Few wines embody a location the way Chianti embodies Tuscany. When opening a bottle of Chianti DOCG wine, one can practically see vine-covered yellow villas overlooking a Tuscan vineyard that stretches the length of the horizon. The dry red wine is as timeless to Tuscany as olive oil is to Italian cuisine. 2022 is the year to revisit this iconic wine. Wine lovers living in New York City and Houston have the opportunity to sample the best bottles from the region at upcoming VinePair events in January. If you have never tried Chianti, they are the perfect events to introduce your palate to the world-famous Italian wine. For others, it is as simple as grabbing a bottle of your favorite Chianti, uncorking it, and appreciating the region, wine, and lifestyle that is Chianti.
Thanks to books like “Under the Tuscan Sun” and “A Thousand Nights in Tuscany,” even those who have not visited Italy hold a romantic impression of the region in their mind’s eye.
This Old World, wine-soaked region screams the good life. Tuscany is in central Italy, famous for its vineyard-covered rolling hills, sweeping valleys and cobble-stoned hilltop towns. The diverse landscape stretches to the Apennine Mountains on the east and the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west.
Tuscany has long had a legendary influence on high culture. Its capital, Florence, is home to Italy’s most awe-inspiring Renaissance art, including Michelangelo’s “David” statue, Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” painting and Giorgio Vasari’s “Last Judgement” fresco. Art and science icons such as the Medici family, Leonardo da Vinci and Michaelangelo also once called Tuscany home.
In addition to its lush landscape and prominent art, Tuscany is regarded as one of the world’s most famous wine regions thanks to its signature red wine, Chianti. Six Tuscan providences are at the heart of the region’s Chianti production. Chianti DOCG is divided into seven subzones: Chianti Colli Aretini, Chianti Colli Fiorentini, Chianti Rufina, Chianti Colli Senesi, Chianti Colline Pisane, Chianti Montalbano, and Chianti Montespertoli.
Olive groves and wine vineyards add green to the region’s lush rolling hills. Roses are often planted at the edge of vineyards as an early alarm system for winegrowers, but also add beauty to the landscape. These vineyards have long held a reputation for growing some of the best wine grapes in Italy. Chianti DOCG, along with its cousin Chianti Classico DOCG, grow more wine grapes in Tuscany than other Italian wine region outside Prosecco.
Tuscany’s climate is considered a mild continental climate. Because the grape growing region is so large, there are variations in temperature, rainfall, and altitude. For example, the hills that generally experience regular rainfall have milder summers than the drier valleys.
Chianti is a mouthwateringly acidic wine with flavors of black cherry, spice, violet, and herbs. The medium-bodied wine’s high tannic structure contributes to its dry flavor. The nose on young Chiantis tends to be floral and fruity while more mature Chiantis develop earthier aroma notes.
Sangioveses is the soul of Chianti. The native Italian thin-skinned red grape is a medium- to late-ripening varietal that, when grown with the right conditions, can produce an extremely fine wine. Wines made with Sangiovese can be notably high in alcohol and acidity, with a good tannic texture and generally have aromas of plum, cherry and blackberry. Chianti is commonly a medium-bodied wine, epitome of elegance and drinkability, rarely reaching the density of some other grape varieties or even Sangiovese-based cousins from other areas.
Chianti DOCG requires its wines to be made with a minimum of 70 percent Sangiovese. Most Chiantis are 100 percent Sangiovese, but the appellation does allow winemakers to blend up to 30 percent with native grapes like Canaiolo Nero and Colorino or, in a smaller percentage, international varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. The DOCG also allows for white wine to be added, but only a maximum of 10 percent.
Generally, Chiantis are meant to be consumed when they are young and fresh, though Chianti DOCG has two categories for aged wines. Superiore wines are aged for at least one year, giving them a slightly smoother acidity. Riserva is used for wines aged for a minimum of two years or more, and generally indicates a better-quality wine.
The wine’s quite high acidity allows it to pair nicely with a wide variety of food choices. Not surprisingly, Chianti pairs perfectly with Italian food. The dry wine with high acidity and tannin levels complements antipasto, tomato-based pastas, pizza, osso buco, and a porterhouse steak.
Like “ciao” and “amore,” the word “Chianti” evokes a time and a place. Upon hearing the word, people immediately imagine themselves standing in a medieval village staring at a panoramic view of the sun setting behind distant hills while the aromas of fresh pasta waft by. It is impossible to separate the wine from the rich hues of the landscape.
The Tuscan lifestyle is more than just romantic scenery; it is an ode to beauty and grace. The relentless pursuit of perfection, the extraordinary attention to detail, the unending search for beauty, and immense local pride have inspired the birth of luxury brands such as Gucci, Ferragamo, Pucci, and Cavalli.
Italians live by the la dolce vita motto. It is a way of savoring food, wine, scenery, art, and the people closest to you. How does one live a la dolce vita lifestyle? They walk instead of run, they treat strangers like family, they let beauty inspire them, they eat slowly, and they savor wine with dinner.
Italian winemakers understand this lifestyle. They integrate the concepts of savoring life, taking time to create a beautiful product, being mindful of every moment, and taking pleasure in the simplest things into the craft of winemaking. Chianti is more than a wine; it is a tribute to la dolce vita.
VinePair is teaming up with Consorzio Vino Chianti to bring the taste of the good life to New York City and Houston this month. On Jan. 11, the groups are hosting a Chianti Lovers Pizza Party. The flavorful night will feature special imported magnum bottles from the Chianti region paired with exclusive “one-night-only” slices of NYC’s best pizza.
On Jan. 13, the groups will host a Chianti Lovers Tex-Mex Night in Houston where magnum and double magnum bottles of Chianti will pair with the best local Tex-Mex Houston has to offer. Be sure to RSVP to each event in order to attend.
This article is sponsored by Consorzio Vino Chianti.