Chianti is an area of Tuscany, Italy made famous by the red wine of the same name. It has much to offer for a visitor interested in wine, food and natural beauty. Many of the wineries are open for a tour and a tasting, and some offer accommodation services as well.
Chianti is above all a wine zone. It is not an administrative region and includes parts of the Tuscan provinces of Florence, Siena, Arezzo and Pisa. The Chianti DOCG appellation is divided into seven subregions (Classico, Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colline Pisane, Colli Senesi, Montalbano and Rufina), of which Classico is the most famous.
The Chianti Classico region in turn is defined by the towns between Florence and Siena: Greve, Panzano, Castellina, Gaiole and Radda. Almost all the famous Chianti estates are located near one of these towns, although Rufina is to the east of Florence.
In addition to the red wine, many producers make the dessert wine Vin Santo del Chianti as well as “Super Tuscan” wines that do not adhere to the DOC regulations. Some also make olive oil.
Eat and Drink
Food in the region is very commonly made with Chianti, in cases of wine sauces, and is in any case well paired with a glass of Chianti. You may want to choose more robust Chiantis with food like cinghiale (wild boar) or bistecca alla fiorentina (Florentine-style charred steak) than with pasta, but it’s quite common to have a quartino or share a bottle of the house Chianti with an entire meal in trattorie in the region. Of course, if you are a lusty drinker or with a larger group, you can more easily choose one bottle with the primi piatti (pasta or soup) and another with the secondi piatti (usually fowl or red meat in this region).
If you have access to your own cooking facilities, you may want to follow the cook’s adage that food tastes better when you use a good wine in your sauces, and then drinking some of that same wine with the meal brings out the flavours of both the food and the wine better.
If you want to go to Chianti, the natural assumption is that you want to drink the wine. It is made with the sangiovese grape, although lesser quantities of other grape varieties may be added. There are different philosophies of making Chianti: some prefer traditional blends with sangiovese and other local grapes (including white ones), some use international varieties such as merlot, and finally there are those who use only sangiovese for their Chianti.
The taste of the wine depends a lot on the producer’s decisions, but also on the exact place where the vines are grown. Sangiovese is known as a rather difficult grape to grow, and differences in the land affect the taste of the resulting wine. Traditionally Chianti is a light wine with high acidity with a slightly bitter but fruity taste and berry aromas. As international markets demand high-fruit, high-alcohol wines, Chianti is changing as well, and more modern versions have a fuller, although less recognizable taste.