home CULTURE Understanding Chianti Oil and Wine

Understanding Chianti Oil and Wine

Bottles simply labeled as Chianti (as in the photo) are made from a mix grapes from several regions in the Chianti region. The main difference with generic Chianti and the rest, is that the minimum percentage of Sangiovese allowed is 75%, with the rules permitting white grapes to be blended in. Adding white grapes to a red wine isn’t as crazy as you might think! The French have been addingViognier to their Syrah in the Rhone region of France for decades. The reason they do so is to soften the tannin in the Syrah, and to add what they call “aromatic complexity”. The addition of white grapes into the Sangiovese mix however, is less about romance and more about cutting costs.

As with all Chianti’s, there are some minimum rules set, i.e. the minimum alcohol level in regular Chianti is 11.5%, and grape harvest yields are “restricted” to 4 tons per acre.

Chianti Classico

The Chianti Classico region is central to the region and arguably the most famous. In 1996 it was awarded DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) status, in an effort to raise its perceived quality. All Italian DOCG wines are actually tasted and analyzed in a lab in order to meet government approval. Kind of like SAT exams for wine. If the wine passes, it will receive an individually numbered governmental seal across the cap or cork.

Chianti Classico bears a black rooster on the neck of the bottle. This is a conglomeration of Chianti producers whom have setup the Consorzio Chianti Classico, in a bid to improve the quality and reputation of the region.

The minimum percentage of Sangiovese allowed in Chianti Classico is 80%, with only red grapes permitted to make up the rest of the blend. Producers can of course choose to make their wine up to 100% Sangiovese, but it’s the exception and not the rule. The alcohol content must also be at least 12%, and the wine must spend at least 12 months aging in oak barrels. The Chianti Classico region covers an area of around 100 square miles, and the grape harvest is restricted to no more than 3 tons per acre.

Chianti Riserva / Classico Riserva

If you guessed that Riserva is Italian for Reserve you would be correct!

Riserva on a bottle of Chianti is your first clue that the bottle of Chianti you’re holding, stands head and shoulders above the rest. Riserva is a term that can be applied not just to Chianti, but to plenty of other Italian wines such as Brunello and Barolo. Of course, just to make things difficult, it has various meanings, but Riserva on a Chianti just means that the wine spends a minimum of two years (in oak) and three months (in the bottle) aging. The alcohol content must also be at least 12.5%. Chianti Riserva is also a great candidate for additional bottle aging, depending on the producer and vintage.

Vin Santo

Vin Santo (literally meaning “holy wine”) is a style of Italian wine dessert typical of Tuscany. Vin Santo wines are often made from white grape varieties such as Trebbiano and Malvasia, though Sangiovese may be used to produce a rosè style known as “Occhio di Pernice” or eye of the partridge. Vin Santo is described as a straw wine since is often produced by drying the freshly harvested grapes on straw mats in a warm and well ventilated area of the house. However several producers dry the grapes by hanging on racks indoors. Though technically a dessert wine, the wines can vary in sweetness levels from bone dry (like a Fino Sherry) to extremely sweet.


Literally translated “Protected Designation of Origin”, this label applies to various cheeses, meats, breads and pastas from throughout the various regions of Italy.

Examples of such products are Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Prosciutto di Parma, regional Extra-Virgin Olive Oils and the famous Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena.

Since Academia Barilla is headquartered in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, home to towns like Parma and Modena where these products come from, the D.O.P. protection is quite significant.