Alberto Albisetti, CEO of Castello della Paneretta—a castle winery in the Chianti region nestled between Siena and Florence—explains for us the difference between Chianti Classico and other Chianti wines.
Keep in mind that DOCG wines are those that achieve the highest level of guarantee by the Denominazione di origine controllata (Controlled designation of origin).
And be sure to check out the companion article: Visiting and understanding Italy’s Chianti region.
So, Alberto, what’s the difference between these wines?
Less experienced consumers tend to believe that a DOCG “Chianti” wine and a DOCG “Chianti Classico” wine are the same thing, but there’s a big difference between the two!
Chianti Classico is a wine produced in the Chianti area. You may recognize these wines very easily by the black rooster logo on the neck of the bottles.
The “Chianti Classico Consortium” applies much stricter rules to its producers in comparison to those applied to the producers of Chianti. Let’s analyze these differences.
Production area: the Chianti Classico wine is produced within the borders of the namesake area only, whereas Chianti producers can implement their production also outside those borders, including some areas of the Tuscan provinces of Florence, Siena, Arezzo, Pisa, Pistoia and Prato.
Grapes: while the Chianti Classico uses black grapes only with a minimum basis of 80% of Sangiovese, the typical grape of the Chianti area, the Chianti wine can use also white grapes such as Malvasia and Trebbiano in addition to the minimum basis of Sangiovese, which is 75% in this case.
Quality standard: without going too deeply into the details, it’s important to know that the rules of the Chianti Classico Consortium are much more rigid and strict on all the aspects which can have an impact on wine's quality. For example, the resa massima di uva per ettaro di vigneto (the maximum amount of grapes for hectare—about 2.5 acres) is 75 quintals for Chianti Classico, while for Chianti the limit gets to 90 quintals. A quintal is about 220 pounds.
The first version of the DOCG disciplinare (production rules) for Chianti and Chianti Classico dates back to 1984, when Chianti Classico was still considered a sub-category of the omni-comprehensive Chianti DOCG, although with separate regulations that imposed production rules more stringent than those stipulated for the other Chianti wines. Only in 1996 was Chianti Classico recognized as an independent appellation, establishing once and for all its diversity and independence from other Chiantis.
A black rooster was the emblem of the League of Chianti, which protected the Chianti region during the 17th century. Since 2005, the black rooster has been the emblem of the Chianti Classico producers association. All Chianti Classico wines have that symbol on the neck of the bottle indicating that the wine is produced in the Classico area and according to the Chianti Classico Consortium rules.
In summary, especially in the last years, Chianti Classico Consortium's policy is to safeguard the wine's quality to the detriment of quantity, mainly because of the growing number of high quality wines all over the world. Furthermore, there is another aim which is to safeguard the quality aspects specific to the area making the Gallo Nero—the black rooster—products unique.