The Wine Chianti Classic DOP represents a major source of wealth for the Chianti area, no wonder then that this product has been particularly looked after and protected, in order to distinguish its quality from other wine productions, and to save it from contaminations which could diminish its importance and tastiness.
This is why a rigid legislation has been introduced to regulate the production of Classic Chianti. The first limit obviously regards the geographical area where the grape must grow. But not only the vineyards must be cultivated in the prescribed area: the whole process of wine-making, storage and bottling must take place inside the protected zone.
The grape variety from which Chianti is produced is Sangiovese. This variety can be mixed up with other kinds of vineyards, but their quantity must not exceed the 20%, and anyway, the vineyards must be exclusively of red kind (Lanaiolo, Colorino, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot).
The alcoholic strength must not exceed 12 degrees, 12.5 for Vintage Chianti, also known as Riserva.
In addition to this, there are other requirements that must be followed, regarding the average amount of dry product (24 g/l); the acidity rate (4,5 g/l), the colour (intense ruby red), the smell (fruity, with nuances of wildflowers, berries, cherries or plums) and taste (harmonious, dry, strong and with respectable tannin).
The legislation puts a lot of attention in protecting the consumer, and the best tool is label. From the label in fact, it is possible to trace back the vintage year, the name of the wine, and, above all, the label must always indicate the wording Vino Chianti Classico D.O.C.G. Grapes vintage begins at the end of September, continuing through October according to the altitude of the cultivation area, which determines the ripening of grapes. However, the consumption of Classic Chianti is only permitted by the 1st October of the year following the vintage year. This is valid for young wine, while the Riserva must mature at least 24 months, of which at least 3 in bottles.
It is commonly said the diamonds fit with everything, and the same goes with good wine. Because of its nature, however, Chianti goes particularly well with red meats, especially grilled, while the Riserva is ideally paired with cheese and game.
Once purchased, Chianti D.O.C.G. needs to be carefully stored. The ideal place is a cellar, but in general any place not too wet, far from heat sources and from noise will be fine. Also, it must be stored horizontally, to maintain the stopper humid and elastic. It must be served cool, at 16-18 degrees, and should be opened a few hours before use, or left to decant inside a bowl. The recommended glass must be a tulip shaped goblet, with the mouth slightly narrowing on top.
The best glasses for the Riserva are wide, while young wines require narrower glasses.
CONSORTIUM OF CHIANTI CLASSIC WINE
The history of Chianti is not less interesting and complicated than that of its land. Chianti dates back officially to 1384 when the Chianti League was founded and included the acres of land near Radda, Gaiole and Castellina.
According to the League only the grapes picked in that area not later than 29th September (St. Michael) could be used to make Chianti.
As years passed the Chianti region expanded enormously and in fact, in 1716 all the crops extending up to Valdarno were included in the region in virtue of a gran-ducal edict. Strict laws envisaged a severe punishment “against all carriers, sailors and anyone handling wine fraudulently until its delivery to the stores of foreign buyers of directly to the cargo-ships; punishment to be inflicted according to the damage caused to the public benefit”.
In 1847 baron Bettino Ricasoli came up with the "governo" of wine, consisting in a first quick fermentation of grappes and a second one caused by adding a "governo" made of the must of colorino (species of vine). This process makes the glycerine content rise, giving wine the lovely and delicate savour that everybody knows.
Glycerine cannot exceed 5% in its content.
In 1924 33 vine-growers of the Chianti region founded the Consortium for the Guarantee of the typical Chianti Wine and its Original Mark. They chose the Gallo Nero (black rooster) as thaeir emblem as if they wanted to link their activity to the old Chianti League.
They issued a Statue that envisages strict limits for the members of the Consortium who are obliged to make tests to guarantee the quality of wine and raise the lowest alcoholic contest beyond those ordered with the "Disciplinary Regulation of the Chianti Wine" (see D:P:R: of 09/08/1967)
Besides the Consortium of Chianti Classic there is the Consortium of the Gallo Nero aiming at determining the "Chianti classico standard of the vintage”; in fact, after harvesting the grapes, the members of Consortium have to take some samples of the wine produced and then all these samples gathered and analized by the members of the Consortium every year must be compared to the average characteristics of the standard determined for that specific vintage.
In this way all the wine that does not correspond to the standard must be thrown away. The Chianti Classico wine that has got through this test is checked again by the Board of experts and in the Laboratories of the Consortium.
In this time, too, the wine shows the characteristics of the standard, it can be bottled and receive the mark "Gallo Nero”. In 1986 the integrity and efforts of the members were rewarded applying to the Chianti Classico wine the coveted D.O.C.G (Denominazione di origine Controllata e Garantita), an accolade granted only to six Italian Wines.
All D.O.C.G-classified Classic Chiantis find the key of their success in the mixture of grapes: Sangiovese gives fragrance and strength, Canaiolo milds the harshness of Sangiovese, Trebbiano and Malvasia add lightness but make the savour strong.
It is remarkable that every associated firm is allowed to vary the Chianti grapes according to the producer and above all the consumer’s taste.
Never drink Chianti classico Gallo Nero before one year has gone by from the vintage and as far as the wine riserva is concerned it must be kept in a wooden barrel of one year, than once the wine is mellow, it must stay in a bottle for three months and age at least three years before being drunk. This process is feasible thanks to the typical continental climate of this region (temperature is not excessively low or high) and to the land where the height of the hills ranges from 250 to at most 600 mt: above sea-level.
This makes wine production very complicated. Nevertheless, this region boasts a first-class wine.