Chianti is Italy's most famous red wine, which takes its name from a traditional wine region of Tuscany where it is produced. It used to be easily identified by its squat bottle enclosed in a woven straw basket, called fiasco (flask); however, today the fiasco is only used by a few winemakers now; most Chianti is bottled in traditionally shaped red wine bottles.
Easy drinking Chianti style red wine is generally fairly inexpensive to buy, with basic Chianti wines selling for less than NZ$20 for a 750ml bottle. More quality focused and sophisticated Chianti wines, however, are crafted and sold at substantially higher prices. Until the middle of the 19th century Chianti was based solely on in the indigenous Sangiovese red grape varietal, blended with a variable mix of other local varietals.
During the second half of the 19th century Baron Bettino Ricasoli who was an important Chianti producer and, in the same time, minister in Tuscany and then Prime Minister in the Kingdom of Italy, imposed his ideas on the wines blend: Chianti should be produced with 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo and 15% Malvasia Bianca.
During the 1970s, producers started to reduce the quantity of white grapes in Chianti red wines and eventually from 1995 it is legal to produce Chianti with 100% Sangiovese, or at least without the white grape varietals. It may have a picture of a black rooster (known as the - Gallo Nero) on the neck of the bottle, which indicates that the producer of the wine is a member of the 'Gallo Nero' Consortium; an association of quality wine producers of the 'Classico' sub-area, and sharing marketing costs.
Since 2005 the black rooster has been the emblem of the Chianti Classico producers association. Aged Chianti (which involves 38 months ageing instead of 4-7), may be labeled as Riserva. Chianti that meets more stringent requirements, (lower yields, higher alcohol content and dry extract) may be labeled as Chianti Superiore. Though it should be noted that a Chianti from the 'Classico' sub-area is not allowed in any case to be labeled as 'Superiore'.