Juicy Details with David Larson: Chianti

Juicy Details with David Larson: Chianti

Juicy Details will conclude our conversation about Sangiovese with a few words about the wines of Chianti Classico. In my humble opinion, it as the finest expression of this noble grape, and one of the greatest values in Old World wine.

Chianti Classico, located within Gaiole in Chianti, is the largest sub-zone of Chianti. Given its size, there are a variety of elevations, exposures and terroirs-so many in fact that there is a case being made for further dividing Chianti Classico into subzones.  Much like the wines of Médoc, or Burgundy, it is impossible to identify a singular character of Chianti Classico. Whether the wine is rich and full from lower elevations, or high-toned with mineral notes from higher vineyards, the thread of Sangiovese is never lost.

Tuscany Map

The Villages of Chianti

The region of Chianti and its wines have a long and storied history. Chianti as we know it today can be traced back to the late 19th century when Baron Bettino Ricasoli penned a letter recommending that Sangiovese be the basis for the wines of the region. Prior to this, the primary grape grown in Chianti was Canaiolo which resulted in soft, medium bodied wines without much flavor.

Today Sangiovese must comprise a minimum of 80% of the blend in a Chianti wine. The remaining 20% can be other red grapes including Canaiolo, which helps to soften the tannins and acidity of Sangiovese, as well as Cabernet and Merlot. While there is no shortage of wines being made with the addition of these international varieties, many of the best examples of Chianti Classico do not include them, and are predominantly, if not entirely, Sangiovese.

The seemingly ever changing laws of Chianti have caused some confusion for consumers over the years. Prior to 1984, no international varietals were allowed as part of the blend and prior to 1995 a Chianti Classico could not be classified as such if the wine was 100% Sangiovese. Because of these laws, many of the greatest wines of the region are simply designated as IGT. Examples include Flaccianello della Pieve, Cepparello, Le Pergole Torte, Percarlo and Tignanello.

The wines of Chianti Classico are most certainly worth exploring. From the ‘Super Tuscans’ mentioned above to ‘classic’ Chiantis from Fattoria di FèlsinaCastello di Monsanto and Castello di Ama, there is no better way to wrap up our exploration of Sangiovese!


In this HDH Blog series, Juicy Details, Senior Consignment Operations Associate, David Larson, delves deeper into the world of wine. Whether he’s discussing soil types of specific vineyards, laws within different appellations, or the weather of a certain region, these fascinating tidbits of knowledge help lift the veil on fine and rare wines and reveal what sets the best wines apart from the rest.

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