by Fred McMillin
for January 28, 1999


The Chianti Pedigree

Castello di Gabbiano The Name "Chianti"—Over 2,000 years ago there was a land-owning Etruscan family named Clanti, the source of the modern name of the area. (There are other theories.)

"Chianti" Applied To Wine—The oldest known written record is a December 1398 bill for "6 casks of white Chianti wine."

Chianti Reaches The London Market—The wine is known as "Florence" and on Jan. 8, 1661 Samuel Pepys (peeps) was pleased with the "Florence" wine served him at the home of Lady Sandwich.

Chianti Boundries—The Grand Duke of Tuscan Cosimo III, issued an edict in 1716 defining the Chianti zone. The best of the zone would be recognized as Chianti Classico over 200 years later (1941) by the Italian government.

A "Riserva"—An even more recent development is the official definition of a RISERVA; it must be aged a minimum of three years from the January following the vintage, compared to only months for the standard Chianti.

So, if a merchant offers you a 1997 Riserva, dial 911 because something is wrong...the '97s can't be released legally yet. Instead, get this legitimate Riserva that my panel gave a rousing HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Today's Fine Wine

1994 Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany, Italy
Producer—Castello di Gabbiano...loads of lore here...the castle was completed in 1250...later purchased by a patron of Leonardo da Vinci, Cardinal Francesco Solderini...kept by that family until they were kicked out by none other than the powerful Medicis.
Composition—Italian law now permits more Sangiovese so Gabbiano went for it; there's 93% of Tuscany's best grape in this blend.
Food—Any fairly robust Italian dish...also, well-sauced pork or veal.
Contact—Ms. Allison Simpson at (707) 963-8989, x-2162.
Price—$17 range.

Note: For much more about Gabbiano, see WineDay's Winery of the Week article titled, "Chianti Castle", April 10, 1998. For example, the castle construction started in 1124, when Crusaders were bringing a sensational new foodstuff back to Europe. We call it sugar!

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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