Within the undulating hills of central Tuscany lies the charming region of Chianti Classico, a nearly 100-square-mile sprawl of picturesque land dotted with vineyards, olive groves and Cyprus trees. Home to one of Italy’s most famous wines, this region’s wine-producing reputation wasn’t always as celebrated as it is today.
During the post-World War II years, Chianti’s population erupted. And in order to satisfy consumer demands, winemakers began to take shortcuts—shortcuts some viewed as sacrificing quality for quantity. High percentages of the inferior white varieties Trebbiano and Malvasia were added, ultimately diluting the Sangiovese-based wine.
Today, quality is at an all-time high, and wines from Chianti Classico are some of Italy’s finest. White grapes are no longer permitted in Chianti Classico production, and while they are still allowed in the broader Chianti designation, they can only account for 10% of the blend. Many producers, however, eschew this practice. As a means to please the New World palates of today, small additions of international varieties—specifically Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot—are allowed, creating plush textured wines rich in black cherry, violet and cocoa flavors, a far cry from the dilute versions of yesterday.