Dievole's blog

The geography of Chianti

Where is Chianti, exactly? The answer goes way beyond a dot on the map. This part of Tuscany overcomes political borders to encompass a geographical area that has certain visible characteristics in common, like rolling hills, vineyards and cypress trees. This brief article helps dispel misconceptions about the word Chianti and the area to which it applies.

Benvenuti-nel-Chianti-Classico

Where is Chianti Italy

Just as the United States is divided into States and Canada has Provinces, Italy has Regions (there are 20). Two additional political divisions were made – provinces and city administrations – though provinces are currently being eliminated in the interest of simplification and cost saving. Just to get one thing straight, the city of Florence is in the region of Tuscany – despite what you might be led to believe due to the title of numerous popular guidebooks, which make it seem like you’d be visiting two different places if you went to both! Siena is another town in Tuscany, south of Florence.

But to make things even more complicated, there are a lot of geographical areas that locals commonly refer to, but most visitors don’t know what they’re talking about! In Tuscany, for example, there’s the Valdarno (an area North-East of Florence that is the valley of the river Arno) or the Maremma, South and East of Siena and winding its way into neighbouring Lazio. It’s correct to call them an “area”, because the word “region” should be used to refer only to Tuscany, in this case.

Chianti Landscape

Chianti Landscape

Chianti is another tough to define “area”, but if you want to understand its wines, it’s helpful to understand the vastness of the territory and how it differs from one end to the other. The concept of Chianti as a “geographical area” grew up out of it being a “wine producing region” – the latter has evolved to have strictly defined borders that permit those producers inside to call their wine “Chianti”, combined with the name of the subzone in which it is contained, if applicable.

The larger area of Chianti encompasses a vast landscape around and between Florence and Siena, stretching over to Arezzo on the westernmost border and almost over to Pisa in the East. It’s not easy to define its geographic markers, but you know when you’re in it, and when you’ve left it. Once you’ve gotten your eye used to typical Chianti landscape – like the one around Dievole pictured here – if you pass over into the neighbouring Val d’Orcia, you will have driven maybe half an hour, but the landscape suddenly looks very different. From the greener hills of Chianti, with its olives and vines, Val d’Orcia’s hills roll more softly and the lighter coloured soil looks almost lunar. The Valdarno looks wilder, the Maremma more scraggly in some parts and flat in others – spend long enough here and you’d be able to travel blindfolded between them and know where you are just by looking out the window. That said, a map of the wine sub-zones of Chianti helps define it somewhat better, bearing in mind that the area defined by winemaking regulations is just as good a definition as any when seeking truth on this complex matter. The best map we’ve found online is this one by Winefolly.