About Chianti Wines & Tuscany
The Greeks who first introduced the vine to Italy over 2,000 years ago, named this country ‘Oenotria - The Land of Wine’, and Italy now produces the largest volume of wine in the world with the greatest number of grape varieties of any country. Italy boasts 21 wine producing regions and one of the most famous is ‘Tuscany’.
I have had the immense pleasure of travelling through every major wine region in Italy, all of which have left the most pleasurable of memories, but Tuscany has its own ‘special magic’. Visit Tuscany in May and you will be overwhelmed with a most glorious experience, the intoxicating perfumes and incredible colour of Tuscany’s symbolic flower, the Iris. This is when the Iris blooms at its richest and is celebrated with festivals throughout the region.
Mix Tuscany’s culture, folklore, legends, mystery and of course some of the finest wines and cuisine to be found in Italy and this makes for the most exciting of adventures. Take in Sienna and Florence with the rolling hills of olive groves and vineyards and you will enjoy a complete and unforgettable journey of a lifetime.
Tuscany provides Italy with some of the most significantly individual wines of great quality, variety and style. From the much now improved Chianti to the lesser known but much more expensive Bolgheri, Tuscany alone still forms the heart of the most popular ‘wine route’ in Europe.
The Style of Chianti
To feature Chianti here as the main Tuscan wine creation is almost compulsory, as it is certainly one of the most famous wines in the world. As a 1960’s icon in a raffia clad flask, it was always said that Chianti would disappear after everyone who drank it had a bedside lamp made from the bottle.
This of course never happened but its route through the years has not always been smooth. Chianti continued to develop a reputation for inferior wine of mass volume and it wasn’t until the 1970’s and ‘80’s that producers began to take note.
Although these high volumes still exist, the wines now range from the quite ordinary to the sublime with rich and powerful fruit flavours. Therefore, covering such an expanse of quality, it is of great importance to be able to recognise the difference in production.
Areas of Production:
There are 7 separate sub zones but to save confusion at this time, we shall concentrate on the main area of Chianti production in the heart of the region - ‘Chianti Classico.'
The main grape variety here is Sangiovese which must be at least 80% to carry the Chianti name, but this can be blended with the variety’ Canaiolo’ and more recently, ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’ of which only 15% is allowed.
Aged Chianti of at least 38 months may be labelled as Chianti Riserva but it is important to note that the majority of Chianti produced will not stand long periods of ‘oak maturation’, so you will not find ‘over-oaked’ wines from this region.
Sangiovese and Chianti:
On The Eye: A typical Chianti wine made from 100% Sangiovese will have an orangey red appearance and with the presence of Cabernet, a much fuller and deeper colour.
On The Nose: Aromas of dried berry fruits and red cherries, with sometimes hints of ripe cherry tomatoes and savoury herbs. ‘Classico’ wines can also display hints of cinnamon, with tobacco and leather as they age.
On The Palate: Lighter wines will show dried fruit flavours, moving towards more richness in body with good medium tannic structures for fuller wines. Also flavours of cherry, plum and raspberry.
We at Wines Direct can guide you to the best Chianti wines on offer in today’s wine market. Some great examples are currently being featured at Tesco with also other Tuscan wines made from the famous Sangiovese [Chianti] grape variety. Two are highlighted next that we recommend as ‘really good value for money!
Matching Chianti with Food
The wide ranging styles of Chianti lend themselves to most Italian dishes. The lighter wines can accompany some stronger flavoured fish or seafood dishes such as spaghetti with mussels [spaghetti con cozze] or grilled salmon with fennel [salmon alla griglia]. Risottos, pasta dishes, pizzas and vegetarian dishes such as ravioli with ricotta and spinach [ravioli ripieni di magro]
The more fuller bodied reds will complement all styles of meat dishes, especially those with garlic and stronger tomato based sauces such as Bolognese.
The whites of course will also go well with lighter pasta, chicken and vegetarian dishes, but I would prefer to choose a red every time, such is the adaptability of Chianti.
We have chosen a fantastic recipe of Chicken with Chianti [Pollo al Chianti] to match the wines of Tuscany. Why not try cooking Pollo al Chainati yourself and let us know your favourite wines to match.
Alan Hunter AIWS,