The Wine Blog

Paul Wagner’s Chianti Wines

February 13, 2014

Chianti Classico. No region in the world of wine has transformed itself more completely. What was once the ONLY Italian red wine known in America, Chianti Classico is now breaking new ground in every way and creating wines that are challenging the very best on earth. What is more, the region is now attracting the attention of some of the top wine collectors and investors from around the globe as well. Paul Wagner, who teaches wine classes at both the Culinary Institute of America and Napa Valley College’s renowned Viticulture and Enology program, has an intimate knowledge of the wines of Chianti Classico and the stories behind them. He’ll explain how all of this happened in the short span of less than twenty years and will back up the explanation with some of the greatest Sangiovese wines you have ever tasted. Packs your bags, we’re off to the heart of Tuscany!

The History:

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 4.46.03 PMThe DOCG of Chianti Classico was first established in 1716, when the Etruscans gave their name to Tuscany and the Romans first built the roads of the area. The landscape was developed during Medieval times.



The Territory:Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 2.20.22 PM

The regions of Classic Chianti lies between Florence and Siena. The total area is composed of 175,000 acres, composed of Castellina, Gaiole, Greve and Radda as well as parts of Barberino Val d’Elsa, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Poggibonsi, San Casciano Val di Pesa and Tavarnelle Val di Pesa. Vineyards compose 25,000 acres of this area. There are 18,000 acres worth of vineyards registered for Chianti Classico.

The Climate:

A continental climate makes for good temperature differences between the day and night. These temperature fluctuations, coupled with prevalent rain in late autumn and spring make for excellent Chianti growing conditions.

The Soil:

Mostly composed of Marl, with some heavy clay. Limestone-rich marl and tuff are characteristic of the south. Cobblestone and rock of calcerous origin can be found throughout the countryside.

The Grapes:

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 2.29.46 PMYields are highly regulated by the government: Sangiovese must be atleast 80% of yields. A maximum of 20% of yields can beof other authorized indigenous or international red grapes


Annual Bottle Production:

On average, 35 bottles are produced—that’s 7,130,000 gallons!


This wine is exported to more than 50 countries, of which the US is the biggest importer, followed closely by Italy.Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 2.34.02 PM

Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico

Consists of 560 members, 365 of which are bottlers.

Chianti Classico VS. Chianti:Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 4.54.03 PM


The name of the territory, delimited in 1716.


Wine made in Tuscany, but not the geographical zone of “Chianti”

Chianti Classico:

Wine made in Tuscany, in the geographical zone of “Chianti”. Only this wine is allowed to bear the Black Rooster symbol of official Chianti.

Types of Chianti


Chianti Classico Banfi

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 2.40.56 PMGrape Varieties:

– Traditional varieties of Chianti Classico.

– Absolute predominance of Sangiovese.


– The fermentation takes place with traditional skin contact of 8-10 days.

– Short wood aging follows.

– Bottling is carried out in the summer subsequent to the harvest.


Chianti Classico Querciabella

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 2.41.15 PMGrape Varieties:

– Sangiovese (95%); Cabernet Sauvignon (5%).


– Grapes destemmed, not crushed.

– Macerations last about 12 days for the Sangiovese, and up to 20 days for the other cépages.

– Full malolactic fermentation.

– 100% French Oak barriques. The various cépages undergo separate élevage.

– At the end of the élevage, the best lots are selected.

– After bottling, the wine rests for at least three months before release, around 18 months after harvest.


Chianti Classico Riserva Castello di Albola

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 2.41.23 PMGrape Varieties:

– 95% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo.


– Matures in oak for two years.

– One can detect the high-altitude vineyards in its finesse, the heat of the earth in its depth and the nuances of woodlands in its extraordinarily persistent bouquet.

– It is a wine to serve with succulent, rich dishes, to be drunk with respect for history but also with the joy of discovery.


Chianti Classico Riserva Castello di Gabbiano

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 2.41.33 PMGrape Varieties:

– 95% Sangiovese, 5% merlot.


– Harvested by hand, delicate pressing, removal of stalks, malolactic fermentation to its conclusion –only partly in wood.

– Aged 16 to 18 months in casks of medium to large capacity and in barriques of French oak.


Chianti Classico Riserva Croce

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 2.41.42 PM Grape Varieties:

– 97% Sangiovese, 3% Canaiolo.


– 15 months to 1 year of aging in Slavonian oak.

– Another 6 months cellaring.

– Croce takes its name from an ancient cross in the vineyard.


Chianti Classico Riserva Badia a Coltibuono

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 2.41.50 PMThis wine has achieved organic certification in 2003

Grape Varieties:

– Hand-picked organically-grown Sangiovese and Canaiolo


– Maceration on the skins for 3 weeks

– Aged 12 months in French and Astrian oak casks of varying sizes


paul_wagner_webPaul Wagner is a regular columnist for Vineyards & Winery Management Magazine, a member of the board of directors of the Society of Wine Educators and contributes to in the field of wine and food. Paul Wagner has judged many national and international wine competitions, is a founding member of the Academy of Wine Communications, a member of the nominations committee of the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintner’s Hall of Fame, and was inducted into the Spadarini della Castellania di Soave in 2005. In 2009 he was honored with a ‘Life Dedicated to Wine’ award at the Feria Nacional del Vino (FENAVIN) in Spain.