A case of 'Chianti soundinghe institutionalized in the Fascist era has in fact inflated the denomination, hiding the true nectar among hundreds of completely different wines, but with the same name. The justification: to attract valuable currency to the homeland and bring the Lira to ninety. But what about the real Chianti? Does it still exist?
Chianti is a short mountain range (about 20 km) straddling the provinces of Siena, Florence and Arezzo, which however does not fully coincide with the area known worldwide as'Chiantishire'.
The product par excellence of the Chianti area contributed to create the misunderstanding: the famous wine, which enjoys protection as a geographical indication and which has become an icon of 'good drinking' in the world.
It is a pity that it is often not known that what you drink is very different from the original Chianti, the prerogative of a small area made up of four municipalities which, in 1932, saw the denomination usurped for the benefit of the producers of the nearby areas, including today to tomorrow in the denomination.
But let's see how the facts went.
Some historical notes on Chianti
There are numerous testimonies which recall the presence of the Etruscans and Romans in the Chianti area, But it is from the Middle Ages that Chianti begins to acquire that architectural landscape that still distinguishes it today.
Following bitter wars among local lords, the area enjoyed a period of peace in the late Middle Ages, which acted as a catalyst for the region's agricultural economy. In fact, most of the farmhouses and farm buildings, which still exist today, date back to that period. It was the consecration of the relationship that since the Etruscan era linked the people of Chianti with their land. One of the expressions of this symbiosis was the production of wine, already in documents of the 1400s called "Chianti".
From the first articles medieval times of 1398, however, Chianti was a white wine. It was only in 1874 that the Chianti blend was defined, which inspired the 1984 disciplinary over a century later.
The Black Rooster
The Chianti area nevertheless acquired such prestige as to induce, in 1716, the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo III to protect its name, setting the boundaries of the production area in a tender, reduced to a little less than the municipalities that were included in the Province of Chianti (with capital in Radda and including the 4 Municipalities of Castellina, Gaiole, Greve and Radda) and established in the second half of the same century following the subdivision of the Grand Duchy into Provinces by Ferdinand III.
To protect production del Chianti, on 14 May 1924 a group of 33 producers met in Radda in Chianti to create the Consortium for the defense of this wine and its origin. The symbol chosen was the Black Rooster, emblem that identified the ancient Military League of Chianti and that was reproduced among other things by the painter Giorgio Vasari on the ceiling of the Salone dei Cinquecento, in the Florentine Palazzo Vecchio.
Mussolini and the extension of the production area
Until the time of the fascist regime Chianti was therefore produced in 4 municipalities located between Siena and Florence and specifically: Castellina in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, Radda in Chianti and Greve in Chianti.
During the regime a specific economic-financial policy was imposed on Italy. In 1926 the attention of the then minister Giuseppe Volpi concentrated in fact on the devaluation problems that had plagued the lira, depreciating its value by about 20% compared to the period prior to the First World War.
In that moment the exchange rate was 153 lire for one pound and the goal was to reach Quota 90, promoted by Mussolini during the Pesaro speech on August 18, 1926.
From 4 to 11 production areas
It is also considered reduced the production of Chianti wine in the aforementioned territory, Mussolini, influenced by the then Ministry of National Economy, issued a decree by which the Chianti production area was extended, in particular including production areas included in the provinces of Pisa, Arezzo and some areas not previously included always belonging to the provinces of Siena and Florence.
In addition to the four zones described above, the appellative of Chianti was attributed to wines obtained from grapes grown in other 7 production areas and precisely:
▪ Chianti Colli Aretini,
▪ Chianti Colli Fiorentini,
▪ Chianti Colli Senesi,
▪ Chianti Pisan Hills,
▪ Chianti Montalbano,
▪ Chianti Montespertoli,
▪ Chianti Rufina.
It is appropriate to specify that in the text of the ministerial decree, on the initiative of the Consortium for the defense of Chianti wine, the suffix 'Classico' was introduced for the area described above between the four original municipalities, precisely in order to distinguish the original from the other Chianti produced outside from that territory.
Il business of Chianti
The result However, this policy entailed an alteration of the product resulting from the loss of the link between product and territory.
The ministerial decree it therefore determined a decline in the quality of the product and a devaluation linked to an increase in production per hectare and consequent lower production costs for the new areas introduced.
Despite the extension out of all proportion of the Chianti area, the farmers of the Montepulciano area refused to join this extension, maintaining an identity linked to their area and defending their link with the territory, giving up being swallowed up in the 'business'of Chianti.
At first Chianti Classico was not part of a specific Denomination, but was a sub-denomination of the broader Denomination of Controlled Origin (DOC) Chianti and was reserved exclusively for wines produced in the Classico sub-area.
The Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin (DOCG) Chianti was authorized by Presidential Decree 2 July 1984 and subsequent amendments. It refers to only one disciplinary which includes all the production sub-areas, therefore including the Chianti Classico area, which however cannot be superimposed on the original one.
Even the blends they are no longer the same as the 'real Chianti', with the result that the difference between a Chianti and a Chianti Classico is not evident to the consumer.
Chianti sounding, little known inflation
Inflation of which the appellation was a victim severely damages the producers of the areas where Chianti was produced before the extension of the area.
The story is unknown to the millions of consumers who uncork bottles of Chianti every year, some of which are now sold off even in foreign distribution chains. As well as the tourists who flock to the 'Chiantishire', without knowing what the boundaries of the small area really are where a particular type of wine was produced that, even today, retains peculiar characteristics and which, in large numbers, are known and appreciated only by a few and skilled connoisseurs.
Once upon a time there was Chianti, what today is a Chianti among the many Chianti.
All damages of the Chianti sounding
The situation unfortunately described above constitutes a distortion of the initial framework that had been created before its time by the Grand Duke Cosimo III precisely to counter any possible commercial abuse that - evidently - was being perpetrated against the 4 wines object of the 1716 Bando.
The race of Mussolini to the 'precious currency' has in fact legalized a phenomenon of 'Chianti sounding ' and deprived consumers of the pleasure of fully understanding the true story of one of the world's best-known wines.
A commercial phenomenon which, however, has created unfair competition between producers and significant inequalities.
With damage, as well as of the most virtuous producers who have kept the tradition alive in the four municipalities of the 'old' Chianti, also of consumers who, with all due respect to their wallet, for 5 or 6 euros today drink a wine that is everything, except Chianti.