So, if you’re like me, you weren’t aware that there is a difference between Chianti and Chianti Classico wines. You’ve likely also never heard of Super Tuscans. I learned about these wines on my Tasty Tuscany food and wine tour with Tuscan Wine Tours / Grape Tours :http://www.tuscan-wine-tours.com/Florence_wine_tours.htm. To fill in some remaining blanks, I did follow-up research also reported below.
The Chianti Region of Tuscany
While not precisely delineated, the borders of the Chianti region of Tuscany include a 20km area (approximately 12.4. miles) around and between the provinces of Florence and Siena. It also includes areas toward Arezzo, Pistoia and Montepulciano. http://www.chianti.com. “The story goes that in the 13th century, Florence and Siena, who had been fighting over the Chianti territory for many, many years, decided to settle their dispute once and for all. They mutually agreed to have horsed riders leave their respective towns at dawn, and where the two horses met would be the final boundary, senza scuse. Those shrewd Florentines had a black rooster which they starved for days. The day of the proposed meeting, the hungry rooster crowed much earlier than dawn, so the Florentine knight got a head start. The Sienese rider only made it about several miles from his town’s walls and thus Florence won a much more sizeable chunk of land”. (Amanda Schuster, http://www.snooth.com/region/italy/tuscany/chianti-classico/#ixzz3DmIkPHLa)
Historically, the Chianti Classico region was strictly regulated to include grapes grown and wines made exclusively in Gaiole, Radda and Castellina which were part of the ancient “Florentine Military League of Chianti”. This region has been expanded to include San Casciano and Tavarnelle, Greve and part of Barberino, as well as the areas of Castelnuovo Berardenga and Poggibonsi near Siena.
The Chianti region is indicated in light gray on the map below, the Chianti Classico region in the dark gray. Check our more wine maps and tour information at the following link: http://www.cellartours.com/italy/italian-wine-maps/
The symbol of the Chianti Classico region, the black rooster can still be found on all certified wines from the region. These are considered the best wines this region has to offer and the only ones permitted to carry the name Chianti Classico: http://www.chianti.com/the-hills-of-chianti.html.
Chianti, Chianti Classico and Super Tuscan Wines
In Tuscany and throughout Italy, wine is heavily regulated. It is not permitted, for example, to irrigate vineyards. Here, vintners grow their own grapes. They don’t purchase grapes from others to make their wines. It is considered a matter of tradition, a matter of pride.Sunshine determines the sweetness and juiciness of the grapes. Only natural pesticides, specifically liquid sulfur and liquid copper, are permitted. During wine-making, it is not permitted to add any sugars or yeasts to aid the natural fermentation process. The quality of wine in a given year is considered “God given, natural”.
In addition to regulations about grape growing and the wine making, the composition of wine in the region is also closely regulated. According to our sommelier, Kimberly, and the wine merchant at Pasolini dall’Onda winery which we visited in Barberino, to make a Chianti wine, 85% of the grapes used must be Sangiovese grapes. The remaining 15% can be a mix of Merlot, Cabernet, Canailo and Colorino grapes. Chianti wines are younger, often aged and bottled more quickly than Chiani Classico wines, so their flavors are lighter, less intense.
The wine making process at Pasolini dall’Onda goes as follows: Once the grapes have been pressed, for their lighter table Chiantis, the wine is aged for 1 year in French oak (the absolute best for wine making, we were told), 1 year in Italian oak, and then 9 months, bottled, in a wine cellar on its side so the wine touches the cork. High end varietals, like Chianti Classico and Super Tuscans are aged for 3 years in French oak, 1 year in Italian oak, and 9 months bottled in the cellar.
French oak barrels
Italian oak barrels
The cellars at Pasolini dall’Onda are located under the streets of Barberino and maintain a naturally perfect temperature (no heating or air conditioning) year round.
Chianti Classico wines must meet further certifications in addition to those governing Chianti which earn them the black rooster on the label and DOGC status (the highest certification for wine in Italy). If you’d like more information on the Italian wine certification system, click here: http://www.thekitchn.com/whats-the-difference-docg-doc-60449. “All bottles of Chianti Classico have a seal depicting a black rooster (gallo nero)”. http://www.snooth.com/region/italy/tuscany/chianti-classico/#ixzz3DmIkPHLa)
How to drink a Chianti, Chianti Classico, or Super Tuscan wine
Our vintner recommended opening a Chianti wine 15 minutes before serving with white meat, fish, or light pasta. Red meat and pastas with heavier sauces, particularly those with tomatoes call for a Chianti Classico (always look for the black rooster on the label), a richer, more full bodied wine that should be opened 1 hour prior to serving.
In addition to Chianti and Chianti Classico wines, vintners in this area also create what they call Super Tuscans. Super Tuscans are not regulated in the same ways Chianti and Chianti Classico wines are. Vintners refer to Super Tuscans as “meditation wines”. Because they are permitted to mix grapes creatively, some argue that these have more potential for multi-level flavors and are best opened 1-2 hours before serving and savored throughout the evening as their aromas and flavors change. Super Tuscans go well with red meat and hearty cheeses as well as chocolate.
As I noted in my earlier post, I’m partial to Chianti Classico and Super Tuscan wines. Still haven’t mediated yet on my San Zanobi Super Tuscans, but the Sicelle Chianti Classico was delightfully smooth and flavorful.
Well, that’s all I have for today. Ciao for now!