When I think of Chianti, images of vineyards in Tuscany, rolling hills, ancient stone estates, and pasta with Ragù all come to my mind. It does seem everyone “knows” Chianti, it’s that Italy red wine, pretty affordable and pairs great with pizza and pasta. But do you really “know” Chianti? Unless you have studied Italian wine or maybe come from Tuscany, chance are there is more to learn about Chianti and worth knowing before you reach for your next bottle of “that Italian red wine” called Chianti.
This month I am joining #Italian Food Wine and Travel (#ItalianFWT) as we journey to Tuscany and explore and taste Chianti. Follow along on Twitter the first Saturday of every month at 11:00am ET and experience Italian Food, Wine and Travel using hashtag #ItalianFWT. At the bottom of this post, you will find links to my fellow #ItalianFWT bloggers and their Chianti stories.
Map of Tuscany from Wine Folly
Understanding the “Chianti” Differences
Chianti is the large region in the middle of the map above. A wine labeled simply “Chianti” can come from almost anywhere within this large region. It must have a minimum of 70% Sangiovese grapes, the remaining 30% can be a mix of authorized grape varieties, even a percentage of white grape varieties. And generally aged for 6 months. These wines are often described as lean, tart, lacking fruit flavors, and moderately priced.
Within this large Chianti DOCG region are 7 sub-zones; Chianti Rùfina, Colli Fiorentini, Montespertoli, Colli Aretini, Colli Senesi, Colline Pisane, Montalbano. Chianti Classico DOCG is its own autonomous region. Chianti Classico DOCG requires Sangiovese to be at least 80% of the blend with the remaining 20% of authorized grape varieties (Colli Senesi requires 75% Sangiovese). Chianti Classico is the historic center of Chianti and is known to produce some of the best quality Chianti. Chianti Rùfina is noted for its consistent quality among the sub-zones. Both are aged for a minimum of 1 year. If the Chianti is labeled Riserva it is aged for at least 2 years and considered the estate’s top quality Chianti. Only a Chianti Classico can have a higher level of quality, Gran Selezione Chianti Classico which is aged for at least 2.5 years.
I sampled two Chianti wines. Chianti Rùfina Riserva from the Frescobaldi Estate. (Also producers of my favorite olive oil). And Chianti Classico Riserva di Montemaggio. The Montemaggio Estate is located where a 14th-century tower once stood between Siena and Florence in the heart of Chianti Classico. The estate is certified organic and produces organic wines.
2013 Nipozzano Riserva Chianti Rúfina Frescobaldi DOCG
(Sangiovese, Malvasia nera, Colorino, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon)
13% ABV SRP $24.00
Ruby in color. On the palate flavors of red cherry, plum, and red currants with a nice balance of tannins and acidity. A lingering finish of red fruit.
2010 Montemaggio Chianti Classico Riserva
(Sangiovese and Merlot)
13.5% ABV SRP $34.00
Ruby in color with a slight garnet hue along the rim. Leather, campfire and mocha nose. On the palate tight tannins with earthy and leathery notes and a hint of red fruit.
Chianti and Food Pairings
Chianti, whether it is simply Chianti, Chianti Rùfina, Classico,or Riserva, is a food friendly wine. The high acidity and tannins typically found in Chianti can cut through rich, meaty dishes and stand up to the acidity in pasta with tomato sauce. Chianti Rùfina, Classico and Riserva are an especially good pairing with a more complex roasted red meat dish. But I had visions of pasta and Ragù with my Chianti.
Classic Tuscan Ragù
- 1/4 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
- 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 6 oz. Italian lean pork sausage
- 3 cups red wine
- 4 oz. tomato puree
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- parmesan cheese, grated
- Soak the dried mushrooms in one cup of hot water for about 10 minutes. Strain the mushrooms, pressing out the water and reserve the water from the mushrooms for the sauce. Finely chop the mushrooms.
- In a large frying pan or Le Creuset Dutch oven over medium heat, sauté the onion, garlic, parsley, carrot and celery for about 10 minutes or until soft and light golden in color.
- Add the beef and pork sausage breaking it up as it browns. Continue to cook until all the liquid from the meat has evaporated. Add the red wine and cook until the wine is reduced by about 3/4. Add the tomato puree, tomato paste, mushrooms and reserved water from the mushrooms. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Cover the pan/pot and simmer for 2-2-1/2 hours on low heat. Stir occasionally and add water if the Ragù gets too dry. Serve over pasta, my favorite is spaghetti with grated parmesan.
See what our Italian Food Wine & Travel Enthusiasts have to offer:
- Jennifer at Vino Travels Italy shares “Chianti of Terricola with Fattoria Fibbiano”
- Nicole at Somms Table shares “Cooking to the Wine: Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico with Italian Meatloaf & Pasta Pomodoro”
- Jane at Always Ravenous shares “Classic Tuscan Ragù Paired with Chianti”
- Li at The Wining Hour shares “Chianti Superiore, A Wine with Many Faces”
- Jill at L’Occasion shares “Chianti Lessons”
- Jeff at Food Wine Click! shares “Rolling the Dice on a 1979 Chianti Rufina”
- Lynn at Savor the Harvest shares “Experience Chianti Classico with Montefioralle”
- Katarina from Grapevine Adventures shares “Collaboration, Passion, and Tradition Makes You Stronger – Vignaioli di Radda”
- Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “A Glass of Chianti & Dreams of Porchetta”
- Gwen at Wine Predator shares “Chianti: Beyond the Straw Bottle“
- Susannah at Avvinare shares “Wines from Chianti Colli Fiorentini – Worthy of Our Attention“