Chianti Classico encompassed most of what was the original zone, and has been recognized as the leading appellation in terms of quality. The introductions of the DOC in 1967, and DOCG in 1984 meant a set of; highly enforced rules that governed everything from what grapes could be blended to how long the wine must age prior to release. These standards were monumental in the transformation of generic fiasco Chianti (large squat bottle enclosed in a straw basket), into wines that are now seen as rivals to the great reds of Montalcino and Montepulciano.
Today, Chianti Classico must contain at minimum 80% Sangiovese, allowing for the blending of other international varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and even Syrah. It was only in 1995 that producers were permitted to make Chianti Classico with 100% Sangiovese grapes. Basic Chianti Classico can be released fairly immediately after bottling, however, producers have begun to select the best grapes for their Riserva bottling, which at minimum must age for 24 months after harvest before release into the market. These extra two years, which the wine; typically spends maturing in wood vats or French barrels, creates a tremendous amount of structure, color, and tannin. The end result are some of the most age-worthy, deep, and satisfying wines one will ever encounter, and as often is the case, some of the best value premium wines in the world.