What is Chianti? History, Production, and Taste

Everything you need to know about this tuscan wine delicacy

Chianti is a famous Italian red wine that has been produced in the Tuscany region for centuries.

It is made primarily from the Sangiovese grape variety, but can also include other red grape varieties such as Canaiolo and Colorino. The wine is known for its medium-bodied taste, high acidity, and dry finish.

The Chianti region is located between the cities of Siena and Florence in central Italy.

It is divided into seven sub-regions, each with its own unique characteristics and regulations for winemaking. Chianti Classico is the most well-known sub-region and is known for producing some of the highest quality Chianti wines.

History of Chianti

Chianti is a red wine blend that originated in the Tuscany region of Italy.

It is made primarily from the Sangiovese grape and is known for its robust flavor and high acidity. The history of Chianti is long and rich, dating back to the 14th century.


The origins of Chianti can be traced back to the Etruscans, who were the first to cultivate grapes in the region.

The Romans continued this tradition, and by the Middle Ages, winemaking had become an important industry in Tuscany.

The first mention of Chianti as a specific wine dates back to the 13th century, when it was produced in the area around the villages of Radda, Gaiole, and Castellina.


In the 14th century, Chianti winemakers developed a technique known as governo where half-dried grapes are added to the must to stimulate the yeast with a fresh source of sugar that may keep the yeast active all the through the fermentation process.

This technique helped to improve the quality of Chianti wine and became a standard practice in the region.

By the 18th century, Chianti had become a popular wine throughout Italy and was even exported to other countries. In 1716, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo III de’ Medici, issued an edict that defined the boundaries of the Chianti wine region.

This was the first official recognition of Chianti as a distinct wine.


In 1924, the Chianti Consortium was formed to regulate the production of Chianti wine.

The consortium established rules for the production of Chianti, including the minimum percentage of Sangiovese grapes that must be used in the blend.

In 1984, the rules were revised to allow for the use of other grape varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, in the blend.

Today, Chianti is one of the most popular wines in the world, known for its rich flavor and versatility. It is produced in a variety of styles, from light and fruity to full-bodied and complex.

Whether enjoyed on its own or paired with food, Chianti remains a favorite among wine lovers everywhere.

Geography of Chianti

Chianti is a mountainous area of Tuscany, Italy, located in the provinces of Florence, Siena, and Arezzo.

The region is composed mainly of hills and mountains, with vineyards and olive groves scattered throughout.

The Chianti region is situated between the cities of Florence and Siena, with some areas extending toward Pisa.

It covers an area of approximately 70,000 hectares and is divided into two main sub-regions: Chianti Classico and Chianti Colli Senesi.

The climate in Chianti is typically Mediterranean, with hot summers and mild winters. The region is also influenced by the Apennine Mountains, which provide a natural barrier against cold winds from the north.

The combination of warm temperatures, abundant sunshine, and well-draining soils creates ideal conditions for growing grapes.

The soil types in Chianti vary depending on the location, but most vineyards are planted on a combination of clay, limestone, and schist. These soils are well-suited to growing Sangiovese, the primary grape variety used in Chianti wines.

Grapes of Chianti


Sangiovese is the primary grape variety used in the production of Chianti wines.

It is an indigenous grape variety of Italy, and it is grown in many regions throughout the country. Sangiovese is known for its high acidity, moderate tannins, and flavors of cherry, red fruit, and spice.

In Chianti, the Sangiovese grape must make up at least 70% of the wine, according to the appellation regulations.

However, many producers choose to use a higher percentage of Sangiovese in their blends, sometimes up to 100%. The Sangiovese grape is highly adaptable to different growing conditions, which allows it to express different characteristics depending on the terroir and winemaking techniques used.

Other Varietals

While Sangiovese is the star of the show in Chianti wines, other grape varieties are also permitted in the blend.

These include Canaiolo, Colorino, and Mammolo, which are all indigenous to Tuscany, as well as international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Canaiolo is a red grape that is known for its soft tannins and fruity flavors. It is often used in small amounts in Chianti blends to add complexity and softness to the wine.

Colorino is another red grape that is known for its deep color and high tannins. It is used in small amounts to add structure and depth to the wine.

Mammolo is a red grape that is known for its floral aromas and soft tannins. It is often used in small amounts to add fragrance and elegance to the wine.

International grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are also used in some Chianti blends. These grapes bring their own unique flavors and characteristics to the wine, such as black fruit flavors and a fuller body.

However, the use of these grapes is limited to a maximum of 15% of the blend, according to the appellation regulations.

Winemaking Process


The first step in making Chianti wine is harvesting the grapes.

The grapes are typically hand-picked in mid-September to early October, depending on the weather and ripeness of the grapes. The Sangiovese grape is the most common grape used in Chianti wine, but other grapes such as Canaiolo and Colorino may also be used.

The grapes are carefully selected and sorted to ensure only the best grapes are used in the winemaking process.


After the grapes are harvested, they are crushed and the juice is extracted.

grapes fermenting for wine production

The juice is then fermented in stainless steel tanks or oak barrels. During fermentation, yeast converts the sugar in the grape juice into alcohol. The temperature and length of fermentation vary depending on the desired style of wine.

For Chianti, the fermentation process typically lasts around two weeks, resulting in a medium-bodied wine with moderate tannins and acidity.


After fermentation, the wine is aged in oak barrels for a minimum of three months to two years, depending on the style of Chianti being produced.

The aging process helps to develop the wine’s flavor and texture. Chianti Classico Riserva, for example, is aged for a minimum of two years in oak barrels, resulting in a full-bodied wine with complex flavors and aromas.

Once the wine has aged, it is bottled and labeled according to Italian wine regulations.

Chianti Classico, for example, must be made from at least 80% Sangiovese grapes and aged for a minimum of 12 months. Chianti Classico Riserva, on the other hand, must be aged for a minimum of two years and have a minimum alcohol content of 12.5%.

Tasting Notes

Chianti is a red blend wine that is made primarily with Sangiovese grapes.

It is known for its aromatic, fruit-forward profile and its dryness. In this section, we will explore the tasting notes of Chianti and what to expect when you take a sip.


Chianti has a ruby red color that can range from light to dark.

It is typically medium-bodied and has a moderate alcohol content. When you swirl the wine in the glass, you will notice that it has a good viscosity and leaves long legs on the side of the glass.


The aroma of Chianti is complex and can vary depending on the vintage and producer.

However, some common tasting notes include red fruits, like cherry and raspberry, dried herbs, balsamic vinegar, smoke, and game. With age, Chianti develops rustic, earthy notes such as dried flowers or clay pot.

To understand the Chianti aroma, conjure up images of preserved sour Amarena cherries, dried oregano, and dried salami.


On the palate, Chianti is typically dry and has a high acidity.

Flavors of game, thyme, and cinnamon spice dominate the mouth. You may also taste notes of preserved sour cherries, dried oregano, balsamic reduction, dry salami, espresso, and sweet tobacco.

Roasted or sun-dried tomato is another common tasting descriptor. The tannins in Chianti are typically firm and provide a good structure to the wine.

Food Pairing

Chianti is a versatile wine that pairs well with many different types of food.

Its high acidity and tannins make it an excellent match for tomato-based sauces, meaty pastas, and even pizza. Here are some food pairing suggestions for Chianti:

  • Tomato-based pasta dishes, such as spaghetti bolognese or lasagne
  • Meaty pasta dishes, such as spaghetti and meatballs
  • Pepperoni or sausage pizza
  • Steak or beef dishes, such as Bistecca alla Fiorentina or roast beef
  • BBQ meats, such as ribs or brisket
  • Cheeseburgers or grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Bean or chickpea soup flavored with rosemary

When it comes to cheese pairing, Chianti goes well with a variety of cheeses from sheep’s and cow’s milk.

Pecorino Toscano and Grana Padano are both delicious options, but aged Parmigiano-Reggiano is the best pairing for Chianti.

Overall, Chianti is a classic wine that can elevate any meal. Its savory and smokey profile, along with its high acidity and tannins, make it an excellent choice for pairing with a wide range of dishes.


Chianti is a wine that has been popular for centuries and continues to be a favorite among wine lovers today. It is made primarily from the Sangiovese grape and is known for its fruity and earthy flavors, as well as its versatility when it comes to food pairings.

While Chianti may not have the same prestige as some other Italian wines, it is still a beloved choice for many wine enthusiasts. Its affordability and approachability make it a great option for those who are just getting into wine or who are looking for a reliable go-to for everyday drinking.

Whether you’re enjoying a glass of Chianti with a hearty pasta dish or sipping it on its own, it’s clear that this wine has a special place in the hearts of many. So the next time you’re looking for a delicious and dependable wine to enjoy, consider reaching for a bottle of Chianti.

Please drink responsibly, be fully accountable with your alcohol consumption, and show others respect.

Written by Lauren McKenna

Lauren is a soon to be Temple University graduate. Her love of travel has introduced her to food and drinks from all over the world. She provides MyBartender with a global view of all things alcohol.

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