Chianti: Why Are There Two DOCG Regions?

There’s little doubt that Chianti is one of the world’s most well-known wine regions. Though connoisseurs may prefer to collect Barolo or Brunello, to casual drinkers it is surely the most recognizable name in Italian wine, and aside from some famous Frenchies, perhaps all of Europe. That said, after a recent conversation about the differences between the two official Chianti regions (Chianti DOCG and Chianti Classico DOCG) I realized that even I — an Italian wine fanatic — didn’t fully understand why there are two separate official wine regions named Chianti (not to mention all the subzones). I’ve heard the most basic, superficial explanation, of course— that the so-called original region broke away from a bastardized area that had become far too large and removed from its origins. There had to be, I figured, more to it than that.

In Soave, for example, there’s also a classico zone, but it is not a completely different denomination. As I set out to better understand this anomaly — even in the ever-confusing world of Italian wine regulation — I committed to going beyond PR materials and Wikipedia entries, to understanding the answers to this question with a depth that would allow me to challenge common market conceptions, even from established industry experts. As a lover of wine history, then, it was obvious where to start: at the beginning.

The following delves further into the history of a complex and fascinating area than was perhaps needed to answer to my question, but in the same sense it only scratches the surface of the complexities that centuries of war, politics and commerce can bring to an area like Chianti.

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