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chianti classico is the heartland of the chianti wine region – its traditional and longest-established viticultural area. the term classico is used in this way in several ıtalian wine regions (orvieto and valpolicella, for example), although chianti is almost certainly the most famous example. this fame is due not just to the high quality of the wines, but also to the classico zone's iconic tuscan landscape and winemaking traditions. the typical chianti classico wine is a ruby-red, sangiovese-based wine with aromas of violets and cherries and a hint of earthy spice.
chianti classico's black cockerel
bottles of chianti classico wine are marked by the docg's black cockerel logo. while this symbol has a clear practical application (setting the wines visually apart from standard chianti), it also has a romanticized and much-told history. legend has it that, in the 13th century, the warring provinces of florence and siena found a novel way to solve their ongoing border disputes. they agreed to a race; when the first cockerel crowed at dawn, each city would send out its fastest rider bound for the rival city. where the two riders met would mark the new provincial boundary. however, the cunning florentines gained a head start by starving their (black) cockerel to make him sing earlier, weighting the outcome in florence's favor. the modern-day chianti classico viticultural area now covers almost all land between siena and florence, buffered at each end by the colli fiorentini and colli senesi production zones.
the very first classico area here was marked out in 1716 by grand duke cosimo ııı de medici. this was enlarged significantly in 1932, a change criticized as being over-generous and potentially damaging to the chianti classico name. ıt cannot be denied that the existing area is rather varied in terms of terroir. nevertheless, this larger area became legally recognized in 1966 when ıtaly began formalizing its wine laws and doc system. ın the 1980s, 'chianti classico' was promoted from doc to docg status.
there are three quality levels within chianti classico wines: 'annata', 'riserva' and 'gran selezione'. the annata wines are essentially standard chianti classico, but the title riserva is earned only by those that have been aged for 24 months before commercial release. to qualify as 'chianti classico gran selezione', a wine must be made from a single vineyard or estate and have been aged for a full 30 months.
chianti classico has seven 'cousins', the other demarcated chianti zones: colli fiorentini, colli senesi, colli aretini, colline pisane, montalbano, montespertoli and rufina. of these, rufina is the only one to rival the quality of classico.