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Chianti wine vs. Chianti Classico, what’s the difference?

Chianti wine versus Chianti Classico, that is the question that we so often hear. What’s the difference between the two?

The answer is actually relatively short: from an enological standpoint, they are two different wine producing areas or zones in Tuscany. Chianti is a relatively large area, which is divided into sub-zones. Chianti Classico is one of those sub-zones, and in fact the first one – in the same way as brie is a sub-type of cheese. It’s just a matter of greater precision, and one that members of the Chianti Classico Consortium feel strongly about. Chianti and Chianti Classico are two distinct and separate DOCGs, with two different sets of production regulations, production zones and consortiums for the protection of the product.

The fact that many people – even wine experts – refer to Chianti and sometimes erroneously omit the “Classico” when talking about wine from the Chianti Classico area is partially due to the fact that from a geographic and historic standpoint, Chianti is the correct term for the area south of Florence. So if you’re coming to visit our Chianti Classico winery near the town of Castelnuovo Berardenga, you’d also be correct in saying that you’re spending the day in the Chianti part of Tuscany! (Read this article about where is Chianti).

The confusion harks back to the 18th century, when the Grand Duke Cosimo III officially published a decree (in 1716) delimiting the territories of four wine producing regions in Tuscany: Chianti, Pomino, Carmignano and Vald’Arno di Sopra. This was Italy’s first “DOC”. With time, however, the borders of this territory widened significantly. With two decrees in 1924 and 1932, the wine makers in the original area that the duke had called “Chianti” created their own consortium that applied only to these original boundaries, and that became rebranded “Chianti Classico”. The larger area became known as just “Chianti”.

Wines grown in the distinct area subject to the Chianti Classico Consortium is recognizable by the symbol of a black rooster. So next time you “sit back and have a glass of Chianti” as yourself – is this Chianti, or Chianti Classico?