Chianti Wine… It’s more complex than you think!
The ‘best’ wine… what does it mean? Is it the most expensive? Is it the oldest and from the smallest vineyards? Is it French, Italian, Australian? Once an enologer said to me ‘You know Elizabeth, really the best wine is the wine you like. Stop.’ And its true! Just drink what you like. The problem is the more you try, the more it becomes confusing.
If you draw a triangle between Florence, Siena and Arezzo, you would roughly outline the area of Chianti. The area is not only world reknowned for its scenery, the unforgettable rolling hills and ancient towns but also for the world-famous wine; Chianti wine, traditionally being served in a ‘fiasco’ ( the stubbier shaped bottle enclosed in a straw basket) but now in a standard bottle and competing with the world’s best. In todays post I would like to give you some information about Chianti wine, and the variations that fall under that ‘umbrella’ and mention a few of my favourite places on a ‘Day out in Chianti’. Obviously if you are staying in a rental accommodation in Chianti itself then you save traveling time as you are already ‘immersed’ in it all!
Vineyards in Chianti are everywhere you look!
Chianti is a perfect place to grow grapes. Rows of vineyards thrive under hundreds of days of sun and fertile, mineral-rich soil. The terrain and the climate combine to produce Italy’s best vintages. The Chianti region produces both DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) and DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) .
Wines stating “Chianti Classico” on their label originate from the biggest sub-area of Chianti, which includes the original Chianti heartland. Wine produced in this sub-zone may boast the black rooster seal (known as the ‘gallo nero’) indicating that the producer of the wine is a member of the Chianti Classico Consortium, the local association of producers.
In 1995 it became legal to make a Chianti with using 100% Sangiovese grapes and any wine, grown in this geographical area must be produced with at least 75% Sangiovese grapes. Blending with this 75%+ are varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah. From 2006, the use of white grape varieties such as Malvasia and Trebbiano have been prohibited in Chianti Classico. A bottle of Chianti that is aged at least 24 months (instead of 4–7mths ) earns the right to be labelled as ‘Chianti Riserva’.
Chianti Classico must have a minimum alcohol level of at least 12% with a minimum of 7 months ageing in oak, while Chianti Classico’s labeled riserva must be aged at least 24 months at the winery, with a minimum alcohol level of at least 12.5%.
Onward to wine country!!
From Florence the first stop would be Greve in Chianti which has a charming piazza, great little bar for your morning coffee and pastry ( try the ‘budino di riso’– it’s my all time favourite!) and characteristic little shops to give your wallet a workout. There is a great butcher ‘Antica Macelleria Falorni’ where you can taste some of their locally produced products and also purchase sample packs of the many types of salami and prosciutto to create your picnic lunch.
In this immediate area you could visit ‘Castello di Verrazzano’ where Gino or one of his competent boys will take you on an animated tour of the wine cellars and you also get to see where they make the Vin Santo and balsamic vinegar. If you like you can also book to have lunch here or choose to continue onto your next stop.
Castello di Verrazzano for wine tasting
The Vin Santaio is the room where they make the sweet Tuscan wine Vin Santo
There are many choices as to where to go and what to see in Chianti and really you could spend 6 months wandering and not see everything so I will just give some of my suggestions in this post.
Next step could be a visit to the little fortified hamlet of ‘Volpaia’ which boasts a couple of great restaurants and also another opportunity to do a wine tasting at the castles cellar. The ‘Bottega’ is not to be missed and authentic, home style Tuscan cooking and a great wine list. For a less expensive option there is the little panini place that also makes great lunches and you can sit outside and people watch in the piazza.
If you feel like more wine tasting after lunch then ‘Castello d’ Albola’ is 10 minutes away and they normally do a free tour & tasting. From here you could head back to Florence via Gaiole in Chianti which is a charming little village, full of great shops and things to see. It’s easy to jump back onto the A1 highway and head back to Florence this way.
For the over achievers and die hard shoppers, you could also squash in a stop at ‘The Mall’ in Incisa which is open until 7pm. Be prepared to search through the racks, but definitely a bargain is to be had. I especially love the Gucci and Sergio Rossi outlets. I will also be doing a post dedicated to Outlet Shopping so stay tuned for that one!
Antica Macelleria Falorni
Piazza Giacomo Matteotti, 71, 50022 Greve in Chianti Tel. +39 055 853029
Nerbone di Greve
Piazza Matteotti, 22 – Greve in Chianti – Tel. +39 055.853308
Castello di Verrazzano
Via Citille, 32A – Greti – 50022 GREVE IN CHIANTI – Tel. +39 055 854243
Ristorante La Bottega
Piazza della Torre 1, Volpaia- Radda in Chianti Tel +39 0577735602
Castello di Albola
Localita’ Pian D’Albola, 31, 53017 Radda In Chianti SI Tel +39 0577 738019
Via Europa, 8, 50066 Leccio Reggello FI Tel +39 055 865 7775
OPEN : 10:00 am – 7:00 pm