The production area:
The Chianti Classico production area lies the heart of Tuscany and encompasses parts of the provinces of Florence and Siena.
The municipalities included in the Chianti Classico production area are:
- The entire townships of Greve in Chianti, Panzano in Chianti, and Radda in Chianti, Castellina in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti and Castelnuovo Berardenga.
- Parts of the townships of Barberino Tavarnelle, San Casciano in Val di Pesa and Castelnuovo Berardenga.
These territories are delimited by specific regulations that ensure the quality and authenticity of Chianti Classico, guaranteeing that only wines produced within these boundaries can bear the designation “Chianti Classico,” accompanied by the Black Rooster symbol. This designation not only attests to the geographical area of production but also its compliance with strict standards of viticulture and winemaking.
Chianti Classico must contain at least 80% Sangiovese, and a large number of the wines currently on the market are single-varietal expressions of this grape. Dollops of other varieties like Canaiolo and Colorino and international ones like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot may complete the blend.
In the past, however, Chianti Classico used to include different grapes – until 1996 producers were forced to stick to the “ Ricasoli rule”, which included up to 20% white grapes like Malvasia del Chianti and Trebbiano Toscano. Presumably deriving from the necessity to tame aggressive tannins in times when reaching full maturity was more challenging and growers lacked proper winemaking expertise, this rule was deemed counterproductive by the pioneers of quality Tuscan wine, who decided to exit the denomination and classify their top wines from Chianti Classico as “vino da tavola”.
It took these producers almost twenty years of lobbying to obtain a revision of the regulation, allowing them to replace white grapes with the above-mentioned varieties or produce single-varietal wines. White grapes were finally banned from use in 2005.
Chianti Classico: usually referred to as “Chianti Classico annata”, the entry-level category of Chianti Classico accounts for the largest proportion of the output of the denomination. The wines must be released no earlier than October 1st following the harvest. Oak aging is common but not compulsory.
Chianti Classico Riserva: the mid-range category, Riserva is usually a selection from superior vineyards or superior grapes. The wine must be aged for at least 24 months, including 3 months in bottle.Oak aging is common but not compulsory.
Chianti Classico Gran Selezione: first introduced in 2014, Gran Selezione is the top-shelf category for Chianti Classico. The grapes for this wine must be sourced from the producers’ own vineyards, and it must be aged for at least 30 months before release, including three months in bottle. International grapes were banned from use in 2023. Oak aging is common but not compulsory.
Some of the best Gran Selezione wines originate from a single vineyard, and display the “Vigna” prefix before the name. Starting from 2023, the wines can also sport an Unità Geografica Aggiuntiva (Additional Geographic Unit) mention, referring to the subzone within the denomination they come from.