Chianti…Classico… Riserva… DOCG… Red Rooster? What Does it all Mean?

I am a very lucky individual to be able to say that my first real experience with wine was smack dab in the middle of Tuscany, and Chianti was the first wine that had me hooked.

When learning about wine in a place where it is so engrained in the culture, it’s hard not to fall in love, but it wasn’t until after I returned to America that I actually started learning more about the different classifications of Chianti.

Mainly, I was forced to start learning because my options were incredibly limited when I was searching for Chianti on shelves in America. I remembered from what education I did pick up in Italy that I was always supposed to look for DOCG and a black rooster, but beyond looking for those indicators, I didn’t really know what the differences were.

Generic “Chianti” on a label with nothing else is still going to be a red wine from the Chianti region made from predominately Sangiovese, but is not held to quite as high of regulations as Classico. These are usually going to be lower price point, high production yield wines.

The Chianti Classico region is roughly around 100 square miles and to earn that black rooster a wine must meet the following qualifications:

  1. The wine must be made up of at least 80% Sangiovese from within the Classico territory
  2. The Alcohol content must be at least 12%
  3. The wine must spend at least 12 months aging in oak barrels

Now if we take things up a level and add that “Riserva” title, we’re speaking about a bottle of wine that stands out from the crowd. To earn the Riserva classification, the wine must meet all of the Chianti Classico DOCG rules from above, but spends a longer period ageing in oak barrels, and at least three months aging in the bottle. The alcohol content is upped to a minimum of 12.5%, and these bottles make excellent candidates for further cellar ageing.

Carpineto’s Chianti Classico Riserva is a fantastic and elegant expression of the region. The bottle has the DOCG sticker, as well as the Black Rooster, so we know it meets all of the Classico regulations, and the Riserva title means this bottle has gotten extra time; 10 months in bottle to be specific! This wine a beautiful ruby red with notes of cherry, raspberry, violet and vanilla bean on the nose. On the palate, flavors of red fruits like cherries and strawberries meet plum, fig, a hint of dried herbs and oak. Fairly full bodied with a long, velvety finish, this wine will mentally transport you to the Tuscan hills.