There has always been an idiomatic-geographic confusion between two different DOCGs: Chianti Classico and Chianti. While in the enological field there are two separate terms, “Chianti Classico” and “Chianti,” from the historical-geographical standpoint there is only the term “Chianti.”
For consumers, but even for wine insiders, the borderline between these two contexts is so unclear that the adjective “Classico” is often omitted in describing a Chianti Classico in tastings, comments and articles.
In fact, that adjective is very important, because it distinguishes Chianti Classico from Chianti wine. They are two distinct and separate DOCGs, with two different sets of production regulations, production zones and consortiums for the protection of the product.
In 1716 Cosimo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, officially delimited the Chianti production zone: an area lying between the cities of Florence and Siena where the homonymous wine was produced and was already enjoying great success. At that time the wine called “Chianti” was made in the territory called “Chianti”.
In the early 20th century, when the fame of Chianti wine was increasing year by year and its production territory was no longer able to meet a growing national and foreign demand, wine began to be made outside the Chianti zone delimited in 1716, which was also called “Chianti” or “Chianti-style” wine.
And so in 1924 to defend their own wines, makers of the original Chianti founded the Consorzio per la tutela del vino tipico del Chianti e della sua marca di origine (Consortium for the Protection of Typical Chianti Wine and its Mark of Origin). The trademark immediately chosen was the Black Rooster, historic symbol of the Chianti Military League and depicted by famous painter Giorgio Vasari on the ceiling of the Salone dei Cinquecento at Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.
In 1932 a specific ministerial decree was issued to distinguish the Chianti made in its zone of origin by adding the adjective “Classico”. Since then, Chianti wine produced outside the geographical area has been called “Chianti” while Chianti Classico is the wine made within the original production zone, the one known since 1716 as “Chianti”.