A Toast to a Classic
The Tuscan countryside where Chianti Classico is grown.
By Abby Cifarelli
Scene from an Italian restaurant – each table surrounded by wooden chairs, topped with a red and white tablecloth, and, in the middle, a bottle of Chianti Classico wrapped in straw. The reputation of Chianti Classico has come a long way since those little Italian restaurant days, gaining praise and accolades for quality. These days, the image of Chianti is a black rooster, a nod to a Medieval legend.
A very long time ago, the cities of Florence and Siena had a disagreement over ownership of the Chianti territory. To settle it once and for all, and lay boundaries between the two cities, a knight from each city would ride at a rooster’s sunrise crow. The point at which they met would be the new city demarcation.
Siena chose a white rooster, and Florence a black one. Unlike Siena, Florence kept its rooster in a dark chicken coop and did not feed it for days before the ride. When the day arrived, since the black rooster was suffering from starvation, it crowed before sunrise, which cued the knight to get a head start. With that, the Florence Knight rode through the entire Chianti Classico region before meeting with Siena.
My time in Chianti began with an hour drive over rolling hills surrounded by cypress trees in the Tuscan countryside. I visited two vineyards that tell the story of keeping the tradition of the region alive and evolving with the times. Our first stop was Castello di Monsanto, which is home to the Bianchi family. Castello di Monsanto has been making wine since 1962, the year they bottled the first Chianti Classic Cru made from a single vineyard. Castello di Monsanto has a catalogue of many different wine styles, but the opportunity to taste the single vineyard Il Poggio Chianti Classico 2014 was an extraordinary experience.
The wine was ruby red in color with aromas of toasted strawberries, red cherries, and spice. The palate was medium bodied with medium acidity and a dry finish. Flavors matched the aromas found on the nose with a touch of tobacco.
The next stop, Istine Vineyard, a small vineyard atop a hill in Radda Chianti, is owned by the Fronti family. It has a shorter history, having started in the late 1950s. Originally, the family didn’t bottle their own wine, they just sold it to other area vineyard owners.
In 2009, Istine bottled its first Chianti Classico, made with 100% Sangiovese. The color is crimson with aromas of cherry, raspberries, and plum. The palate is medium bodied with similar red fruit flavors and a touch of tobacco and spice.
Chianti is best enjoyed around the table with family, friends, and good food. Very versatile, it can be paired with homemade pizza, simple pasta dishes, roast beef, and leg of lamb.
Reach for a bottle of Chianti Classico this holiday season. You’ll find a good selection at local wine shops. Just keep an eye out for the black rooster!