Chianti is probably the most important winemaking region of Italy. It is located in central Tuscany, south of Florence and north of Siena, and as such contains numerous different terroirs. The region is best known for its tangy dry red wines. The main grapes variety used is Sangiovese.
According to documents from the 13th century, the first use of the name Chianti was in the context of the so-called Chianti Mountains, the hills between Baliaccia and Monte Luco known for their vine growth. During medieval times, the League of Chianti was created as a means of promoting the region’s wines. It encompassed Castellina, Radda and Gaiole. Today there are eight zones in Tuscany that are referred to as Chianti, the most prominent of which being Chianti Classico in central Chianti, which was legislated as a region in 1716 by the Medici Grand Duke Cosimo III. In fact, it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that non-Classico areas were taken particularly seriously by the international market. It was only when Classico prices rose dramatically that those other Chianti zones were able to seize the opportunity to flourish, if their quality was good enough.
The other areas of Chianti are named after the hills of Arezzo (Chianti Colli Aretini), Florence (Chianti Colli Fiorentini), Pisa (Chianti Colline Pisane) and Siena (Chianti Colli Senesi). These are generally lesser known, and are not widely exported. To the west of Colli Fiorentini is the similar area of Chianti Montespertoli. Chianti Montalbano is just west of Florence, and produces usually quite light wine. Chianti Rufina is just east of Florence is known for the high quality and longevity of its wines.
Chianti Classico wines must be aged for 12 months before they are released onto the market.