what is chianti? and chianti classico?!
Chianti is a kind of wine (well, really a group if wines) that is made in Italy in the Chianti region, which is between the provinces of Siena, Florence, and Arezzo, three Tuscan cities. For Americans and many other foreigners, it is the Italian wine—and actually for Italians, too, according to a survey by winenews.it (it came in just after Barolo as the wine that best represented a united Italy).
We (and even most Italians) think that Chianti is one of those age-old traditions of quality, passed down from father to son without change. In reality, it’s the opposite: Chianti was a white, not a red, wine in the early modern period, and it was known as being a rather bad wine. It was the second prime minister of Italy, Bettino Ricasoli, who made up the modern recipe and popularized the wine.
The Chianti zone is a little harder to define. It was originally a pretty small area, marked off for military reasons (wars between Siena and Florence) rather than enological ones. The modern zones and sub-zones (Chianti Classico, the grand-daddy of them all, can only be made in a small area) are defined by a Fascist law from the 1930s. Basically it describes the borders of the area where you can make the wine, and then tells you exactly how to make it (which grapes, in which percentages, etc.).
Two professors who run a blog on Italian food history give answers to the questions “Where is Chianti?” and “What is Chianti?” on their site. If you can read Italian, they even let you download the text of the 1932 law on the borders.
Information is from John Dickie's book Delizia, as well as Wikipedia, winenews.it, and the blog www.foodinitaly.org .
“Where is Chianti?” -- http://www.foodinitaly.org/where-is-chianti/
“What is Chianti?” -- http://www.foodinitaly.org/source-what-is-chianti
Chianti is a red Italian wine produced in Tuscany. It was historically associated with a squat bottle enclosed in a straw basket, called a fiasco ("flask"; pl. fiaschi); however, the fiasco is only used by a few makers of the wine now; most Chianti is bottled in traditionally shaped wine bottles. Baron Bettino Ricasoli (later Prime Minister in the Kingdom of Italy) created the Chianti recipe of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo and 15% Malvasia bianca in the middle of the nineteenth century.
The first definition of a wine-area called Chianti was made in 1716. It described the area near the villages of Gaiole, Castellina and Radda; the so-called Lega del Chianti and later Provincia del Chianti (Chianti province). In 1932 the Chianti area was completely re-drawn and divided in seven sub-areas: Classico, Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colline Pisane, Colli Senesi, Montalbano and Rùfina. Most of the villages that in 1932 were suddenly included in the new Chianti Classico area added in Chianti to their name-such as Greve in Chianti which amended its name in 1972. Wines labeled Chianti Classico come from the biggest sub-area of Chianti, that sub-area that includes the old Chianti area. The other variants, with the exception of Rufina from the north-east side of Florence and Montalbano in the south of Pistoia, originate in the respective named provinces: Siena for the Colli Senesi, Florence for the Colli Fiorentini, Arezzo for the Colli Aretini and Pisa for the Colline Pisane. In 1996 part of the Colli Fiorentini sub-area was renamed Montespertoli.
During the 1970s producers started to reduce the quantity of white grapes in Chianti. In 1995 it became legal to produce a Chianti with 100% Sangiovese. For a wine to retain the name of Chianti, it must be produced with at least 80% Sangiovese grapes. A Chianti may have a picture of a black rooster (known in Italian as a gallo nero) on the neck of the bottle, which indicates that the producer of the wine is a member of the Gallo Nero Consortium, an association of producers of the Classico sub-area sharing marketing costs. Since 2005 the black rooster has been the emblem of the Chianti Classico producers association. Aged Chianti (38 months instead of 4-7), may be labelled as Riserva. Chianti that meets more stringent requirements (lower yield, higher alcohol content and dry extract) may be labelled as Chianti Superiore, although Chianti from the "Classico" sub-area is not allowed in any event to be labelled as "Superiore".