Traditionally, Chianti was a blend of grapes: red -- Sangiovese and Canaiolo -- and white: Malvasia and/or Trebbiano. This formula was developed in the mid 1800s by Baron Bettino Ricasoli whose family had been making Tuscan wine since the 12th century. Riscasoli posited that adding a small amount of Malvasia to Chianti would heighten its vivacity, boost its flavor and make it more drinkable when young. Since then, Chianti has traveled a road with more twists and turns than can be explained here.
There is a wide range of styles among Chiantis. Lighter bodied styles will generally have a higher proportion of white-grape varietals blended in, while Chiantis that have only red grape varietals will be fuller and richer. While only 15% of Cabernet Sauvignon is permitted in the blend, the nature of the grape varietal can have a dominant personality in the Chianti blend and be a strong influence in the wine.
Chianti Classico wines are characterized in their youth by their predominantly floral and cinnamon spicy bouquet. As the wine ages, aromas of tobacco and leather can emerge. Chiantis tend to have medium-high acidity and medium tannins. The acidity in the wines make them very flexible with food and wine pairings, particularly with Italian cuisines that feature red sauce as well as beef, lamb and wild game.
Basic-level Chianti, on the other hand, is often characterized by its juicy fruit notes of cherry, plum and raspberry and can range from simple quaffing wines to those approaching the level of Chianti Classico. Basic everyday-drinking Chiantis are at their peak drinking qualities often between three and five years after vintage, with premium examples having the potential to age for four to eight years. Well-made examples of Chianti Classico often have the potential to age and improve in the bottle from six to 20 years.
Cheeses that go well with Chianti include Asiago, Emmental, Fontina, Mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, Pecorino Toscano, Provolone, Ricotta and Tomme