When Cosimo III de’ Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, legally classified some of Chianti’s key winemaking hotspots on September 24, 1716, delimiting the land around the village of Radda, Gaiole, Castellina and Greve, thus founding Chianti Classico, the oldest official wine region in Italy, if not the world – he did so for good reason.
The vineyards around these villages produced and continue to produce the crème de la crème of Chianti, while some other vineyards in Chianti, Italy, have since been allowed to board the Chianti Classico train.
At Wine Paths, our team of local experts organize a special Chianti vineyard tour that takes wine lovers on walking tours through the most prized vineyards to discover first-hand the characteristics and intricacies of the varied Chianti vineyards. Our guides show how to appreciate the nuances of wines made in different vineyards in Chianti by tasting together with participants, and the differences soon become quite noticeable to the discerning palate. Even in Chianti Classico DOCG, widely considered the epicentre of high end Chianti, the differences can be quite striking.
The best vineyards in Chianti Classico DOCG and many other parts of Chianti DOCG have good southern or eastern exposure and typically lie between 200 and 400 metres above sea level and typically come from a cocktail of galestro (a type of marl) and alberese (sandstone) soils, yet no two vineyards are entirely alike with different soil compositions and mesoclimates, making for an exciting Chianti vineyard tour.
Galestro is considered ideal for the Sangiovese grape, which forms the basis of the Chianti blend, yet this grape is a fine articulator of terroir and the wines subsequently vary subtly from site to site though most have high acidity, taut structure, tanginess, perfumed red fruit, as well as earthy and floral notes. Some sites favour the local grapes of Canaiolo and Colorino, which add spice to the blend. Others spots are sufficiently warm to allow the likes of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to ripen, which can beef up the Chianti blend. Sangiovese must account for at least 80% of Chianti Classico DOCG and 70% of Chianti DOCG.
Chianti vineyards: no two vineyards the same
Broadly speaking, within Chianti Classico DOCG itself, there are certain similarities between the wines of the different villages. The wines of Gaiole have real grip and firmness. Radda and Castellina are perhaps the most similar to each other with vibrant, even perfumed, aromas and are on the linear and focussed side on the palate. Wines from Greve’s clay soils are a bit more restrained and soft, with the exception of those exhilarating wines from the plots in the Panzano area with its clay and limestone soil vineyards. Chianti Classico has expanded considerably since the days of Cosimo III de’ Medici much to some people’s chagrin but Castelnuovo Berardenga, which became part of Chianti Classico in 1932, marks Classico’s southernmost point and its wines are very much appreciated for their concentration, structure and longevity.Chianti DOCG has a total of eight subzones and Rufina is considered perhaps the finest outside the Chianti Classico DOCG heartland. Rufina, which is situated on high ground north east of Florence and was also recognised by Cosimo III back in 1716 as a superior site, possesses similar soils to Panzano. Its wines are similarly elegant and expressive.
As a special treat, wine lovers can also stay among the vines and appreciate the wine even more at its very source at a Chianti vineyard hotel.
If you're interested in one of our Chianti Wine Tours, please visit this link.
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