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Land of Eternal Wine: Chianti, Italy

Thursday, May 25th, 2017 at 1:00pm Engel Völkers

By Engel & Völkers Siena

The magic of Chianti pours persuasively from the bottles of that wine which the whole world envies. The modern history of “Chianti Classico began in the 19th century with the “father” of modern vine growing and winemaking in Chianti who was the inspiration for production discipline: baron Ricasoli.

This land’s ancestral links with vine and wine was recently confirmed by an archaeological find in the area: some seeds of “Vitis Vinifera” dating to 23 centuries ago. Then in the late middle ages vineyards played a leading part in agriculture and the economy.

Derivation of the word Chianti, according to a 790 document in the abbey of San Bartolomeo in Ripoli, is hard to identify: probably it evolved from the Latin clangor, meaning the typical sharp sound coming from the dense woodlands, the aristocrats’ hunting horns and the shrieks of animals. But some linguists maintain that it is of Etruscan origin. Land of great wines, thanks to the monks who cleared woodland to plant vineyards around the abbeys, and thanks to the peasants who perpetuated the cultivation thereof.

The modern history of Chianti Classico began in the 19th century with the “father” of modern vine growing and winemaking in Chianti who was the inspiration for production discipline: baron Bettino Ricasoli. In 1874 he codified the rules for making wine (traditional Tuscan vinification system) and defined Chianti blend proportions, attributing a percentage to each of the main grape varieties: “from Sangioveto the wine receives its main dose of bouquet and a certain vigour of sensation; from Cannaiulo the sweetness that tempers the hardness of the former but without removing the perfume since the latter also has this characteristic. Malvasia, which could be done without in wines intended for ageing, tends to dilute the product of the first two grapes, increases its flavour and renders it lighter and more readily suitable for everyday use at table”.

So what prevailed was a Chianti for everyday drinking, medium bodied and suitable for all occasions and all food. So to attenuate the tannic Sangiovese a certain percentage of white grapes was required (Trebbiano and Malvasia) and other, softer red grapes (Cannaiolo and Colorino) which also gave a little colour to the “pallid” Sangioveto.

In a glass of that ruby red wine, tending to garnet if aged, with its bouquet of sweet violets, spices and small wild fruit, with its structured, harmonious elegant taste, keen and slightly tannic, which then becomes velvety, we find all the pride of this land. The Black Cock on the labels was adopted for the first time by the Consorzio Marchio Storico Chianti Classico, founded by thirty-three producers in Radda, 1924. DOCstatus was granted in 1967 and DOCG in 1984. To consolidate the renewal of the main Chianti vine species - Sangiovese - and to improve wine quality, over the last few years Operation Chianti 2000 has involved the replanting of a great many vineyards with the introduction of new clones. Impetus for this winegrowing evolution was given by the world success of The Supertuscan. The introduction of allochthonous species (which produce excellent Chardonnaywhites) has demonstrated the great enological value of this land.

One of the few in the world to be acknowledged as a land of wine: with its limitless vineyards, high concentration of wine producing cellars and its wine lodges and wine bars where Chianti effectively becomes a lifestyle.

*Engel & Völkers Siena is located in Siena, a city in Italy's Tuscany region. Visit their website, like them on Facebook, follow them on Instagram or send them a message at siena@engelvoelkers.com.

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