Every wine lover knows Chianti, even if they don’t know exactly where this wine originates. In this post, I’d like to discuss the various districts of the Chianti zone in Tuscany.
Chianti Classico, the heart of the Chianti zone, between the cities of Florence and Siena, is the most famous of all Chianti districts. I will talk about the wines from here in a future post, but for today, I will be writing about the seven Chianti districts that have been unified under the Chianti Consorzio, all with similar laws on production of the wines.
The seven districts are as follows:
Chianti Colli Fiorentini
Chinati Colli Senesi
Chianti Colline Pisani
Chianti Colli Aretini
The districts are all named for a city or for a geographical area; thus Chanti Colli Fiorentini is the Chianti district in the hills of Florence, Chianti Colli Senesi refers to the hills of Siena and so forth. In each district, Chianti is made from a minimum of 75% Sangiovese, although current regulations do allow for a 100% Sangiovese in each district. Blended wines often contain other local red varieties, such as Colorino or Mammolo, but international varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are allowed as part of the blend of these Chianti wines, as long as they do not exceeed 10% of the blend. Since 1967, all Chiantis made here that adhere to the regulations, may be labed as DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata).
Some of these districts are home to dozens of excellent producers (such as Chianti Classico Fiorentini and Senese), while others are rather small (Montespertoli and Pisane). In fact, it is becoming more difficult to find a Chianit Colline Pisane these days, as producers there are making more bottlings of proprietary wines than their regular bottlings of Chianti. The same holds true in Chianti Montalbano, as this is the area in which Carmignano, a DOCG Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon blend is produced. In each district though, producers can make a range of wines, from a simple Chianti to a Riserva; many also opt to make an IGT blend (known by many as Super Tuscans), made from local and/or international varieties.
The wines from these seven districts as a rule tend to be lighter than those from Chianti Classico, so they are easy drinking and quite approachable upon release. However, there are some excellent producers throughout these districts that craft some very special wines, ones that can age from 5-10 years. Among the most accomplished producers here, I would include Selvapiana and Frescobaldi (Chianti Rufina); Castelvecchio, Castello di Poppiano and San Michele a Torri (Chianti Colli Fiorentini); and Fattoria Sannino (Chianti Montespertoli).
Here are lists of some of the other leading producers in these districts:
Chianti Colli Fiorentini: Lanciola (this estate also produces Chianti Classico), Fattoria la Colombaia, Le Querce
Chianti Colli Senesi: Castello di Farnetella, Tenuta di Trecciano, Le Bertille, Villa Sant Anna
Chianti Montalbano: Tenuta di Cappezzana, Ambra
Chianti Montespertoli: Fattoria Poggio Capponi, Tenuta Trecento, Tenuta Cortina e Mandorli
Chianti Colli Pisane: Badia di Morrona, Tenuta di Ghizzano
Chianti Rufina: Travagnoli, Villa di Vetrice, Renzo Masi
Chianti Colli Aretini: Mannucci Droandi, Villa a Sesta, Ruspante
One final note: Many of these producers also make the wonderful dessert wine, Vin Santo (“the wine of the saints” or “the holy wine”). This is generally made from the white varieties Trebbiano and Malvasia, which after harvest are laid on mats in a temperature controlled room to dry. After a few months, the grapes have shriveled, almost to the size of raisins and are then fermented in very small barrels called caratelli. The wine is then left to age in the caratelli for five years before being bottled. The resulting wine is amber gold in color with moderate sweetness and aromas and flavors of almond, dried honey, marzipan, butterscotch and sherry notes. This is a wine that is difficult and costly to produce and only the best versions still show a freshness upon release. Among all the producers in these Chianti districts, my favorite Vin Santo is made at Selvapiana.