermore, specific boundaries were established to delimit the Chianti area. Cosimo of Medici understood well the necessity and importance to establish a Denomination of Origin (D.O.C. – Denominazione di Origine Controllato) and this is why he wrote a notice with the following specifications: “Above the Declaration of the Borders of the four regions Chianti, Pomino, Carmignano, and Val d’Arno di Sopra”. The Grand Duke’s intention was to increase the value of this product and to defend its identity by guaranteeing its production origin, during this time it was already known that different terroirs or territories give wines their characteristics. In 1874 the Chianti blend was defined, which inspired the 1984 specification and regulation, over a century later. At that time, Chianti was made up of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo, Trebbiano and Malvasia and the remaining 5% from other grape varieties (Mammolo, Colorino). 

Chianti wine continued its production and exportation, however, at the beginning of the 1900s the quality of Chianti wine began to decline since it started to be produced outside the geographical borders of this area, in a way “everywhere in other areas in Tuscany”. 

Chianti wine is not to be confused with Chianti Classico. Chianti Classico is not a category under Chianti wine. Chianti Classico is the wine produced within the original and historical production area. It is easily identified by its famous symbol: a black rooster enclosed in a burgundy circle on the neck of the bottle.

In 1927 an association of winemakers founded the “Consorzio del Vino Chianti – The Chianti Wine Consortium with the mission to protect and promote Chianti D.O.C.G. wine. In 1967 Chianti Classico was officially recognized as a DOC (Controlled Denomination Origin) and twenty years later it became DOCG (Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination Origin). This means that Chianti Classico is part of the highest level of wine classification in Italy.  Chianti Classic was defined as the wine produced within the original production area, but allowing the wine produced outside this specific area to keep the name Chianti. These are the two main differences between Chianti and Chianti Classico wine. 

Map defining Chianti and Chianti Classico production area

The interest in organic wine is growing increasingly over the years due to society’s interest in keeping a healthy lifestyle while focusing on environmental sustainability. Organic wines are produced entirely with organically grown grapes. This means that the vineyards are grown without the use of pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides. Organic farms work in symbiosis with nature, by using natural methods they help reduce pest control. One of these methods consists of diverse blooming crop rotations between the vines which can help attract the natural predators of vineyard pests. Another method is building up the soil with natural inputs including green manure and compost. These measures help create a self-regulating ecosystem for vineyards, meaning organic wines can be made without reliance on potentially harmful pesticides. There are also other environmental benefits from organic farming such as the reduction of soil erosion by reinforcing root structures and soil rich in nutrients. In addition, the practice of planting bushes, trees, and cover crops is significantly important for covering topsoil preservation since it prevents it from drying during heat waves, and from washing away in the rain. All these procedures are crucial for the production of the grapes that are used for the production of organic wine.

Some of San Michele’s Organic Farm superb wines

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