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Chianti Classico is the heart of the Chianti zone in the Tuscany region of Italy. It was awarded the distinguished DOCG status, the “superior” labeling level of Italian wine, in 1996, (Chianti made it to DOC in 1984). The word “classico” also refers to the fact that this area was the original zone where this Sangiovese-based wine was first produced, the “classic” zone.
Fun fact: All bottles of Chianti Classico have a seal depicting a black rooster (gallo nero). The story goes that in the 13th century, Florence and Siena, who had been fighting over the Chianti territory for many, many years, decided to settle their dispute once and for all. They mutually agreed to have horse riders leave their respective towns at dawn, and where the two horses met would be the final boundary, senza scuse. Those shrewd Florentines had a black rooster which they starved for days. The day of the proposed meeting, the hungry rooster crowed much earlier than dawn, so the Florentine knight got a head start. The Sienese rider only made it about several miles from his town’s walls and thus Florence won a much more sizeable chunk of land.
The Classico zone’s microclimates set it apart from the other DOCs of Chianti. It’s closer to the coast, with warm, moist breezes. The hot days are made brighter here by the sun’s reflection off the rocky slopes. The nearby Chianti mountains cool the region down at night.
For a wine to be labeled Chianti Classico and get the rooster stamp of approval, the grapes must be sourced from the delineated growing zone and the wine must contain a minimum 80% Sangiovese (the other zones are 75%). The other allowable grapes are Cabernet, Merlot, Canailo and Colorino. Trebbiano and Malvasia are no longer allowable as part of the Chianti Classico blend. ~Amanda Schuster
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