Chianti is one of the best-known Italian wines in the world. Actually, it is one of the most well-known Italian words outside of Italy, aside from old favorites like pizza, pasta, and gelato. Let’s take a closer look at the main wine of our production and see what the differences are between Chianti and Chianti Classico.

And most importantly, why Chianti—the vino and territory—is one of the most renowned in the world.

Differences between Chianti and Chianti Classico

Gentle hills, olive groves, chestnuts, and tall cypress trees that lay scattered among villages built from stone: this is the classic image of Chianti and, so often, of all of Tuscany. Viticcio Winery is located right in the heart of Chianti Classico territory, which in turn sits at the epicenter of the larger Chianti territory. These two names—Chianti and Chianti Classico—mean two different areas and qualities of wine.

Viticcio's property in Chianti Classico

Viticcio’s property in Chianti Classico

The general Chianti zone encompasses a large swath of land throughout the provinces of Florence and Siena; you may hear the distinction of “Florentine Chianti” and “Sienese Chianti.” Chianti Classico is a smaller area than Chianti, and it is the most historic and traditional territory for making this kind of wine. It is located right between the cities of Florence and Siena. Here, all the best vineyards are grown.

In general, this dry, red wine is tannic and savory, with a high amount of acidity that makes it pair well with just about anything and a fruitiness reminiscent of strawberries and red fruits. You know that classic image of a squat, straw-bound bottle in an Italian trattoria? That’s the old-school fiasco, or what once was used to hold the bottles. Nowadays, you’ll mostly find the fiasco in souvenir shops.

Both Chianti and Chianti Classico are made mostly from Tuscany’s principle red grape: sangiovese (which is also one of the most important grapes in all of Italy). Chianti must be made from at least 70% sangiovese whereas Chianti Classico sets the bar at 80%; the remaining amount in both wines can be made up of international varieties like cabernet sauvignon, merlot, or syrah, or native varieties like canaiolo or colorino; or, either one can be made with 100% sangiovese.

300 years of Chianti Classico

The distinction between Chianti and Chianti Classico goes back to the official edict of 1716 when the Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici clearly defined the territory’s borders—making the basis for one of the oldest DOCGs in Italy. It means that this year—2016—is the 300th anniversary of Chianti Classico!

“Classico,” then, means “the first,” “the original.” Chianti Classico wine can only be made in this more restricted region between Florence and Siena, defined courtesy of the Grand Duke. This area is older and regarded as more respectable because of the higher quality wine that comes from its hills. At Viticcio all our Chianti wines are, in fact, Chianti Classico; and indeed, we sit right outside of one of the principle wine towns of the Chianti Classico zone: Greve in Chianti.

In addition, there are three different levels of Chianti Classico with increasingly strict regulations on where it is produced, how long it must be aged, and other requirements. From the bottom of the pyramid to the top:

Chianti Classico, such as Viticcio Chianti Classico DOCG

Chianti Classico Riserva, like Viticcio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, like our Prunaio Gran Selezione Chianti Classico DOCG

Tuscany wine map showing Chianti and Chianti Classico areas - from Wine Folly, CC

Tuscany wine map showing Chianti and Chianti Classico areas – from Wine Folly, CC