Chianti Classico wine tour, between past and future
Chianti is perhaps Italy's most famous wine, but it is also the area of Tuscany that gave its name to this wine. This zone is also famous for its food, lush rolling hills and medieval towns.
The Chianti is a land of ancient winemaking traditions (since Etruscan times), but the earliest documents that identify this area as a wine production zone date to the thirteenth century. Until the eighteenth century, Chianti wine was produced by only using Sangiovese grapes. From the nineteenth century onwards, however, wine producers began to mix different varieties to improve the quality of the wine.
In the 1900s, the demand for Chianti increased dramatically and other areas of Tuscany began to imitate the wine, thus making it necessary to create an organization to prevent frauds. In 1924, a group of producers formed the Consortium for the Defense of Chianti Wine and, in 1932, a ministerial decree recognized to the historical Chianti area the right to use the distinctive appellation of "Classico”.
Nowadays, the designation of “Chianti Classico” not only refers to the area of production. In actual fact, Classico wine has to respect specific rules: its blend must be made from 80-100% of Sangiovese grapes. Other red grapes, belonging to varieties recommended and authorized in the production regulations, can be used in a maximum ratio of 20%. So, the Chianti Classico label refers to the oldest traditional area in the Chianti region, which stretches between Florence and Siena, and its quality and production method is identified with the unmistakable black rooster emblem.
How much has the production method changed from the past to the present? Find out the answer to this question by visiting the wineries of Chianti Classico area. Recently, I had the opportunity to compare the production methods thanks to the Antinori family wineries, one of the oldest winemaking families in Tuscany.
Badia a Passignano abbey
The Badia a Passignano abbey is situated in Sambuca Val di Pesa. It is an ancient monastery dating to 395 AD and the Antinori family estate covers 223 hectares that rise up to an altitude of 250-300 meters (825-1000 feet) above sea level. This abbey is a milestone in the production of Chianti Classico, considering that in the terrain surrounding the abbey, a centuries-old vitis vinifera vine was found in 1983.
The monks of the Vallombrosian Order still live here, but you can visit the ancient wine cellars and the abbey. This immersion in the “heart of Chianti” is a great opportunity to visit a historic place where wine was once produced. Take a tour in the wine cellars of the Osteria di Passignano restaurant (just next to the abbey) and during the visit you’ll see the old fermentation tanks, the ancient barrels and old production methods. The wine cellars of the abbey currently host about 2000 wooden barrels, where Badia a Passignano Chianti Classico Riserva is aged. A refreshing tasting of four wines usually follows the guided tours.
Antinori Cellars in Bargino
The Marchesi Antinori Chianti Classico Cellar is located in the Chianti Classico region, just 20 minutes from Florence and 30 minutes from Siena, a must-see attraction for visitors to Tuscany.
These cellars opened in 2012 and are a tribute to the community and the Chianti Classico territory. The building was constructed using local materials and with the utmost respect for the environment. The new Antinori headquarters are really close to the highway, but the building is almost invisible because it is literally inside a hill. The hill was cut into to build the winery and then covered with the same soil, planting native and ancient vines, such as Ciliegino, Colorino, Mammolo and Black Malvasia. In three years the winery will be completely surrounded and covered by these vineyards, which are not intended for wine production but to preserve their ancient roots.
The Marchesi Antinori headquarters includes the winery, two tasting rooms, a restaurant (Rinuccio 1180, named after the first member of the Antinori family), an auditorium, a museum, a bookshop, and of course, a retail wine store. The following wines and olive oil labels are produced here: Villa Antinori Chianti Classico, Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva, Pèppoli Chianti Classico, Vinsanto del Chianti Classico, Antinori Laudemio Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Antinori Peppoli Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
The cellars were constructed for production reasons but also to welcome the public, offering the chance to discover how wine is made, from the vineyard to the bottle. Wine lovers, architects, families and school groups (in other words, everyone) can visit the Antinori Cellars in Bargino.
In this area many wineries give tours and have cellar or tasting rooms. On the website of the Consorzio del Chianti Classicoyou can search for producers that offer tastings and cellar tours. Choose your favourite and contact them to reserve your Chianti Classico experience.
Find out here the best food and wines you must taste in the Chianti area. If you would like to explore the Chianti area of Tuscany, check out the itinerary suggested by our team in order to plan a similar trip.