Chianti is a great wine to enjoy with an Italian meal. Whether it is spaghetti and meatballs, sausages or pizza, a Chianti is a great pairing. And it's not hard to find a good one.
Chianti is a region within Tuscany in central Italy, between Florence and Siena. And it produces the best known of the Italian wines. While the wines have been around since the Middle Ages, the Chianti region was officially established in the 18th century (1716 to be exact). But it wasn't until 1967 that the Chianti Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) was created. Then, in 1984, the region reached Italy's highest level of wines, the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). This is important because DOC wines are the most commonly found wines in Italy, while DOCG wines only cover a handful of Italian wines with the highest of quality.
And in case you didn't know, Chianti is a region, not a grape. The wines of Chianti are made from the Sangiovese grape. Local laws require Chianti to have at least 70% Sangiovese with the more prestigious Chianti Classico having at least 80% Sangiovese.
When shopping for Chianti, look for the black rooster (gallo nero in Italian) on the neck of the bottle. The black rooster indicates it's Chianti Classico making it easy to distinguish from the more common Chianti.
Some may also think of Chianti as the wine in the straw basket. While it was a distinguishing trait of Chianti in the past, most producers are now using the traditional styled wine bottle. So, if you're trying to create an Italian look for your meal, a bottle of Chianti with a straw basket base will certainly do. But if you're looking for a nicer bottle of Chianti, go with the rooster. Cheers!