The Chianti wine in the typical bottle, the so called fiasco and with the logo on which is doninating il gallo nero, the black cock, have been for years the symbols that represent Tuscany in the whole world.
The origins of the Chianti Wine are already in the Etruscan times. In the Etruscan language clante meant water, which became later on chianti.
After finding out the origins of the name chianti, there is still the question, how the black cock became the symbol of the wine? A legend says that the origins of the gallo nero are in the 13th century, when the Republics of Florence and Siena were disputing over the territorial frontiers. In order to decide definitely the frontiers, both republics decided to send a knight in the morning at cockcrow. The place where the two knights would meet should become the new frontier. From that moment on, the Sieneses, which had a white cock, started to fed their animal so much, thus he became fat and lazy. The Florentines instead, had a black cock, who got just as much to eat, that he didn’t starve. The day of the challenge the black cock was so hungry, so that he woke up even before the rising of the sun and started to crow. This advantage made the Florentine knight arrive at Fonterutoli, not far away from Siena. Later on, the black cock became the symbol of the so called Lega del Chianti (engl. Chianti League).
The different wine qualities
The whole complex system of the wine classifications and the naming lies in the label. In fact the label gives essential information about the wine and its characteristics, which are standardized by the European Community. Only label should have according to the EC-Regulations the following features:
1. Name (eg. Chianti, Frascati, etc.)
2. Category (Vino da Tavola, DOC etc.)
3. Name and Number of the bottling factory
4. Alcoholic content
5. Volume in liters
6. Furthermore, in case of a sweet wine, the label should contain the remaining sugar content indicated with a “+” (eg. 10+2% vol.)
Moreover there are recommendations with which dish the wine goes best.
Nevertheless, most of the times, wine with Italian origins have a lot of things one doesn’t understand:
Vino da Tavola is the lowest quality level. Here is not meant the colour of the wine, but it is a more simple wine whose grapes can even have various origins, in order to obtain a wine with a fruity-harmonious character. This quality level corresponds the English table wine.
IGT is the abbreviation for Indicazione Geografica Tipica (Geographical detail), which means that the region of origin (Tuscany, Emilia Romagna etc), the type of vine (eg. Sangiovese) and the year are indicated. The IGT corresponds the vin ordinaire.
After that follows the DOC, which is the Italian abbreviation for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which means Wine with controled origin. One can find this abbreviation under the name of the wine. It is a wine of a determined area with certain characteristics, which are established and controled by the DOC-Consortium. The consortium doesn’t only establish the vine types and the quantity to produce, but also the processing of the grapes until the bottling of the wine as well as the storage. Before the DOC-wine is put on the market it has to undergo chemical tests.
DOCG is the abbreviation for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, which means Wine of controled and guaranteed origin. This nomination is destinated only for a wine of a particular good quality. In order to get the DOCG nomination, the wine should have been part for at least 5 years of the DOC-wine. The DOC and DOCG wine corresponds to the so called wine of certified origin and quality.
The DOC- and DOCG-qualification system was developed in 1963. The first wine whose place of origin was controled was the famous Tuscan white wine Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Afterwards were following the Chianti as well as the Brunello di Montalcino, both of Tuscan origins. From the 80’s on, many types of quality wine were put on the market as normal table wines (“Vino da Tavola”), but with prices as high as those of the DOC wines. These are new created wine types for which the producer wanted to avoid the long way through the Italian authorities. Even the famous Sassiccaia has had this problem until a few years ago.
The difference between the Chianti and Chianti Classico
After a ministerial decree in 1932, the Chianti region includes the whole area around Florence, the Chianti hills, the Elsa Valley and Siena. The Chianti Classico is obtained with a special production technique. Nine municipalities are part of the “Chianti Classico”: Castellina in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, Greve in Chianti, Radda in Chianti, Barberino Val d’Elsa, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Poggibonsi, S. Casciano in Val di Pesa, Tavarnelle Val di Pesa. Because of the always growing interest for wine that originates from Tuscany and also to improve the wine quality and to protect it as well, within only a few years were developped the Tuscan wine roads.
1. Strada del Vino dei Colli di Candi e di Lunigiana (The wine road of the Candi and Lunigiana hills)
This is the most northern wine road in Tuscany. In north-east it borders with the Emilia Romagna and in the north-west part it borders with Liguria. We start our trip in Pontremoli and drive from there to Fosdinovo with the famous “Castello di Malaspina”. Afterwards, we drive to Carrara, famous for the precious “Carrara marble” with which was also built the cathedral which is worth seeing. After that we go to Massa, where is located another castle of the Malaspina family. There, one should even visit the cathedral and the famous church of “San Rocco”. Our next stage is Capanne, located south from Massa. The wine produced in this area is called “Candia”. It is a very light white wine, ideal for fish dishes.
2. La strada del vino delle Colline Lucchesi e Montecarlo (The wine road of the hills around Lucca and Montecarlo)
This road is located south-east from the Candia wine area. Our trip starts with Lucca with the imposing cathedral San Martino, the famous town square “Piazza del Mercato” (engl. market square) as well as the famous villas around Lucca. Continuing from Santo Stefano towards San Quirico di Moriano, one arrives at the “Ponte a Moriano” (engl. Moriano bridge). From here one contiues driving over Colle, Valgiano and Gragnano until reaching Montecarlo. In this area is produced red and white wine.
3. La Strada Medicea dei Vini di Carmignano (The Medici wine roads of Carmignano)
This road has antique origins or even better to say noble origins and winds between the Province of Pistoia and Florence, in the small Province of Prato, an area rich of history. In places like Poggio a Caiano, Artimino and Carmignano are produced DOC’s such as the Barco Reale di Carmignano, the Carmignano Rosato or the Carmignano Rosso as well as the Carmignano Rosso di Riserva (both DOC).
4. La Strada dei Vini Chianti Rùfina e Pomino (The wine roads of the Chianti Rùfina and Pomino)
We are now South-East from Florence, between the Mugello and the Casentino area, on the border to the Emilia Romagna. As already indicates the name, it is a side area of the Chianti region. This wine road was the first one in Tuscany. Driving South-West, we start in Pontassieve sull’Arno towards Rùfina with the Medici-villa Poggio Reale, where toaday is located the wine museum Museo della Vite e del Vino. Then, we drive to Londa. Not far away are famous places such as Borgo San Lorenzo and the Ombrosa Valley (Vallombrosa). The wine of this area is the red wine Chianti Rùfina (DOCG) and the white wine Bianco Pomino (DOC).
5. La strada del vino delle Colline Pisane (The wine street of the Pisan hills)
From San Miniato one drives over the Pisan hills towards Pisa. In this area are produced the red wine Chianti and the Chianti delle Colline Pisane (both DOCG). Although both have the name Chianti, they are more delicate and lighter. Other DOC wine types of this area are the white wine Bianco Pisano di San Torpé and the Colli dell’Etruria Centrale.
6. La strada del vino di Montespertoli (The wine roads of Montespertoli)
Montespertoli is located about 30 km South-West from Florence. Also the wine sorts of this area are part of the Chianti wine. The DOCGs are the Chianti di Montespertoli and the Chianti Colli, whereas the DOC wine is the Colli dell’Etruria Centrale.
7. La strada del Vino Chianti Colli Fiorentini (The wine road of the Florentine hills)
This area is the whole area around the Tuscan capital Florence. Our trip starts South-West from Florence with Tavarnelle Val di Pesa. Afterwards one drives through places like Montelupo Fiorentino (famous for the there produced pottery and terracotta), Lastra a Signa, Scandicci and Florence. Or, departing South-East from Florence, starting with Ponte agli Stolli towards Figline Valdarno, Reggello, Rignano, Impruneta (production of terracotta pots) and at the end Fiesole with the cathedral San Romolo. The Chianti Colli Fiorentini is classified as DOCG-wine. Furthermore this area is the home of the famous Florentine family Antinori, whose wine-cellars are famous byond the bounds of Italy. The whole area east of Florence produces wine of more density.
8. La Strada del Vino Vernaccia di San Gimignano (The wine road of the Vernaccia di San Gimignano)
San Gimignano is located North-West from Siena. Our tour along this wine road starts in the most southern part with Castel San Gimignano until reaching the town of San Gimignano also called the Manhattan of the middle ages. The next stop is Pancole, followed by Libbiano, in North-East position. Afterwards Sant’Andrea and Bibbiano. “La Vernaccia” (engl. very dry white wine) was already mentioned in the 14th century. The wine types of this area classified as DOCG are: the white wine Vernaccia di San Gimignano and the red wine Chianti Colli Senesi, whereas the red wine Colli dell’Etruria Centrale and the white wine San Gimignao were awarded as DOC wine.
9. La Strada del Vino Terre di Arezzo (The wine road of the land of Arezzo)
This area is South-East from Florence and is famous for the there produced white wine. The trip starts with Cortona, from whose city walls it is possible to admire one of the most enchanting Italian valleys: the Val di Chiana (Chiana Valley) which extends until the Lago di Trasimeno (Trasimeno Lake) and the Monte Amiata. If one goes from here towards north, half way between Cortona and Arezzo is located Castiglion Fiorentino whose historical center is worth beeing visited. The next stop is Arezzo, a town with Etruscan origins.Continuing from here towards Nort-West, it is possible to visit places like Castiglion Fibocchi, Loro Ciufenna and Castelfranco di sopra. Returning San Giovanni Val d’Arno over the southern part, passing Cavriglia, Montevarchi, Civitella in Chianti, Monte San Savino until Foiano della Chiana. The DOC white wine is sold under the name Bianco Vergine di Valdichiana. Also the red wine Chianti DOCG is produced in this area.
10. La Strada del Vino Costa degli Etruschi (The wine road of the Etruscan coast)
The wine road starts with Montecatini Val di Cecina until Montescudaia (headquarters of the DOC-Consortium), Cecina, Bolgheri, Castagneto Carducci, Sassetta, Suvereto (until the 14th century in the possession of the ruling family of Aldobrandeschi), Campiglia Marittima (Palazzo Pretorio), Venturina (thermal springs) and ends with the port of Piombino. On the Island of Elba, the wine road continues and leads from Marina di Campo over the whole island, until Rio Marina. From this fertile ground originate famous types of wine such as the Sassicaia of the Count Incisa della Rocchetta. Already in the twenties as a student he was dreaming to produce a wine similar to the French Bordeaux. The year 1968 was the first year of the Sassicaia, produced on the land of the Tenuta di San Guido, near Bolgheri. The Sassicaia is even described by many wine experts as the best Italian wine. Also not to forget other DOC’s of this area like the white wine Bianco della Val di Cornia (Suvereto) or the Elban wines, the Bianco L’Ansonica and the Rosso Aleatico.
11. La Strada del Vino Monteregio di Massa Marittima (The wine road of the Monteregio di Massa Marittima)
Directly adjacent to the area of the wine road of the Etruscan Coast starts the wine road of the Monteregio di Massa Marittima which within the past three years has acquired a great esteem. This road starts in the North with the thermal spring Terme di Bagnolo and goes from there over Monterotondo Marittimo, Massa Marittima (cathedral and Balestro del Girifalco), Scarlino (medieval castle) until reaching the coast with Follonica or Castiglione della Pescaia (picturesque seaside resort). Afterwards it goes again towards the interior passing Vetulonia (Etruscan excavations), Gavorrano, Montemassi and Roccastrada. The DOC red and white wine is called Monteregio di Massa Marittima.
12. La Strada del Vino Montecucco (The wine road of the Montecucco)
Also the wine road of the Montecucco is part of the four Maremman wine roads. It is located in the interior of the Maremma towards the Monte Amiata. Starting from north with Bagno di Petriolo, passing Civitella Marittima until the center of the area with Cinignano. From there it goes towards west, passing the Mountain Montecucco after which is called the wine road, until Campagnatico. The easter part is Monticello, Castel del Piano (Torre dell’Orologio), Seggiano until reaching Ansedonia.
13. La Strada del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (The wine road of the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano)
The area of the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is situated between the Val d’Orcia (Orcia Valley) and the Val di Chiana (Chiana Valley), borders in the east with Umbria. The road starts in the north with Abbadia towards Montepulciano, passing Cervognano, Acquaviva until S. Albino. Only after two years of storage the wine can be called Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. This wine was the first one classified as DOCG and is one of the most important Italian wine types byond the Italian bounds. Already in the 17th century, Francesco Redi called this wine the king of the Tuscan wine. The Rosso di Montepulciano, classified as DOC-wine is not aged for two years in wood barrels and is intended for the immediate consumption.
14. La Strada del Vino Colli di Maremma (The wine road of the Maremman hills)
This area is situated in the south of the Province of Grosseto. Our trip starts with Capalbio, from where it goes towards Magliano in Toscana until reaching Scansano (red wine Morellino di Scansano). From Scansano one goes towards north until Istia d’Ombrone. Driving in the opposite direction, there are place like Pitigliano (built on a tuff rock), around which is produced the white wine Bianco di Pitigliano. On the return it is worth to visit Saturnia and the natural thermal baths. Back towards the coast one can visit Manciano and Orbetello. The DOC-wine Morellino di Scansano is a red wine of a very intensive colour that ideally goes with the typical cuisine of the Maremma (game and mushroom dishes). Whereas the DOC-white wine Bianco di Pitigliano is the ideal wine which accompanies the typical fish cuisine from the coast.
Not to forget also the red wine from Montalcino near Siena. The Brunello di Montalcino has to age for 50 months in wood barrels. In order to be able to have on the lable the nomination “Riserva” the wine has to age at least five years in the wood barrels. The red wine Rosso di Montalcino only has to age for about 10 months. Because of the nearness to Pienza, the Brunello di Montalcino is the ideal wine to taste the Pecorino di Pienza as well as the typical dishes of this area such as game dishes.