Chianti – The Tuscan Wine

When you talk about wines in the Tuscan region, one varietal dominates: Chianti.

For me, everytime I hear “Chianti”, I think of Hannibal Lector and his penchant for red wine with beans. Those of us who may be a bit older, may think of Chianti as the wine that is bottled with wicker adorning the bottom of the bottle. It’s due to this image that some folks think that Chianti is on the lower end of wines.

But Chianti is far more complicated and esteemed than that. It has a history that goes back to before 1000 AD. The territoy of Chianti starts just south of Florence
and ends just north of Siena. This is the Chianti Region, and many wines come out of here claiming (rightfully or wrongly) as Chiantis. But as with most wines, it’s not that simple.

To be qualified as a true Chianti, a wine has to be more than made from the grapes within the Chianti region. The wine has to be comprised from at least 80% of the Sangiovese grape, and the rest of the composition has to meet with the production standards set by the Consorzio del Marchio Storico-Chianti Classico. Once these standards are met, the wine can be called Chianti Classico, and wear the seal of the Consortium (pictured above). If you don’t see that seal, you’re probably taking a leap of faith.

Chianti, as with most Italian wines, is best when paired with food. That’s its raison d’etre (or should I say “motivo essere”). Below are some some basic tips when dealing with this most Tuscan of Tuscan wines.

Colour: bright, ruby red.
Bouquet: good grapey with a perfume of violets.
Flavour: dry, smooth and velvety.
Temperature: serve at 64°F.
Suitable with: almost all foods and meats.

Chianti Riserva(Riserva indicates a wine which has been aged in the barrel at least three years.)
Colour: deep red.
Bouquet: full bodied and subtle, with a hintof violets.
Temperature: serve at 68-72°F. The bottle should be opened an hour before serving.
Suitable with: roast meats, duck game and hard, mature cheeses.

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