This one small country contains a mind-boggling diversity of natural features--an immense coastline, three major mountain ranges, lots of foothills, and relatively little flat land.
TUSCAN WINE REGIONS
Tuscany's mild Mediterranean climate, hillside vineyards and poor soils distinguish the character of its wines.
An astounding 92 percent of Tuscany's terrain is either hills or mountain, with the Appennini Mountains separating Tuscany from Emilia-Romagna to the north, while smaller ranges line Tuscany's western and southern reaches.
Chianti is the broadest of all Chianti designations. Wines labeled as Chianti are made from a blend of grapes from several regions in the Chianti appellation. Chianti wines must be made from at least 70% Sangiovese grapes.
Chianti Superiore is a designation within the Chianti DOCG. It refers to wines that are made from grapes grown within the Chianti region, but produced to the higher quality standards of Chianti Classico. The concentration of flavor is thus greater, and the alcohol content is higher.
Chianti Classico represents Tuscany's literal, historical and figurative heart. Cosimo III de'Medici officially defined its precise boundaries in 1716, and the government reaffirmed those boundaries in 1932. Wines from this exalted region must be made from at least 80 percent Sangiovese grapes. Chianti Classicos have more body and and are aged longer than either Chiantis or Chianti Superiores, which adds finesse to both the aromas and the flavors.
Chianti Classico Riserva
Chianti Classico Riserva (Reserve) is made from the best grapes in the Chianti Classico region and produced to the most stringent production codes. Chianti Classico Riserva wines are aged longer than any other class of Chianti – a minimum of two years in oak and three months in bottle. Not surprisingly, they are richer, more complex, and higher in tannins. Because of the alcohol level required of Chianti Classico Riservas, they are often more age-worthy than Chianti Classico non-riservas.
Chianti Classico Gran Selezione
In 2014, the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico announced a landmark decision to create a new top tier designation within the Chianti Classico quality hierarchy. This new designation, Gran Selezione, represents just 10 percent of all Chianti Classico production. To qualify as Gran Selezione, a wine must meet a number of stringent criteria, including 100% winery–owned vineyard sourcing, minimum aging of 30 months in oak barrels, 6 months longer than a Riserva, and other strict viticultural and winemaking criteria aimed at ensuring balance.
What Does The Chianti Strip Label Indicate?
Italian wines classified as DOC or DOCG bear a thin paper warranty strip, which can vary in design or color depending on the appellation. This official warranty strip guarantees that the wine in the bottle has met the stringent DOCG standards governed by Italian wine law.
Note of Interest: When Chianti first became recognized as a DOCG wine in 1984, Ruffino Chianti DOCG was awarded the first warranty strip #AAA00000001.
The Legend of Chianti Classico's Black Rooster
The Black Rooster seal is the symbol of the Chianti Classico Wine Consortium, an organization founded in 1924 to protect and promote this venerable wine.
Why a black rooster? The cities of Florence and Siena had long feuded over rights to the Chianti region, where red wine had been produced for centuries. Around 1200 A.D., they agreed to end the feud with a competition. A horseman would depart from each of the rival cities at the first crow of a rooster. Wherever they met would determine the boundary lines and settle the dispute. The Siena delegation fed its white rooster well. The cunning Florentines starved their black rooster, so much so that he crowed long before dawn. Their horseman ended up nearly at the gates of Siena, and Florence claimed the prize.
Other Tuscan Appellations
Chianti is the best known appellation of Tuscany. However, there are two other regions of Tuscany that have also achieved great fame—fame that stretches back for centuries.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
This red wine is made from vineyards near the town of Montepulciano, and is one of the oldest wines of Italy. It is composed primarily of the Sangiovese grape, locally known as Prugnolo gentile.
Brunello di Montalcino
This red wine comes from the vineyards surrounding the town of Montalcino south of Siena. Montalcino is one of Tuscany's warmest and driest climates. Brunello is the local name for the Sangiovese grape. Some of Italy's most famous and most expensive wines are Brunellos.