The Guide to Chianti Classico Wine: history, terroir and passion
When you think of Tuscany you think of its territories and its wines, but above all you think of Chianti.
The word "Chianti" is one of the most famous Italian words in the world. Chianti is often confused with Chianti Classico wine, mistakenly thinking that it is the same thing or that Chianti Classico is a sub-area of Chianti. In fact, "Chianti" and "Chianti Classico" are actually two different and separate DOCGs, both from the Chianti region. Read on for the historical guide to Chianti Classico wine.
The Chianti territory
Chianti is an area in Tuscany just south of Florence. To the west there are the Pesa and dell’Elsa valleys, to the east are the Chianti Mountains, and south lies the enchanting city of Siena.
Its hilly terrain is one of the most beautiful in Tuscany...and Italy!
You will be amazed by the abundance of silver olive trees and the green geometry of the windy streets surrounded by tall cypress trees.
Colours change from season to season, from red and yellow to a full spectrum of shades in Spring. In short, Chianti is a magical place that can be admired all year round.
History of Chianti, Tuscany
The mild climate, lush vegetation and fertile soil of the Chianti region has proven to be a prime choice inhabited since the 2nd millennium BC. The Etruscans were the first to modify the Chianti landscape by herding cattle to cultivating the terrain with many crops including grapes for the wine that will one day be famous around the world.
In the Middle Ages, Emperor Ghibelline in Siena and Pope Guelph in Florence clashed several times in the Chianti area during times of expansion. At the beginning of the 13th Century there was a truce that first established a boundary line between the two rival cities, giving Florence control of Chianti.
During the Medici dynasty the Chianti area experienced a period of prosperity and peace. These were the years in which the cultivation of vineyards multiplied.
The Consortium of Chianti Classico
In 1924, a group of 33 wine producers gather in Radda, Chianti and gave birth to the first Association for the defense of Chianti wine. The 33 members chose the Gallo Nero—black rooseter— as their symbol, which is the historical symbol of the Military League of Chianti.
The League of Chianti was a military and political organization founded in 1384 that administered the Chianti territory and defended its southern borders from attack on behalf of the Republic. It seems that the brand's origins are linked to the ancient rivalry between Florence and Siena.
Legend has it that the two cities decided to hold a contest between two knights to put an end to their notorious rivalry. The knights had to arrive to a chosen destination before their opponent did the following morning, both starting from their respective cities at the first call of the rooster.
The Sienese chose a white rooster while the Florentines chose a black one. The white rooster was overfed the night before, while the Florentines gave the black rooster little to eat. On race day, the hungry black rooster began to sing long before the white one allowing the Florentine knight to start with an advance, winning over Siena!
From 1924 to 1967, the Consortium endured long legal battles in order to obtain exclusive recognition, making the wines from the Chianti region distinguishable from other Tuscan wines. In 1967, Chianti entered into the well respected DOC—Denominazione di Origine Controllata—in which the "Classico" was governed as a more selective wine. Today the Chianti Classico DOCG follows its own rules of production, distinct from that of Chianti DOCG. Read all about Tuscan DOCG wines!
Chianti Classico 2000 Project
Chianti Classico wine must be produced from grapes grown in the same production area and from vineyards with at least 80% of Sangiovese grapes. The operations of the vinification, preservation and bottling must take place exclusively within the area of production and the release for consumption is permitted from October 1st following the harvest. As for Chianti Classico Reserva, the ageing must last for a minimum of 24 months and at least 3 months of which must age in bottles.
At the end of the 1980's there was an immense increase in desire to deepen the knowledge of Sangiovese all over Tuscany. The goal was to renew many vineyards and improve the quality of this grape. From this intense focus on Sangiovese, the Chianti Classico 2000 project was born—Cecchi being one of the vineyards heavily involved since the start.
In collaboration with the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Pisa and the University of Florence, Cecchi has actively participated as being one of the five companies that have donated an acre of its own vineyard dedicated to the many clones of Sangiovese, plus a portion of its winery in Castellina in Chianti—Villa Cerna—dedicated to experimental clones.
There were six main topics associated with the project. The first was aimed to verify the behavior of agronomic and enological value of clones of some red grapes (Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Colorino and Malvasia Nera), which were grapes already being used in Chianti Classico wine. The second focus addressed the tree and its rootstock. The third was to study the most suitable planting density in relation to the environment. The fourth was to investigate multiple forms of farming. The fifth investigated the technical management of the soil and the sixth was to select the clones that would be used as the main grape in the production of Chianti Classico.
At the end of the trial period, seven new clones of Sangiovese and one of Colorino were approved. All approved grapes were then included in the National Register of vine varieties with the initials CCL (Chianti Classico), 2000. Cecchi Winery was motivated to extend this type of investigation on other grape varieties. For example, Cecchi has devoted an experimental vineyard in San Gimignano for the Vernaccia grape.
The Chianti region is rich in history, culture and natural beauty. Cecchi is very proud to have its roots in this unique area of Tuscany.