Today I will tell the story of CHIANTI, a Tuscan wine which holds the reputation of the best known Italian wine in the world.
It is an ancient story that begins in the 6th century AD, when Tuscany was inhabited by the Etruscans, who had already cultivated the entire territory with grapes, even if it is not known what kind of grapes they used to grow or what wine they made.
The production of wine remained constant, thanks to the wise work of the monks, throughout the dominion of the Roman Empire and it also resisted the barbarian invasions. And from the year 1000 there is evidence that specialized vineyards separated into rows were already used and that the name Chianti was already widespread.
At that time, a vineyard in Tuscany was considered a possession of considerable value (still today they don’t come cheap!). The vineyards were protected by walls and the damage caused to plants, or to the ground, was punished by law, even with torture. Torture was a very popular custom, as shown in the Museo della Tortura in the beautiful village of San Gimignano (now a Unesco Heritage site).
Wine was heavily taxed, therefore it was a source of wealth and power. Some influential families, such as Ricasoli or Antinori, still today producers of refined wines, started the wine trade, increasing the influence of that wine already known as Chianti.
From the time of the first Osterias (inns) in Florence, Chianti became a popular drink, leaving behind its reputation of a luxury product.
In the Middle Ages, Chianti was a white wine and its not certain when or why it changed colour. The only certain thing is that the first production rules governing this wine date back to 1364, when all producers were required to add raisins to purify, almonds, salt and egg white to clarify and pepper and rose for the colour.
All that’s certain is that since the Middle Ages its excellence has been recognized due both to innovative production methods and the exclusive use of native Florentine and Sienese grapes. Then, in 1400, the ‘Lega del Chianti’ was born, the first consortium to protect the product and which imposes penalties for counterfeiting or for deviations from the production regulations.
Later, the controls on production became more and more strict. The historical turning point towards Chianti, as known today, was due to Bettino Ricasoli (1809-1880), politician, mayor of Florence and Prime Minister of Italy after Cavour, but also a landowner, innovator (the first to use agricultural machinery in the field), known as the ‘Iron Baron’ for his austere lifestyle. Ricasoli imposed innovative rules for fermentation and racking and defined the use of Sangiovese as the lead grape cut with Canaiolo, Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia grapes as the only combination allowed for the production of Chianti.
Although Ricasoli is known as the father of Chianti, another historical turning point took place in 1924, when 33 producers founded the ‘Consortium of the Black Rooster’ (or of the ‘Chianti Classico’), assigning the area between Florence and Siena as the only production area for classic Chianti.
The production area of Chianti Classico is now 71.800 hectares between Siena and Florence and includes only and exclusively the municipalities of Castellina in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, Greve in Chianti, Radda in Chianti and partially those of Barberino Tavarnelle, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Poggibonsi and San Casciano in Val di Pesa.
And each bottle of Chianti Classico has the Black Rooster Symbol
So today, following this split, we have the Chianti DOCG, produced in all of Tuscany, excluding the Chianti Classico area. Chianti DOCG is produced with Sangiovese grapes (between 70 and 100%), it has less aggressive tannins than Chianti Classico and strong ‘note di sottobosco’ – the subtle aromas associated with the autumn woodland . Chianti Classico DOGC is produced with a minimum 80% Sangiovese grapes and comes in the red, reserve and large selection versions.
It is an important wine that has inspired artists such as Michelangelo, Giuseppe Verdi and Galileo. It is loved and exported all over the world and is one of those wines that makes you fall in love with wine, with a flavour so unique and recognizable that you never forget it.
Ruby red with marked floral and fruity notes, in the versions aged in wood it also has aromas of cinnamon, vanilla, cocoa and tobacco. It has a dry flavor, rich in tannins that make it perfect for game, roast meats, truffle-based dishes and aged cheeses and meats. It is so rich in aromas that it is also perfect for Chinese, Japanese and Indian cuisine. But the most exciting combination is with traditional Tuscan dishes.
RITA RECOMMENDS …
My husband comes from Tuscany and thanks to my mother in law Gabriella, who is a wonderful cook, I have fallen in love with Tuscan cuisine. Tuscan food is based on the Italian idea of cucina povera (poor cooking), a concept that is about simple meals that are inexpensive and can easily be made in large amounts. Agnese’s post about Chianti has inspired me to make two typical Tuscan recipes, both very simple to cook and both delicious: PAPPA AL POMODORO and CASTAGNACCIO. These are the two recipes I have used to make them:I
…..and these two pictures are the result (not too bad for a first attempt!!!)