You can trace the viticulture of this region back beyond the Romans to over 2,000 years ago. Artefacts suggest it was the Etruscans who cleared the thickly forested hills to cultivate vines, and the Romans continued this winemaking practice. The word chianti first appeared on parchment in 790 A.D., and documents suggest that the wine of that time may have been a white, not the ruby red wine we know today.
During the Middle Ages, it was the dedication of local monks who continued to care for the region’s grapes, and who promoted winemaking traditions to the people. The monks considered the wine to be both nutritious and medicinal, and a safe alternative to polluted water. This is when Chianti wine became a popular drink for peasants and popes alike.
Traditionally, Chianti was bottled in a fiasco, a rounded, half-straw covered bottle with a flat base. This extra straw padding, made from sundried swamp weed, would offer protection during transportation.
“These traditional bottles can be unadorned and little presentable but can contain an excellent wine - glorious and divine.” Galileo Galilei on Chianti wine.
In Chianti, winemaking became more than a mere income but an identity, and to this day, wine producers of the region take great pride in honouring its viticulture traditions. Chianti Classico is a DOCG wine, which means it must be produced to set rules. It can only be made using 80% Sangiovese red grape and 20% other native or international grape varieties, most commonly Canaiolo or Colorino, and must have a minimum alcohol level of 12% ABV.
A label that indicates exceptional quality is the ‘Riserva’, which highlights that the Chianti has been aged for two years or more after harvest and has a minimum alcohol level of 12.5% ABV.
There’s also a third, even more exclusive Chianti Classico category, Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, which is grown to even stricter regulations and must be approved by a special tasting committee.