How many times have you ordered a Chianti wine, never really understanding what “Chianti” means? You’re not alone, lots of people are under the impression Chianti is a type of Italian grape which actually, it’s not.
To understand Chianti properly, first you have to understand a bit about Italy and their wine production. Anyone who wants to can (and often does) produce wine in Italy, however, in order to call your wine by anything other than “red or white wine” a set of strict rules must be followed. I could talk for hours about those rules alone there are so many, so let’s break it down a bit farther. If you want to produce a certain type of wine, like Chianti, , you must follow the rules laid out by the official governing board for that specific type of wine. Once you’ve done that and alerted the authorities that be, they will come and your product, see the vineyard etc and if all is OK give you the go ahead finally and officially label your wine a Chianti. This designation also comes with a cute sticker for the bottle, so everyone knows it’s legit.
So what are these rules? Let’s look at some of them. Chianti, to be a Chianti, must be made of at least 70% sangiovese grapes. These grapes are native to Tuscany and give Chianti much of its recognizable flavor. The wine also must be grown in certain geographical areas. A few meters past the line, and your Chianti classico becomes a Chianti ruffina or loses the designation chianti entirely. Another rule has to do with watering, chianti must be produced using only natural rain fall, no artificial watering or assistance may be given. These are just a few of the many regulations…And as you can see not just anybody can go around claiming their wine is a Chianti.
It all seems a bit complicated right? In a way, it really is. There are jobs dedicated just to testing and verifying that viticulturists are following the rules and strict fines and even jail time for rule breakers. However the benefit, like all things I love about Italy, is a strict adherence to tradition that carries on for centuries. Since Chianti was invented in 1872, it’s been the classic we know and love today. Salute!