Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Ten Things You Should Know About Chianti Classico (Part 1)
This phrase, widely used prior to World War 2, translates as "As good as a farm in Chianti." It refers to the fact that land in the Chianti region was once highly prized in Tuscany. So, when a person wanted to indicate that something was a good and solid deal, they would use this phrase, comparing it to a valuable farm in Chianti. Though it was not used much after World War 2, it might be due for a comeback, especially considering the quality vineyards that now exist in the Chianti region.
Chianti Classico region of Tuscany, I have had some time to reflect upon my experiences, to consider the region, its wines, its food, its people, and more. This media trip was sponsored by the Consorzio del Vino Chianti and Balzac Communications. I and four other writers, including Christian of Vintuba, Ward of Vinopanion, Doug of Sante magazine, and Manos of Luxury Web, explored Chianti Classico during the Chianti Classico è, a ten day festival celebrating the wines and foods of this area. We visited a number of wineries and restaurants as well as participated in several official festival events. In addition, I have done some additional independent research and reading into Chianti Classico, including its history.
So now onto the Ten Things You Should Know About Chianti Classico...
Even before the ancient Romans arrived in the Chianti region, the Etruscans, who called themselves the Rasenna, inhabited the area, growing vines and producing wine. The term "Chianti" might derive from the Etruscan word "clante" which may mean "water" and also was the name of a noble Etruscan family. After the Romans seized control of the region, there was a great demand for Italian wine though the Romans generally preferred the sweet southern wines over the drier wines of Tuscany. The Romans controlled this area for about 700 years, leaving their impact upon this region. Wine making continued throughout the centuries, despite wars, plagues and other disasters.
Ever sip of Chianti is a sip of many centuries of fascinating history.
As I mentioned earlier, the Chianti Classio region occupies about 173,000 acres, which makes for quite a large region. As such, it includes a wide variety of microclimates, altitudes, soils and terroir. There are two primary types of soil, galestro and albarese. Galestro is schist based, with elements of clay and marl, and is considered the best soil type for Sangiovese. It provides excellent drainage and keeps the vines under a bit of stress all the time, which is a good thing. Albarese is more a limestone soil, also with excellent drainage. You will also find some sandstone soils in this region, which can provide some nice aromatics but at a cost of less complexity and length. The soil to the north is generally considered more fertile, with more galestro, and to the south, you will find more albarese.
Barone Ricasoli hired a company to assess their vineyards, soils and grapes and that analysis took three years. They have not formally announced their results but there is a possibility they will share those findings with other wineries. Francesco Ricasoli stated that modern viticulture needs more answers and that knowledge is the key to success.
The origins of Sangiovese are cloudy though it seems to be an ancient grape, especially as it's name seem to reflect the ancient Romans. In Latin, it was known as sanguis Jovis, which translates as the "blood of Jove." Jove, also known as Jupiter, was the Roman king of the gods, the god of sky and thunder. It is unsure why that name was chosen for this grape. The first known historical mention of "sangiovese" was in 1590, and it now is known by other names too, such as Sangiveto, Niellucio, Prugnolo Gentile, Brunello, and Morellino. It once was eaten as a table grape though that practice has greatly diminished. Sangiovese is the most widely planted red grape in Italy, constituting about 10% of all vineyard plantings with over 100,000 hectares.
To Be Continued...