Italy - Chianti
Continuing our voyage through Italy, this month we give you a glimpse of one
of the most fascinating wine regions in the world, Chianti.
The region of Tuscany is dominated by Chianti.
This is the wine that nearly every wine lover knows. From the straw-covered
bottles hanging from the family run trattoria down the street to
the bold, imposing and long lived "new wave," one may be introduced
to every imaginable style of red wine and never leave the area!
Chianti is produced over a large part of Tuscany,
with seven different sub-zones recognized in the D.O.C.G. regulations.
Chianti Classico comes from the heart of the area, from the enchanting
hills between Florence and Siena, dotted with medieval castles and
Renaissance villas. This is where most of the best Chiantis are
made, wines with length and complexity. The small area of Rufina
also produces some long-lived wines as do the other sub-zones, Colli
Fiorentini, Colli Aretini, Colli Senesi, Colline Pisane and Montalbano.
Chianti has undergone an enormous transition
in the last twenty years. The Sangiovese grape is the mainstay of
Chianti and indeed of all the red wines of Tuscany. The D.O.C. regulations
of 1967 allowed for as much as 30 percent of white grapes in the
making of the red wines of Chianti. The 1960s also saw the dismantling
of the mezzadria or sharecropping system of landholding and agriculture,
which had been a part of Tuscan life since the Middle Ages. This
brought radical changes in land ownership and overthrew the growing
of mixed crops which had provided the traditional framework of the
countryside. Instead specialized vineyards were planted, often without
thought and with the wrong grape varieties. The market became awash
with bad Chianti, resulting in a crisis of confidence. Chianti lost
The thinking grower realized that something
had to be done. The introduction of the D.O.C.G. regulations (stricter
than the previous D.O.C. rules) in 1984 reduced the permitted percentage
of white grapes, and certainly helped to eliminate some bad wines.
It also gave producers a much needed boost of confidence. More exciting,
however, is the wave of revolutionary winemaking outside the regulations
that has swept through Tuscany in the last few years.
Over the last ten years Tuscany has seen the
creation of an astonishing number of new wines. Most attention has
been paid to Sangiovese, which is now recognized as a fine grape
variety in its own right; varieties from outside Tuscany have also
been planted. These changes in the vineyards have been accompanied
by an enormous improvement in winemaking techniques, not least in
the aging of the wine, with the increasing use of French barriques.