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I had the incredible good fortune to spend a little over three months in Tuscany this year. From March to June.  My husband and I rented a house in a Castello, Castello dei Bisticci, 18 km from Florence, on top of a steep hill from which we could see the snowy peaks of the Apennines and the Arno River in the distance. 
 
We could access the house driving up the typical hair pin curves, on roads winding through vineyards and olive groves, sheep meadows,  centuries old castles and picturesque farmhouses dotting the rolling hills and mountains of Tuscany.
 
We traveled everywhere; to Arezzo, Siena, Pistoia, Lucca, Pisa, Livorno and La Maremma, etc... through roads with signs such as Chianti, la ruta del Chianti, Chianti delle colle Fiorentini... o colle Sense... Oh, the mystery of Chianti...!
 
I soon learned that while most Chiantis are delicious, all chiantis are not equal.
 
Chianti , the wine,  is linked to a well-defined geographical area, and is a regional product, a Tuscan product  — with documents going back to the 14th century to prove it.,  such as the letters of a Prato merchant, Francesco Datini, who lived from 1383 to 1410.
 
Chianti, conjures Italy, and it is as complicated as the history of the region,  but we will not go through now… but we owe its actual characteristics and rules to the Baron of Ricasoli who, in the early 19th century , found the right blends of grapes and established the rules of chianti wine.  Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Trebbiano and Malvasia Bianca  is the same blend used today in Chianti.
 
But this is only the tip of the iceberg!!! Factor in the DOCG zones and DOCs, or non-DOC wines called  "Super Tuscans" like the famous Sassicaia. The Chianti region covers a vast area of Tuscany and includes within its boundaries several overlapping Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) regions.
 
Yet, with 21 million gallons of wine Chianti  is the most widely sold classified Italian wine: out of which 50% is exported.     (Italy produces 28.9% of 170 million gallons of wines produced in the European Union)  
 
Getting to know your  Chianti
 
The wines are based on the Sangiovese grape, and depending on the region blended with a small percentage of other grapes:   Canaiolo, Trebbiano and Malvasia Bianca , Mammolo, or Colorino to add some flesh and aromatic complexity …  In 1995 it became legal to produce a Chianti with 100% Sangiovese.  Producers now include some Merlot, for fruit and richness, or Cabernet Sauvignon, for power and dark fruit flavors. .  During the 1970s producers started to reduce the quantity of white grapes in Chianti which is a trend now slowly coming back. 
 
For a wine to retain the name of Chianti, it must be produced with at least 80% Sangiovese grapes
These are medium-bodied wine with strawberry and cherry fruits,  delicate notes of green herb, mineral soil, leather and spice. Some Chianti are fresh, easy-to-drink, and can be drunk young; others are full-bodied and intricate in flavor, and others need years to become full-bodied and develop the complex nuances and flavors of the traditional Tuscan reds.    
 
And then there are sub-zones: Much of Chianti is identified by its subzone, and  the name of a special vineyard or town which is a mark of distinction.    What they have in common is the grape variety Sangiovese, and the rules and regulations of the Chianti Wine Consortium.  
 
The Chianti Wine Consortium was established in 1927 by a group of wine growers from the Provinces of Florence, Siena, Arezzo and Pistoia, and later expanded its operations to include the entire production region. It was legally recognized by the Production Regulation of 1967, and incorporated into the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin - DOCG).   
 
At a dinner at Quattro Restaurant,  we tasted six DOCG wines from different regions of Tuscany which gave us an idea of the wide range of styles and of tastes of Chianti:  medium-high acidity and medium tannins,  juicy fruit notes of cherry, plum and raspberry make them very flexible with food pairings, particularly with  dishes with red sauce, beef, lamb and wild game.  These are easy-going wines — all under $15— that must be consumed right after pouring in the glass. The aromas and structures don’t  stand up to long exposure to air. 
 
 
Ruffino Chianti Superiore DOCG 2008 Il Superiore
 
Chianti DOCG 2009 Ruffino
The 7 Tuscan estates of Ruffino extend on 1500 hectares of land, with 600 hectares of vineyards.  Il superiore  is produced from grapes selected in low yield vineyards. No more that 7 tons of grapes per hectare are cultivated in these vineyards.    
Chianti Superiore has been authorized since 1996 as a specification for wines produced with a stricter rule of production than other Chianti wines. It is all in the vinification process. Chianti Superiore wines can be produced only from grapes cultivated in all the Chianti wine areas and must omit the sub-zone name on the label. Chianti Superiore cannot be sold to the consumer before nine months of ageing — ageing is calculated from 1 January after the picking — of which three must be in the bottle.  
 
Piccini Chianti DOCG 2009   established in the Province of Siena since 1882        
 
Castello di Gabbiano:Chianti DOCG  2009  The first historical references to Gabbiano date from the 11th century, when work began on a fortress to defend one of the most important communication routes between Florence and Siena…” The construction of the vaulted cellars, was begun in 1124, when the castle belonged to one of the most important banking families of Florence, the Bardi,  until the early part of the 15th century.  It was passed to the Soderini family who was responsible for the conversion of the turreted manor house of Gabbiano in a Fattoria…  
 
Chianti DOCG 2008 Fattorie Melini San Lorenzo
 
Chianti DOCG 2009 Melini Borghi d’Elsa