Chianti is a full-bodied Red Wine produced in the Chianti Region of Tuscany. Chianti achieved its popularity as a simple red quaffing wine in a trademark straw-bottomed flask. But as people's tastes have evolved, so has the wine. The Sangiovese grape is the primary ingredient used in the production of Chianti although often times it is blended with other grape varieties. This practice varies from vineyard to vineyard offering a wide variety of Chianti experiences. Chianti wines are generally high in tannins and should be avoided by wine lovers who have poor reactions to these compounds.

Typical Chiantis are dry while retaining a fruity flavor, often times a drinker will enjoy a spicy or herbal taste as well. Chianti's match well with moderatley flavored meats (pork, veal) and with mildly spicy dishes. Chianti also does well on it's own as a sipping wine on a leisurley day. Beware of cheap Chiantis, these will often leave an unplesant chemical aftertaste, derived from the high concentration of tannins, that can easly turn off any wine drinker. Many people have sworn off chianti for that very reason, but a truly good Chianti is an experience best shared with friends and worth remembering.

Shoot after this I feel like I should start my own wine journal
The Wine Chianti is a DOCG red wine that is produced in any number of styles, ranging from light, fruity wines to ones tending toward the dark and dense. If I had to generalize from my own experience, I would say that Chiantis actually trend toward being light- to medium bodied reds with low to moderate tannin levels, offering a crisp, acidic edge that makes them an excellent accompaniment to dishes involving tomatoes or tomato sauces.

The wine has had something of an image problem of late: wines labeled "Chianti" have generally been made in mass quantities and were therefore often of poor quality. In fact, with the rise of the Super Tuscans and the improvement of quality within the Chianti Classico zone (see below), many of the better producers are abandoning Chianti altogether. This will no doubt mean that, now and even moreso in the future, good straight Chiantis will be the exception, rather than the rule.

The Area
Chianti itself is an historic wine-making area In Tuscany. The traditional zone is located to the north of Siena and encompasses the towns of Radda, Gaiole, and Castellina, but a classification made by the Italian government in 1932 expanded the official boundaries of this area. Today, wines labeled "Chianti" are derived from grapes grown over 1.2 million acres spread over the provinces of Siena, Arezzo, Pistoia, and Firenze (the area around Florence). The seven major Chianti zones are:

These locations may not be included on the label of the Chianti you're considering, but they often are in the case of the three best zones (Ruffina, Senesi, and Fiorentini).

Making the Wine
The principal grape of Chianti is Sangiovese (sometimes called "Sangioveto"), one of Italy's most widely planted varieties. This grape is also becoming popular with planters worldwide, as it allows the vintner to make wines in many styles, while retaining the grape's fruity, floral character.

Until relatively recently, winemakers were required to blend many types of grapes to produce Chiantis. Today, they may use 100% Sangiovese or a blend, as they prefer. Some of the other grapes often found in Chiantis include:

Traditionally, much Chianti was produced using the governo method. This involved using raisined Canaiolo grapes to add sweetness and help encourage malolactic fermentation, which converts harsher malic acid in the wine to softer lactic acid. This technique, despite tradition, is being phased out.

A note on Chianti Classico
There are, technically speaking, eight Chianti zones, the eighth being Chianti Classico, the region sandwiched between Siena and Florence, covering only about 173,000 acres. Wines labeled Chianti Classico thus come from the traditional production area, and are therefore, in general, considered to be of much higher quality. This is due largely to soil conditions: grapes tend to flourish in loose, sandy soil (such as is found in the Classico area), but have a more difficult time in the heavier clay soils found over much of the other Chianti area.

Were I to make a general recommendation, I would urge wine drinkers to bypass straight Chiantis in their entirety and focus on the offerings from the Chianti Classico DOCG.

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BTW the "black rooster" label is primarily a marketing tool, and not all true Chiantis bear it. You want to look for the label that says "Chianti DOCG" or "Chianti Classico DOCG."

The story behind Chianti's black rooster symbol

The black rooster (or black cock, or gallo nero as the Italians say) is the symbol for the entire Chianti Classico area. Since 1924, the winemakers united in the traditional consorzio, put labels on their wine bottles with these black roosters. The reason for this symbol is a conflict of many centuries ago.

Florence and Siena were traditional rivals in this region, but in the beginning of the 13th century they decided to end their long and lasting border conflicts for once and for all. They agreed to send a horseman from each of their cities to the other city, who would both leave exactly at cockcrow. The new border would be at their meeting point.

Florence managed to get their hands on a very active cock, that crowed far before sundawn. As a result, most of the Chianti region fell under Florence. In 1924, the winemakers decided the rooster would be an appropriate symbol for their Chianti.

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