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    Five fun facts about Chianti Wines

    Five fun facts about Chianti Wines

    Posted on 15 February 2022

    Chianti is arguably the most famous name in Italian wine.  Be on stage and screen, or adorning the tables of hundreds of thousands of Italian restaurants across the globe, most of us had probably heard of Chianti long before we ever had the chance to taste our way through the beautiful wines themselves.   As we know now, Chianti is not a simple beast.  The typical flavors are red fruit, with a touch of herb and spice, that pairs fabulously with pizzas and pasta with even the slightest hint of tomato sauce.  But it’s definitely not a one-trick pony.  The various Classico regions, and the Superiore and Riserva regulations, can often lead to a pleasing, if not sometimes confusing, myriad of styles.   In this blog post, we’ll not delve too far into the various winemaking techniques and terroirs that provide that breath of style.  The job here is to give you 5 fun facts to roll out to your friends and family next time you open up a bottle of the good stuff.  So here we go…    

    1) ONE OF THE WORLD’S OLDEST WINE REGIONS

    Wine has been produced in the Chianti region of Tuscany for thousands of years. The Etruscans introduced wine too much of Italy and these rolling hills on Central Italy’s western coast were marked early for their vinous potential.  Despite the long history, however, we have to wait until the 14th century for the first recorded use of the name “Chianti” with reference to a wine region of Italy.   Where it becomes very interesting for a modern wine lover, is that Chianti was one of the first-ever designated wine zones in the world, following an edict from 1716 issued by the Grand Duke Cosimo III de Medici.  The region, and official use of the name Chianti, was based around 4 main townships (Greve, Castellina, Gaiole, and Radda) and loosely mirrors today’s modern Chianti Classico region.    

    2)  LITTLE BLACK ROOSTER

    The Chianti Classico region has used an unmistakable black rooster symbol on the label since 1924 to promote the wines and to guarantee authenticity.  For the story behind this black rooster, we have to go back to a land dispute in the 13th century…   The neighboring city-states of Florence and Siena couldn’t agree on the territorial boundary between them, that centered in the region of Chianti.  They decided to settle it with a horse race.  At the call of the morning rooster, a horseman would set out from each city and wherever they met would mark the undisputed border.  But the Florentines had a trick up their sleeve.   They chose a specific black rooster and gave him no food for a few days before the day of the race.  This meant that on the big day the black rooster from Florence called far earlier than dawn, meaning the rider from Florence had a headstart.  The riders eventually met only 20kms from the city walls of Siena and set a very advantageous boundary in favor of the Florentines.  The black rooster symbol has been revered in these parts ever since.    

    3) NOT ALWAYS SANGIOVESE  

    Sangiovese is one of the world’s superstar grape varieties.  It’s now grown across most regions of Italy and has spread to various regions of the world in countries such as Argentina, the USA, and Australia.  The Chianti region, however, is where Sangiovese feels at home and found its fame.  But it’s not always been the case.   The wines of Chianti often comprised much more of other local red grapes such as Canaiolo Nero and Colorino, and even white grapes such as Malvasia and Trebbiano.  It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that the famous Baron Ricasoli performed experiments on various grapes and plots and decided Sangiovese was the grape of choice for Chianti.  Nowadays all Chianti wines have a high minimum Sangiovese content in the blends, starting from 70% upwards, but don’t be surprised to still find good chunks of the local reds or even Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon making up the rest!    

    4) FAVA BEANS WITH A NICE...CHIANTI??  

    Arguably the most famous mention of Chianti on stage or screen was spoken by one the evilest men to ever grace a film script.  But it was never meant to be Chianti at all!   One of the most quotable lines from the 1991 blockbuster thriller Silence of the Lambs is where Hannibal Lecter talks of eating the liver of his victim “with some fava beans and a nice Chianti”.  In the book, however, it was actually Amarone that Dr. Lecter paired with his grizzly dinner.  The film’s scriptwriters and directors decided to change it to Chianti as they believed it was a more widely recognized brand for cinema-goers.    

    5) THE STRAW BASE WASN’T ALWAYS A GIMMICK

    Arguably the most famous mention of Chianti on stage or screen was spoken by one the evilest men to ever grace a film script.  But it was never meant to be Chianti at all!   One of the most quotable lines from the 1991 blockbuster thriller Silence of the Lambs is where Hannibal Lecter talks of eating the liver of his victim “with some fava beans and a nice Chianti”.  In the book, however, it was actually Amarone that Dr Lecter paired with his grizzly dinner.  The film’s scriptwriters and directors decided to change it to Chianti as they believed it was a more widely recognized brand for cinema-goers.    

    5) THE STRAW BASE WASN’T ALWAYS A GIMMICK

    Only one final thing to do in order to regale your guests with these great facts; you need to have some Chianti wines to try! 

    Check out the following wines from the Libiamo website, across a range of styles and price points to enjoy:  

    Castello Di Ama’s Chianti Classico “San Lorenzo” 2016  
    From the Classico region, a concentrated Chianti from the prized vineyard site of San Lorenzo  
    Castello Di Ama’s Chianti Classico Riserva 2008
    From the Classico region, a concentrated Chianti with greater oak age and now some bottle age too  
    Salcheto’s Chianti Biskero 2020
    An organic Chianti that was made to be one the finest food pairers in your wine rack  


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