The expression Chianti Classico is reserved for wines produced in a roughly oval-shaped area of mostly hilly country located between Florence and Sienna in Tuscany, Italy. To be designated Chianti Classico DOCG, the wines must be produced from sangiovese grapes at wineries within the area and within a specified range of altitudes. The Chianti Classico wine-making area corresponds roughly to historical Chianti and is surrounded by a larger wine making area designated simply “Chianti”.
Chianti Classico wine is often but not always 100% sangiovese. However, the rules governing Chianti Classico wineries allow up to 20% of other red grapes to be blended with the sangiovese grapes. These are now most frequently merlot and /or carbernet sauvignon, but many other grapes are also used, some autochthonous such as canaiolo and colorino and others originating in other countries, for example petit verdot and cabernet franc. The alcohol level must be at least 12% and there are also limitations on the weight of grapes that can be harvested per hectare. Wines that satisfy these criteria and guaranteed by the Chianti Classico “gallo nero” seal on the bottle neck. The seal has recently been redesigned in more “modern” format – see Anna Maria Baldini’s assessment of the new design and also her commentary on the new top level Chianti Classico designation – “gran riserva“.
The sangiovese grape is remarkably sensitive to soil and climatic factors. Indeed, it would be hard to find another grape varietal that expresses the soil in which the vine grows so clearly in its fragrance and taste. Flowery bouquets are derived from sandy soils, while scents of wild berries are typical of limestone country and the aromas of tobacco are common in Chianti wines where the sangiovese has grown on tufa. However, whatever the zone of origin, there is that scent of violets that the production regulations identify as a characteristic and specific element of Chianti Classico.
More about Tuscan wines.
More about Chianti and the Chiantigiani.