Chianti is a sea of vines amid the pastoral slopes of Tuscany. Between Florence and Siena over one hundred and fifty thousand acres of vines share the hills of this ancient land with olive groves and grain fields, bleating goats and sheep, and woods full of oak and chestnut. Chianti is the largest DOC district of Italy, producing more than two hundred million liters of wine from seven distinct districts. Chianti is, in fact, many different wines from over seven thousand registered growers in seven districts and their outlying areas. This is a land of contrast, a world in which tradition runs as deep as the roots of the vines on craggy slopes, and the adaptation of modern technology transform Italy's best known wine into one of the world's finest.
As far back as the 9th century B.C., the Etruscans were the first known inhabitants of Tuscany to cultivate the vine in Chianti. They were followed by the Romans who planted widely in the area, and the Church, whose stable influence in the early medieval period assured the continuation of vine cultivation and winemaking in Chianti. However, it wasn't until the 13th century that the much disputed wine-growing region between Florence and Siena became known as Chianti and the wines of that ancient hunting area began to be called by that name. At first, only the white wine of the district was called Chianti, but by the early 16th century the dry red wine of the area, also referred to as "Vermiglio," by Michelangelo and his Florentine contemporaries, had also adopted the name Chianti.
Today, Chianti is only a red wine. There is no legal provision for white Chianti, although a sizable portion of the district is devoted to the cultivation of white grapes, some of which find their way into the red wine. Chianti is not the product of a single grape variety. It is a blend of at least four, and sometimes five or more grapes, as prescribed by DOCG regulation. Two of the grapes, Trebbiano and Malvasia, are white.
In the 19th century, the powerful Baron Ricasoli, whose Brolio estate still produces wine, developed the working formula of grape proportions that is still roughly practiced in Chianti. Today, as prescribed by law, that formula consists of blending 75%-90% Sangiovese, the most renowned red grape of Tuscany, 5%-10% Canaiolo Nero and 2%-10% Trebbiano and Malvasia. In fact, Colorino, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and even grapes from outside of Tuscany can be used in small proportions, up to 10%, to firm up Chianti. Due to the number and varying proportions of grapes prescribed for Chianti, as well as the differences in soil and micro-climate from vineyard to vineyard, , the Chianti vintner has real latitude in developing his own style of wine.