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Chianti, The Classic Favorite, Is Suddenly Exciting Again

Chianti may be the most famous wine region in all of Italy. It's been the source of extraordinary red wine for generations, and the quality tends to be remarkably high across price points. Pricier bottles are often age-worthy and layered with the kind of complexity that only the best reds in the world achieve, but even more budget-friendly ones tend to be reliably tasty. Let's explore this region and try to understand what makes Chianti so unique.

What is Chianti wine?

Chianti wine—sometimes called Chianti red wine or, more formally, Chianti DOCG—is the wine produced in the Chianti region, located in Tuscany, Italy. The main grape in Chianti is called Sangiovese, but other grape varieties are permitted by Italian law to blend into it.

Where does Chianti wine come from?

Chianti comes from the Chianti region in Tuscany, Italy. It's a relatively large region, with several sub-zones whose wines all have a unique character. Chianti wines can come from anywhere in the Chianti region. In contrast, Chianti Classico refers to wines grown and produced in the original, or classical, center of the region, which is generally agreed to be the source of the best bottles. Chianti Classico Riserva is a Chianti Classico that has been aged in wood for a minimum of two years and, after that, at least three months in the bottle before hitting the market.

What does Chianti wine taste like?

There are many different expressions of Chianti, and each producer tends to have their unique spin on what they believe the best expression of their land might be. In general, Chianti boasts notes of cherries, dried herbs and spices (oregano, subtle peppercorn notes, and more), leather, tobacco, and occasional notes of flowers, violets often chief among them. In general, Chianti is a fairly savory wine, yet not typically overly heavy or dense on the palate, and with excellent mouthwatering acidity, too.

What kind of wine is Chianti?

Chianti is a dry red Italian wine from the Chianti region of Tuscany.

Is Chianti dry or sweet?

Chianti is typically a dry red wine, though some examples taste a bit sweeter and feature more prominent ripe fruit characteristics. Most Chianti, however, is dry wine.

What is Chianti similar to?

Chianti is similar to other Sangiovese-based wines from Italy, notably Brunello di Montalcino (which is a bit more powerful and longer-lived in the cellar), Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and Montecucco Sangiovese. But the terroir and various micro-climates of Chianti make Chianti wine a thoroughly unique and fascinating wine in its own right.

When should you drink Chianti?

And what food goes best with Chianti? Chianti is best enjoyed alongside food: Fat and protein tame its tannins, allowing the fruit and savory spice notes to shine through. In Italy, Chianti is often enjoyed alongside pasta with tomato-based sauces, mushroom dishes, and cured meats. But Chianti is also great as a pairing partner for pizza: A pepperoni pie and a Chianti bottle is pretty much perfect every time.

Is Chianti sweeter than Merlot?

If we are talking about both Chianti and Merlot's dry expression, Merlot will generally seem a bit sweeter. This isn't because it has more residual sugar, but its more pronounced ripe fruit character and how new oak barrels are often used in its aging, which also adds sweet spice notes like vanilla and cinnamon. As a rule, Chianti is a more savory wine than Merlot. But, of course, there are exceptions.

Should Chianti be served chilled?

Chianti is best enjoyed slightly chilled. Many consumers find that putting a bottle of Chianti into the refrigerator for 20 minutes before opening it up makes the fruit seem more lively and the savory notes more energetic. But if it's served too cold, then the tannins will overwhelm the rest of the wine, making it seem bitter. 20 minutes in the fridge is a good rule of thumb when it comes to Chianti.

Browse our full selection of Chianti online or check out our selection of highly-rated Chianti for a great new Chianti to try this week!

Want to learn more about Chianti?

Visit our Guide to Chianti to learn more about Chianti.