Chianti, History, culture and curiosities

 

The presence of vineyards in the Chianti area goes back to the Etruscan era and there is proof it depicted on vases from sixth century a.C. that can be found at Castellina in Chianti. A great part of the region during this time period was home to a variety of vineyards, which continued to be cultivated during the Roman Empire. The vines then survived after the Romans only thanks to the hard work and dedication of the Benedictine and Vallombrosian monks. They not only took care of the land and cultivation of vines and olive trees, but they also passed on the winemaking spirit and traditions by promoting these activities among the locals. After the year 1000, vine cultivation was so widespread that in the rows were sometimes surrounded by enclosures to protect against thieves and animals raids.

Some dates

- 790: the word Chianti appeared in written form for the first time on parchment.

- 913: tidings of wine-making activity on parchment in Santa Cristina church in Lucignano.

- 1023: a settler is granted permission to cultivate vines in Grignano.

- Middle Age and 12thcentury: wine culture became widespread, thanks to monks who taught the cultivation methods, together with wine producers who are still famous today , such as Ricasoli and Antinori.

- The age of city states: their birth is linked to an increase in wine production, which leads to its commerce, and to more the wealth, power and success of the lord. Arte dei Vinattieri arose among arts and crafts in the middle of the thirteenth century (a time period in art when wine-making was the main subject), and inns and wine cellars open.

Consumption

From a beverage initially restricted only to nobles, the popularity of this wine quickly spread, and in no time, drinking Chianti became a commonality in every social class. It was often used to appease unhealthy water, as food for nutrition, and sometimes, as a medicine.

White, red

In some ancient documents there’s mention of a vermilion or bright (red) and vernaccia (white). In other medieval records, there is an indication of Chianti as a white wine. Nobody knows how and when the wine changed color, but before its present-day name, it was known everywhere for its freshness and vividness thanks to the work of Durante and Ruberto di Guido Bernardi. According to them, raisins had to be added to the wine to remove impurities, as well as albumen and almonds, salt to make it clearer, pepper and rose petals for the color.

Protection

At the beginning of the fifteenth century it is clear that the wine must be protected, both for its name and quality (no grape harvest is allowed before September, the 29th), and against forgery. The close safeguarding of the wine continued in the following centuries, and in 1716 Cosimo III issued a decree in order to control wine names, production, sales and production areas.

 

Production steps and composition

- His motu decree defines the rules of production for the four wines of the region: Chianti, Pomino, Carmignano and Val d’Arno di Sopra.

- In the second half of the eighteenth century Accademia dei Georgofili begun experimenting with vine varieties, mixing them and examining their features before the wine-making process.

- Bettino Ricasoli, named “Iron Baron”, decided that stalks and grapes must be separated (destemming), that the wine must ferment in closed vases, that the drawing off (wine extraction from the must) must be quick and that the wine must ferment for a second time with the addition of must.

- In 1874 grape blending is defined and in 1984 it is disciplined.

Chianti and famous people

- After “pace medicea”, the Florentines begun to look at wine-making activity as an achievement, not only as a source of income.

- Michelangelo bought houses and plots of land in Chianti and dedicated himself to wine-making.

- In 1512 Machiavelli sought refuge in the small farms he had in area after he was accused of conspiracy against the Medici family.

- Galilei went to Chianti to take a rest from discussions with the scientific and ecclesiastical world.

- Verdi, according to his wife’s words, had a keen appreciation for Chianti wine.

For those wishing to follow us on our journey through Italian excellence, explore with us the IT 5 of the week about Chianti: for true connoisseurs.