What is Chianti Wine?

An iconic and classic wine, a glass of Chianti is always in style.

This famous Italian wine is a product of rich history and a distinguished wine classification system that will amaze any wine enthusiast. 

In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about Chianti wine. 

What is Chianti Wine?

History of Chianti

Chianti is an Italian wine from the Old World. It refers to any wine produced in the Chianti region of Tuscany. For centuries, Chianti was made from various red and white grapes, including Sangiovese, Colorino, Canaiolo Nero, Trebbiano, and Malvasia. Traditionally, Chianti wine bottles were kept in stout straw baskets known as “fiascos.” 

In the mid-1800s, Baron Bettino Ricasoli decided that the Sangiovese grape most faithfully represented the Chianti wine region. To this day, Chianti must contain a certain amount of Sangiovese to be considered in the classification system. 

Discover more Italian wine regions here!

We will discuss the classification system a little later. For now, let’s look at Chianti’s unique flavor profile. 

Chianti Wine Taste

Ruby red in color, this dry red wine contains high acidity and deep fruit flavors. There is also an earthy leather taste associated with the wine. Specific tasting notes include cherry, plum, tomato leaf, dried herbs, tobacco, smoke, balsamic vinegar, and clay soil. 

Apart from Sangiovese, modern-day Chianti is a red blend made of varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Canaiolo, and Colorino. However, white grapes are no longer allowed in Chianti. 

Let’s now examine Chianti wine’s distinguished classification system.

What does Chianti wine taste like?

Chianti Classification

To be considered for Chianti’s various classification levels, the wine must contain a certain amount of Sangiovese.

We’ll explore two classification umbrellas: the Chianti DOCG and the Chianti Classico DOCG.

Chianti DOCG

The most common classification, Chianti DOCG, is relaxed in its requirements compared to the other levels. The grapes can be harvested anywhere in the broader Chianti region, but the wine must contain at least 70% Sangiovese grapes. A minimum alcohol level of 10% ABV is also required. These wines are aged from six to nine months on average. 

Sub-regions under this classification include Chianti Rufina, Chianti Colli Aretini, Chianti Colli Florentini, Chianti Colli Senese, Chianti Colline Pisane, Chianti Montalbano, and Chianti Montespertoli.

Chianti Classico DOCG

Chianti Classico wines are under much stricter production and aging requirements. The conditions become even more stringent as we explore the following three sub-categories. 

Let’s explore Chianti Classico wines.

Chianti Classico Annata

The first level of Chianti Classico DOCG is Chianti Classico Annata. This wine must be produced with at least 80% Sangiovese and a minimum of 12% ABV. A minimum of 12 months of aging is also required. 

Chianti Classico Riserva

A step above Annata, Chianti Classico Riserva is a more structured wine. These wines need at least 80% Sangiovese, 12.5% ABV, and 24 months of aging, with at least three of these months in the bottle. 

Chianti wine DOCG classification system

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione

Last but not least is the best Chianti wine. Gran Selezione is unrivaled with the wine’s classic fruity aromas and a dry, balanced finish. This distinguished Italian wine requires 80% Sangiovese grapes, which must be estate-grown. It also needs 30 months of aging (at least three months in the bottle) and a minimum of 13% ABV.

Wine Fact: The Black Rooster is Chianti Classico’s historical symbol, representing Florence and Siena's past rivalry over the Chianti territory.  

Now that we understand Chianti’s origin, taste, and classification system, let’s look at the wine’s best food pairings.

Chianti Wine Pairings

With its robust structure, high acidity, and dried herb, fruit, and smoky notes, Chianti is a decadent match for hearty dishes. Italian comfort food, specifically, is one of the best options for this wine.

Break out the charcuterie board as fatty Prosciutto and hard cheeses like Pecorino will balance Chianti’s acidity and fruit notes. Pasta doused in herbal red sauce, cheese, and olive oil is the perfect dinner companion for this wine.

Lastly, pizzas like Margherita Pizza will bring out the wine's tomato and basil leaf flavors. The herbal red sauce will complement Chianti’s dried herb notes, and the mozzarella smooths the wine’s acidity.

Don’t be afraid to explore heavier meats and cheeses for pairing options, as Chianti is up to the task.

Explore the best pizza and wine pairings here!

Best Chianti wine pairings

An Appreciation for Chianti

The next time you open a bottle of Chianti, peek at the label and see if you can find which classification it belongs to. 

Chianti is a beautiful Italian red wine with a history as rich as its flavors. 

Shop our Italian wine selection here to experience some of the most popular samples from the region. 

Read The Wine Blog for a complete guide to drinking and enjoying wine.

Expand your palate and your wine knowledge with Macy’s Wine Shop.