With the “D.O.C.” designation of origin conferred to it in 1967, and subsequently raised to “D.O.C.G.” in 1984, Chianti is produced in a vast area of central Tuscany and includes the sub-areas of the Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini and Colli Senesi, Colline Pisane, Montalbano, Montespertoli and Rùfina. The Chianti Classico, on the other hand, was one of the sub-areas of the Chianti area until 1996 and then became a separate D.O.C.G. region, underlining the fact that its area is the one that represents the most ancient and traditional area for the production of this wine. The municipalities where Chianti Classico can be produced, starting with those around the Siena area, are Castelnuovo Berardenga, Castellina, Radda, Gaiole in Chianti and Poggibonsi. Add to these a few areas around Florence: Greve in Chianti, Barberino Val d’Elsa, San Casciano and Tavarnelle Val di Pesa.
The designation of origin (DOC or DOCG) indicates the area where a given wine can be produced and the technical rules to follow. The most important element is the grape variety. In Tuscany, the reds are almost all based on Sangiovese, whose characteristics are weak color, high levels of acidity and an unstable character that can nonetheless produce long-lived and very refined wines. The minimum and maximum percentage in Chianti is 75%, while for Chianti Classico it is 80%, thus accentuating the predominant role of this vine, which, as the absolute protagonist, can even make up 100% of the wine.
Today in the Chianti Classico you can add so-called complementary vines, up to a maximum of 20% over Sangiovese. Among the local ones we find the Canaiolo and the Colorino species and, among the imported or international vines, we can add varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, while the white varieties of Trebbiano and Malvasia, once part of the tradition, can no longer be used from the 2006 vintage.
By contrast, in the production of Chianti, starting from 2003, 10% of Trebbiano and / or Malvasia are allowed in addition to 10% of Canaiolo and 15% of other red berried grapes (in the case of Chianti Superiore and Chianti produced in sub-areas, this is 20%) with a maximum limit of 10% for each variety. More grapes can be produced in vines that make Chianti (up to 90 quintals of grapes per hectare) compared to Chiantis with sub-areas that cannot exceed 80 quintals per hectare, which is reduced to a maximum of 75 quintals per hectare for Chianti Classico. The Chianti can go on sale from March 1st following the harvest, if Superior from September 1st, if Classico not before October 1st. In any case, the title of “Riserva” (reserve) can be applied only to wines that have been aged for at least two years.
The differences seen above, together with other chemical, physical and regional specifications established by the DOCG, make the Chianti Classico a wine that is generally more structured and at the same time with more polished traits, also due to a longer aging process. The Reserve versions of the Classico age for 40-50 years. There are various labels on the market that clearly demonstrate this longevity.
Chianti, on the other hand, is born as a wine to be drunk young, thanks to its fresh characteristics and to its generally slimmer body, except for some more ambitious labels and for the Reserves.
On a final note, it is worth mentioning the Gran Selezione del Chianti Classico, a particular title conferred to a wine that is produced only with the grapes grown in the best vineyards of the label and aged at least 30 months before entering the market.