Everyone is familiar with Chianti, Italy’s most famous wine region, the home of the county’s most well-known red wine name. And most frequent Italian restaurant-goers might recognize the emblem of the black rooster that adorns the bottles of Chianti Classico, the area that begat Chianti back in the 1700s. Since 1932, Chianti has officially adorned wines grown well beyond the borders of the Chianti Classico appellation. Today, there are seven subzones within Chianti, with Chianti Classico being something separate.
One of these is Chianti Colli Senesi, Chianti from the hills around Siena. This subzone is actually three areas, one around the appellations of San Gimignano, another around Montepulciano and the southernmost, covering the areas of Brunello di Montalcino. Wines from the Chianti Colli Senesi subzone can be great to chance upon, because these wines are often very similar to the well-regarded wines of Rosso di Montalcino, the unfairly monikered, “Baby Brunellos” that can provide richness and depth of flavors, but early drinkability. Noted wine educator and author Kevin Zraly describes the Rosso di Montalcino as “one of the top ten values…a great, great wine.” And, the Chianti Colli Senesi wines are even more affordable.
Several producers in the Montalcino area make Brunello, Rosso di Montalcino and Chianti Colli Senesi. You might want to keep these producers in mind when thinking about Chianti at a restaurant or wine shop, and you will likely be rewarded with a nice value:
- Castello Romitorio – 100% Sangiovese
- Camigliano – 100% Sangiovese
- La Ragnaie – 100% Sangiovese
- Molino di Sant’Antimo – 10% Canaiolo
- Montepescini – 10% Canaiolo
- Silvio Nardi – 10-15% Canaiolo
- Villa Poggio Salvi Caspagnolo – 10% Merlot
- Vitanza – 100% Sangiovese
While Rosso, like Brunello, have to be 100% Sangiovese, the wines with the Chianti Colli Senesi have to be at least 75% with up to 10% being Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. Many are 100% Sangiovese, often made with grapes that are grown at higher elevations than permitted by the Brunello consortium, or are made from vineyards that are not quite as prime. The minimum alcohol levels – and aging requirements for the Riserva – are a little higher than the other non-Chianti Classico subzones also helping to ensure that these are usually are heartier than most of their Chianti brethren, but still a very good match for a wide range of foods, as most Chianti is.