Chianti and Chianti Classico

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Henry & Stephanie Yuen

No matter if or not you’re familiar with Italian wines, you’ve probably heard of ‘Chianti’, a name that seems to be synonymous with the best of Italian wines. Like Bordeaux wines of France, people regard Chianti as good drinking wines and quite often considered them some of the best from Italy. But do you know there are in fact Chianti and Chianti Classico, two distinctively different wines? 

While Chianti is a wine made in Tuscany, only those made in the geographical zone ‘Chianti’ territory covering 9 communities bearing the “Black Rooster” symbol are Chianti Classico wines. The Black Rooster is a trademark of Chianti Classico that appears in the neck of each bottle to identity its distinct origin.  The history of wine production in this region goes back a long way and has gone through a transformation in 2013. The change in the designation includes stricter control of how the wines are produced, how the wines are categorized into different tiers, what varietals and percentage are allowed to go into the wines and stricter guidelines of how the wines are to be made. They also stress on the importance of limiting the production by making sound selections in order to achieve higher wine qualities. All these are to ensure the supremacy of Chianti Classico wines and allow consumers to understand the different classifications when it comes to choosing.  

The appellation is Chianti Classico DOCG where a minimum of 80% to 100% of grapes must be Sangiovese. A maximum of 20% could be local or international grape varietals such as Merlot and CabernetSauvignon. A Chianti Classico Amata is the basic tier of wine of that region. Next level is the Chianti Classico Riserva where the minimum aging is 24 months including 3 months (a must) in the bottle. Newly created is the Chianti Classico Gran Selezione level where the grapes must be grown by the winery itself with minimum aging of 30 months including 3 months in the bottle and the alcohol content must be 13% and higher.

Chianti Classico

With over 35 million bottles produced each year, there is no doubt Chianti Classico is an important wine region of Italy. What is astonishing was that in 2012, sales to Canada was 9% of all export sales of Chianti Classico.  This was a relatively high percentage when compared to other countries. To put it in perspective, the US having 10 times more population than Canada only comprised of 28% of export sales in 2012 whereas only 12% sales to Germany and 20% for Italy itself. Other countries all had sales of less than our 9%. That shows how popular Chianti Classico is in this part of the wine world. So next time you are at the liquor store, go to the Italian section and feel free to pick up some Chianti Classico. The Black Rooster trademark will be your guide!

As for food pairing, Italian fares such as pizza, antipasto, focaccia and tomato-based pasta and braised or baked meat entrées are the best bets. The silky smooth, complex character, well-balanced tannin and acidity along with nice bouquet will do well with Asian dishes such as oven-roasted Chinese sausages, spicy ribs, brisket stew, braised oxtail, tandori chicken, tea-smoked duck and marinated-chicken in a bubbly hot-pot.