Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Chianti, the name of a specific geographical area between Florence and Siena in the central Italian region of tuscany, associated with tangy, dry red wines of very varied quality. The Chianti zone is first identified in documents of the second half of the 13th century which named the high hills between Baliaccia and Monte Luco ‘the Chianti mountains’ but without reference to the actual wine (although see tuscany, history). In the 18th century the name was applied to the townships of Castellina, Radda, and Gaiole that formed the nucleus of the medieval League of Chianti under Florentine jurisdiction. These townships became one of the very first wine regions anywhere to be officially demarcated. In an edict drawn up in 1716 by Cosimo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, the Chianti Classico borders were determined in order to protect authenticity and combat fraud. In the 1930s the Italian government’s Dalmasso commission enlarged this historic zone to capitalize on the Chianti name (see chianti classico). Thus it is that legally oenological Chianti extends over 15,500 ha/38,285 acres. Seven subzones can call their wines Chianti: Chianti Colli Fiorentini, chianti rufina, Chianti Montalbano, Chianti Colli Senesi, Chianti Colline Pisane, Chianti Colli Aretini, and Chianti Montespertoli, while other parts of this extended region may produce a wine labelled simply Chianti. There are quality-oriented producers outside the Chianti Classico heartland, notably Chianti Rufina’s Fattoria Selvapiana and Pacina in the Colli Senesi, whose wines are on a par with the best from Chianti Classico but much of the wine labelled simply Chianti lacks distinction.