The Chianti wine has hints of berries and other red fruit flavors, which often makes consumers wonder if it is a dry wine? – a question born of a common misconception that only sweet wines can have fruity notes.
However, in winemaking, sweetness only refers to the residual sugar left behind after the process of fermentation. Since Chianti goes through a complete fermentation process – regardless of how fruity or tannic it tastes – it is, indeed, a dry wine.
And, separating how the wine tastes compared to its sweetness is essential to help pick the right one for your tastebuds.
Despite being a dry wine, Chianti’s tell-tale notes are primarily tart cherries, red berries, and violets. Read on to find out more about Chianti and its variations.
Is Chianti A Dry Red Wine?
Chianti is one of the greatest (and, since the 20th century, most popular) wines to come out of Tuscany, Italy. Great when paired with food, thanks to its earthiness and versatile flavor, the Chianti wine (and its variations) have become a staple in Italian restaurants.
Interestingly, Chianti started as a white wine. However, in the mid-1800s, the baron of the land of Chianti decided (after careful soil experimentation) that the wines from the region should have the leading taste of Sangiovese grape. The baron’s “recipe” has since become the basis for the modern striking red Chianti wine.
However, the bloody tones vary for other Chianti variations.
For example, Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013 is deep red with hints of crimson, whereas the Nittardi Chianti Classico Riserva 2013 is more ruby red. The color variation depends on the wine composition and the percentage of various grape types used. (More on this later.)
The modern Chianti recipe uses Sangiovese grapes as the leading component. The Sangiovese grape looks like a small sphere with dark purple skin, which provides the wine its medium to high acidity, high tannins, with fruity and floral flavors very much present in the taste, as well as smell.
The highest quality Chianti Classico DOCG uses at least 80% of Sangiovese grapes. However, some other grapes like Colorino and Cabernet Sauvignon are also found in Chianti, adding hints of different flavor notes and mellowing its high tannin.
When talking about winemaking, Chianti is not sweet but dry wine. However, as discussed before, that does not mean it does not have fruity notes typically associated with sweet wines.
In terms of residual sugar left after fermentation, the Chianti wine does not have any, rendering it a dry wine. Sweet wines, in this case, have residual sugar since the process of fermentation is deliberately left incomplete.
However, the sweetness level is distinctive of the wine flavor, which, in the case of Chianti, has bold fruity flavors of red berries, cherries, and sometimes even chocolate.
In terms of taste, Chianti is a well-rounded wine where its acidity and tannins are cut by fruity, floral, and earthy notes. Thus, while it is a dry wine, Chianti’s flavor is more versatile and nuanced than wine novices expect.
Various recipes, the dominance of Sangiovese grapes, and mixes of other wine grapes give Chianti its famous tart cherry-like flavor. Although, that is not the only notable flavor in this wine.
Apart from tartness, the Chianti wine has hints of sweetness and spices. The sweetness reflects the flavor of berries which is countered by the tart cherry-like flavor, high acidity, and tannins of the Chianti.
Moreover, it also accentuates the flavors of dried herbs, violets, dry meat, and smokiness. Thus, the wine has an earthiness mixed with a fresh mouthfeel.
The Chianti Classico, as defined by the DOCG (a distinction that deems the wine of the best quality), has aromas of violets, iris, wild berries, spices, and earthiness. When the Chianti wine has all of these flavor accents, along with a good amount of acidity and tannins, it has a black rooster label.
The black rooster, Gallo Nero, is the trademark for the Chianti Classico DOCG wine, with its appearance on each Classico bottle deep-rooted in the Chianti region’s history.
According to legend, the black rooster was used by Florence to start the horse race to determine land disputes with Sienna. Thanks to the unfed early rising black rooster, the victorious Florence made the animal its official emblem.
Since the Chianti hills are called the land of the Gallo Nero, it only makes sense that the black rooster sits as the official marler on every Chianti Classico bottle.
As you can guess from the name, the Chianti wine comes from the Chianti region in Tuscany, Italy. The highest-quality Chianti Classico comes from the home region. In contrast, seven subregions in the Tuscany countryside produce seven other varieties of this famous wine with DOCG distinction.
Apart from Chianti Classico, other wine types from this region include Colli Aretini, Colli Pisane, Colli Senesi, Rufina, Colli Fiorentini, Montalbano, and Montespertoli. The most impressive out of these seven varieties are Rufina and Colli Senesi.
However, all these wine types are of the highest quality, mimicking the Classico variant’s flavor, with the DOCG stamp of approval.
Originating from the home region of Chianti, the Classico wine variety benefits from excellent growing conditions and moderate temperature of the area. The Chianti Classico has a sweet and acidic taste mellowed beautifully by its earthiness.
While the flavor profile varies from bottle to bottle, you can expect to find more herby and oaky notes, with sweater flavor from licorice, strawberry, and raspberry shining through. All these flavors are rounded off well with a tart finish, making this a punchy concoction that has gained popularity worldwide.
Two of the most famous seven subregion varieties have similar flavor attributes to the Classic variety.
Vineyards in this region are at an elevation of 1000 feet, which allows everyday sunshine and cooling winds from the Mediterranean sea, affecting the wine’s flavor notes. Its prominent flavors include tartness and smokiness – think wild berries, tobacco, and cherries. Moreover, its herbaceous accents add an earthiness to the wine.
The Rufina variety requires to be aged for five years to a decade to present nuanced flavors of fruitiness, earthiness, and tartness synonymous with Chianti region wines. However, this variety uses grapes that ripen over a more extended period than some other subregions because of higher elevation.
This wine variety has an unforgettable taste of sour black cherries, aged meat, spicy herbs, and raspberries, which works wonderfully with Chianti’s tannins and higher acidity.
Chianti is a dry red wine made primarily using Sangiovese grapes from the Chianti region of Tuscany. While it is a dry wine with high acidity and tannins, it has a well-balanced flavor with profound tartness, earthiness, and fruitiness, all of which balance each other.
The flavor profile works great with Chianti’s overall tart finish, which has made this wine and its region of origin quite famous across the world.
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