There are few Italian wines that carry the reputation that Chianti has boasted for so many years. In the pantheon of Italian red wines, there’s perhaps only Barolo – The King of Wines – that can match Chianti for pure name value. The wine has been a mainstay of the industry for centuries and it’s so important that the industry as a whole went into a period of meltdown when a group of producers decided to mess with the formula during the 1970s.
To commemorate this wonderful wine, we’ve pulled together a few facts and titbits that we think highlight just how important Chianti is to the Italian wine industry.
Fact #1 – It Stems From the 13thCentury
Viticulture, in some form or another, has existed in Italy for thousands of years. In fact, the discovery of ancient traces of wine in a 6,000 year old jug in Sicily suggests that people have been making wine in the country since before recorded human history.
Chianti is certainly not that old. But the wine does have to roll back the centuries to find its origins. The first recording of wine from the Chianti region stem from the 13thcentury. It is during this period that wines from the “Chianti Mountains” started to come to prominence. Those wines became so popular that they necessitated the formation of the League of Chianti in the 14thcentury.
Fact #2 – It Was a White Wine
Today, we know Chianti as one of the deepest and most complex red wines in all of Italy. But that wasn’t always the case. In fact, Chianti may have started out its life as a white wine.
That’s what the early records seem to indicate. In fact, Chianti was a white wine as late as 1398, which means that switch over the red wine came many years after the Antinori family started to make the wine. For those who don’t know, the Antinoris are one of Italy’s oldest wine producers and they’re perhaps the one most indelibly linked to Chianti.
More on that a little further down.
Fact #3 – It Became a Red Wine Rather Late
It appears that the period from the start of the 15thcentury through to the midpoint of the 18thcentury represented a period of great change for Chianti. It was at some point during these years that the wine underwent a transformation that saw it go from the original white to something that resembles the red wine that we drink today.
By the end of the 18thcentury, Chianti was definitively a red wine. It’s likely during this period that the general rules that would eventually govern the creation of today’s Chianti Classico came into being.
Fact #4 – Classico vs. Super Tuscan
The world of Chianti was rocked in the 1970s. After several centuries of sticking to the same standards, a few Chianti producers decided to rock the boat y completely changing the way that they make the wine.
Dubbed the “Super Tuscans”, this wines catered to more international tastes and they causes a great divide in the Chianti loving community. Some lauded them for their individual qualities and great taste. Others lambasted them because their production didn’t follow the rules that were in place for Chianti.
Fact #5 – Tignanello Was Not the First Super Tuscan
But Tignanello was not the first of the Super Tuscans. It was just the first to company from a massive wine producer that had indelible links to the Chianti region.
Several Super Tuscans came before Tignanello. But it was the Antinori’s wine that sparked massive change in the way that we classify Chianti.
Fact #6 – There Are Multiple Types of Chianti
This simple fact highlights how much of an effect the Super Tuscan’s had on the industry.
For several years, these wines we’re not allowed any sort of DOC classification. Their production methods didn’t match those of traditional Chianti, so they couldn’t carry the DOC label.
But their popularity could not be denied.
Incidentally, Tignanello still carries the IGT label. The power of the wine’s brand is more than enough to sell it without the need for DOC classification.
Fact #7 – The Little Black Rooster
It’s not just the name that separates Chianti Classico from the other designations of Chianti. Eagle-eyed label viewers will notice that some bottles of Chianti have a small black rooster on the label.
Fact #8 – Hannibal Lecter’s Favourite Wine Wasn’t Chianti
Anybody who has ever seen the Silence of the Lambs will remember Anthony Hopkins chilling delivery as he recounts the tale of eating a victim’s liver with some fava beans and a Chianti.
That single line may have increased the wine’s profile for international viewers. But it’s not the original line.
In Thomas Harris’ novel, Lecter recounts his grizzly meal by saying that he drank a bottle of Amarone, rather than Chianti. Apparently, the filmmakers chose Chianti for the movie because they believed that the wine had more name recognition.
Either way, we don’t much fancy the idea of ending up on Lector’s dinner plate, regardless of which wine he chooses to complement us.
The Final Word
So, there you have it. Eight little facts and titbits about one of Italy’s most famous red wines. Chianti has achieved a level of fame that means it’s likely to stand the test of the time for many more centuries beyond those that it’s already endured.
All that’s left now is for you to enjoy a bottle of your own. Check out the many Chiantis that the Xtrawine site offers to experience this great wine for yourself.
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