The taste of Chianti includes fresh cherry and acidity, which makes it one of the most famous Italian wines. Out of all of the Italian wines I’ve had, Chianti remains one of my personal favorites.
What is Chianti Wine?
Chianti wine is an Italian red blend wine produced in Tuscany. The primary grape variety in the bottle is Sangiovese. Typically, Sangiovese Grapes are combined with Canaiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Colorino. Sangiovese grapes make
Like the Champagne wine region, only chianti wine produced in the Tuscany wine region can be called Chianti. That’s not all – the Italian government also sets rules on wine quality. That’s good news because it keeps the wine-making process focused on quality.
Taste of Chianti
This incredible wine is famous with many wine lovers for a good reason. You can expect to taste cherry notes like sour cherries or tart cherries in the glass. In some cases, aged wines develop additional notes like oregano, salami, coffee, and tobacco.
The wine has a medium body and a high level of acidity. In wine tastings with Chianti, remember that the wine has a high tannin level. If you are a white wine enthusiast, getting used to tannin content takes a while.
The Different Types of Chianti
In your wine tasting experience, you will encounter different words on the wine bottle label. You might see Chianti Classico DOCG, Chianti Superiore, and Chianti Riserva. Understanding the differences between these terms can help you choose a high-quality wine that suits your budget and taste.
Chianti Classico DOCG
Most wine lovers start with Chianti Classico DOCG because it is typically considered the highest quality wine. The bottle has to be made in the famous region and meet several requirements to merit this label. To be called a “Classico,” the wine must come from the original wine region and be aged for a minimum of one year. In comparison, a simple Chianti is aged for a mere six months, so the taste of Chianti will be tart and straightforward.
The term “DOCG” is a commonly used designation in Italian wines. It is an abbreviation for the term “Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita” (i.e. guaranteed designation of origin). It is easy to tell if a wine bottle is DOCG – look at the top of the bottle. You will see the phrase DOCG and a barcode attesting to the wine’s quality designation.
As you discover more about the taste of Chianti, you might see Chianti Superiore. There is a slight geographic difference between Chianti Superiore and Chianti Classico. To be labeled as Chianti Classico, the wine grapes must be grown in a specific traditional area in Tuscany. In comparison, Chianti Superiore can be grown anywhere in the Chianti region except for the Chianti Classico area.
Doe these geographic differences matter in terms of taste? If you are a wine professional like James Suckling, you may be able to detect subtle differences. For most of us, you’ll experience the aromas of cherries in both wines. You might detect differences in the wine-making process, especially if one wine is aged in oak barrels and the other is aged in oak casks.
As you drink more Chianti, you might encounter Chianti Riserva. Generally speaking, Chianti Riserva is aged in oak barrels for two years before being sold. Since these wines require more extended aging, they tend to smell and taste differently. Due to the aging process, the wine will change. Expect to enjoy some earthy aromas and leather aromas when you pour the wine.
Chianti Food Pairing
Chianti is one of the most food-friendly wines made in Italy. The best way to experience the wine is with traditional local foods like virgin olive oil and tomato-based dishes. Since the taste of Chianti has significant acidity, the wine goes well with the acidity of tomatoes. These food tastings all go beautifully with a glass of Chianti DOCG.
The balanced acidity means chianti Classico wine pairs well with many tomato dishes. If you are looking for a new go-to pairing for pizza night, a bottle of chianti wine is an excellent choice. Further, nearly every tomato-based meat pasta dish goes well with Chianti wine. Do you love Bolognese sauce on your pasta? If so, try a glass of Chianti red wine.
The classic cheese pairing for chianti Classico wine is Pecorino cheese. Typically, Pecorino cheese is a hard and salty cheese. Pecorino is part of the sheep cheeses category. You might also try the Casu marzu, a traditional cheese from Sardinia, typically served in thin slices and red wines. Aged cheeses, generally, are considered the best pairing for this type of Italian red wine.
Meat lovers, rejoice! Chianti wine goes well with many different meat dishes. The best starting point is to use the ‘what grows together’ principle – look for foods traditionally made in the Chianti region. A Tuscan-style roast sausage and beans are an excellent way to go. Other meat options include salumi, burgers (especially with tomatoes), and game dishes like wild boar.
You have a good variety of vegetarian food pairing choices with Chianti wine. Start with a bottle of fresh Tuscan olive oil in your first course. Next, tuck into a bowl of chickpea or bean soup with your glass of wine. Prefer a bit of spice in your meal? Try some salsa verde – a popular green Mexican salsa that has been popular for centuries.
Tip: You can make yourself Tomatillo Salsa Verde in less than 40 minutes and enjoy a fresh snack with your glass of Chianti.
Taste of Chianti: Wine Travel Suggestions
Are you planning to visit Italy to see Tuscan villas, beautiful wineries, and the region’s incredible history and art? It is easy to plan a Chianti day trip if you are based in one of Tuscany’s larger cities like Florence or Siena. I recommend making arrangements with an expert guide rather than driving yourself to stay safe. They can guide you to the most historic villas and fascinating underground tunnels.
Before setting out, it is wise to check the hours in advance. While many wineries are happy to welcome visitors for a Tuscan lunch, wine-making remains their focus. If you visit the area during the harvest, the winery may have less capacity to help visitors.
Whether you travel with a knowledgeable tour guide or arrange wine tastings on your own, visiting these wineries deserve a look. You might even get a chance to look at the wine cellar and take in beautiful views. While many visitors will base out of Florence, there are other options like Siena and Castelnuovo Berardenga.
Antinori nel Chianti Classico (35 minutes from Florence)
This famous Tuscan winery traces its history back to 1385, making it one of the oldest wineries in the region. This winery is also an excellent choice for wine travel because you can dine at the winery’s rooftop restaurant. As you dine there, you can take in beautiful views of the region.
Castello di Brolio (75-90 minutes from Florence)
History lovers, take note! The Castello di Brolio is a feast for the eyes. The winery’s castle dates back to the Middle Ages. In the 20th century, the winery suffered some damage during the Second World War. The 1200 acre property also has a substantial amount of olive groves. You can also eat at the Tuscan winery restaurant—the restaurant’s hours of service change throughout the year (e.g., closed on Thursdays). Before planning a Chianti day trip to this winery, take a few minutes to call ahead.
Trying this producer’s wines is an excellent way to explore the taste of Chianti because they offer both Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Reserva.
Castello di Meleto (75 minutes from Florence)
This Tuscan castle offers an incredible wine travel experience. Not only can you explore the property’s wine cellar, but you can also book a stay in the castle apartments. To make the experience even more memorable, sign up for the winery’s private tasting or cooking class.
During the winery’s private tasting, you’ll enjoy a selection of four wines along with cured meats, bread, excellent cheese, and olive oil. It’s also quite affordable at just 60 Euros for a tasting. This tasting includes local food– a benefit you can’t count on at every winery you visit in Europe.
For those taking a more leisurely pace, take some time to visit the region’s olive groves. Olive oil has a long history dating back thousands of years in the region. If you are looking for a new food tasting experience, ask a knowledgeable tour guide on where to fund a 3-course lunch featuring olive oil.
Castello Di Radda (1 hour from Florence)
Situated south of Florence, Castello Di Radda has earned multiple awards and reviews from the Decanter World Wine Awards, Bibenda, James Suckling, and Jancis Robinson. The winery’s Chianti Classico wine ensures high quality by using low production yields and manual harvesting. The winery also offers affordable wine tastings. To see photos of the grounds and winery, take a look at the online photo gallery.
Suggestions for Wine Tasting
You don’t have to travel to Italy to enjoy these wines and wander through historic wine cellars to discover amazing wines. Many of the region’s best wines are exported to find pick up good bottles at your local wine shop. To organize a taste of Chianti at home, seek out the following wines.
Note that the wine critic score and price are associated with a specific vintage. Seeking out non-award vintage years doesn’t mean you will have lousy wine. Indeed, seeking out more minor well-known producers and vintages can be a great way to score a bargain.
Felsina Berardenga Rancia (94 out of 100 wine critic score, $61)
This lightly oaked Tuscan wine comes from the Fèlsina, established in the 1960s. Reviewers liked the wine’s acidity and flavors, including leather, violet, and cherry notes. Like many other Chianti Classico wines, the dry wine has a relatively high alcohol content of 13.5%.
Podere il Palazzino Grosso Sanese (95 out of 100 wine critic score, $49)
The winery that produces this wine has been active since the 19th century. With 11% alcohol content, several vintages – 2011, 2007, and 2012 – have earned high ratings from wine enthusiasts. The fruity flavors mainly include red cherry and raspberry. Beyond fruity flavors, oaky notes like vanilla and tobacco are part of this wine.
Fattoria Selvapiana Bucerchiale Riserva (92 out of 100 wine critic score, $36)
Produced in the Chianti Rufina subregion, this Tuscan wine has wine recognition at the International Wine Challenge and a place in the Wine Spectator Top 100. The wine’s flavor includes black cherry, firm tannins, and forest floor aromas.
Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG (94 out of 100 wine critic score, $37)
The Tuscan wine is produced in the center of the Chianti Classico area. This wine is worth keeping in your wine fridge or cellar for a few years. The full-bodied wine is aged in small oak barrels for 12 months. The flavor profile includes jam notes of blackberries and spices.
Barone Ricasoli ‘Brolio Riserva’ (90 out of 100 wine critic score, $32 average price)
This Chianti Classico wine has won several TEXSOM International Wine Awards awards. The red blend wine features Sangiovese and international varieties (i.e., Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon).
Like other wineries in the region, the producer has vineyards and olive groves. The property offers tours and tasting. You might also enjoy visiting the Castello Museum for my fellow history lovers. Find out about the winery’s various tour options – including a free option – on the website.
How Does Chianti Classico Compare To Other Wines?
You’ve had a taste of Chianti, and you’re probably starting to wonder how this fantastic Italian wine compares to other wines. To learn more, check out this post comparing Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Chianti. IF the idea of drinking Chianti with pizza doesn’t appeal to you, check out my guide to the best wine with pizza.