In his 1716 “Declaration of the Borders of the four Chianti Regions, Pomino, Carmignano, and Val d’Arno di Sopra”, Cosimo III de Medici gives us a rough description of the current boundaries of the Chianti Classico wine region. However, in modern times, Chianti wine production has grown to cover a much larger and more homogeneous area. Nevertheless, the story of Chianti remained consistent up to a certain time. When a group of producers from the provinces of Florence, Siena, Arezzo and Pistoia set up the Consorzio Vino Chianti (Chianti Wine Consortium) in 1927, the distinction between Chianti and Chianti Classico did not yet exist. The word “Classico” only appeared in 1932, while in the following thirty years the production zone for what is now Chianti DOC was expanded several times. In 1967, it reached its current form, which includes areas within the provinces of Arezzo, Florence, Pisa, Pistoia and Siena. Chianti was granted DOCG status in 1984, and today this Tuscan wine is Italy’s largest red wine denomination. With 3,000 producers and about 15,500 hectares of vineyards, mainly planted with Sangiovese vines, it accounts for an average production of 800,000 hectolitres per annum.
These common roots have led the “recipe” to remain consistent beyond the scope of the production area. Chianti DOCG also owes much to Bettino Ricasoli, whose 1834 formula established the basis for the wine we know today, although with certain differences. It was he who introduced the separation of stalks and marc, the fermentation of the grapes in closed vessels, and speedy racking followed by the “Tuscan ‘governo’ practice” (of adding dried grapes to the must), recently reintroduced by some producers. He also developed what we would now call the blend: an idea originally put forward in 1753 by the Georgofili Academy, in the belief that the secret of a great wine lay in the mixture of varieties. Chianti was therefore to be produced with 70% Sangioveto (i.e. Sangiovese), 15% Canaiolo and 15% Malvasia: the three varieties that made Tuscany great. The recipe was later amended to include Trebbiano, which is still occasionally used today.
However, if we travel further back in time, we uncover another interesting aspect. Five centuries ago, wine was subject to counterfeiting just as it is today, with Chianti under particular threat. Among the first historical records to mention Chianti, there is one dating back to 1444, which tells us that the Chianti League decreed that grape picking should not begin before September 29th. This was to protect and maintain control over the harvest and the production of a wine which, even at that time, was often the subject of counterfeiting, and there were harsh, exemplary punishments for anyone contravening the rules of the Chianti League.
Nowadays, Chianti is produced in a predominantly similar geological zone, to the south of the Apennines and between the latitudes including Florence and Siena. One strip of territory begins in the north, moving from the Mugello area towards Rufina and Pontassieve and continuing along the Chianti Hills until reaching the Municipality of Cetona. The other area begins at Montalbano and joins the Val di Pesa, moving out towards San Gimignano and Montalcino. The core zone is surrounded by outcrops, associated with the ranges of hills around Arezzo, Siena, Pistoia, Pisa and Prato.
Production by Castelli del Grevepesa also includes Chianti DOCG, although with just one label: Castelgreve Chianti Pontormo.