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If pizza and pasta are the best-known and best-loved elements of Italian cuisine, then Chianti is their liquid counterpart. These sangiovese-dominant wines are loaded with flavors of red fruit, cherries and tomato leaf, which make them come alive with all things pizza, pasta and beyond.
Chianti is a wine-producing area located in Italy’s Tuscany region. Wine produced here is labeled and referred to as Chianti, Chianti Classico or Chianti [subregion], based on the subappellation, or specific area, from which it comes. The vast majority of wines coming out of this region are red and produced from monovarietal sangiovese or sangiovese-dominant blends.
Chianti is produced in a variety of styles, and the wines’ final flavor profiles are heavily dependent on the subzones in which the fruit is grown as well as the vinification techniques imparted on the liquid. Chianti is most commonly vinified with some use of neutral oak.
As of 1995, Chianti wines were permitted to be produced with 100% sangiovese, though most bottlings are still blends, dominated by a minimum of 80% sangiovese. For a wine to be labeled Riserva, the wine must be aged for at least 38 months prior to release. Wines labeled Chianti Superiore are produced from lower yields and have slightly higher alcohol percentages. The seven subareas of Chianti are Classico, Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colline Pisane, Colli Senesi, Montalbano and Rufina.
Many Chianti Classico wines have a black rooster (gallo nero) illustration somewhere on the label or bottle neck. This indicates that the estate is part of the Chianti Classico Consortium, a local association of winemakers. Only wines from the Classico subregion of Chianti can showcase this illustration on the bottle, however.
Red wines from Chianti are generally dry and fruit-driven and marked by flavors of cherries, red fruits and tomato. Wines that age for a longer period of time in wood may show more warm notes of baking spice. Depending on the specific areas from which they come, Chianti wines can also show flavors of tobacco, cured meats, oregano, dried herbs, citrus peel, balsamic and/or licorice.
Chianti’s bright acid and moderate levels of tannins make the wine extremely food-friendly. However, it’s the wine’s tangy notes of tomato and cherry that make it perfect for sipping alongside Sunday supper favorites including pizza, pasta and all things with red sauce (think chicken parmigiana, eggplant rollatini and more).
Try these six Chianti Classico bottles with your favorite Italian dishes and get ready to enjoy a new appreciation for the wine region.
Castello di Volpaia Riserva
This delicious and accessible Chianti Classico Riserva, produced from organically farmed grapes, is perfect for leveling up your sangiovese game. Notes of ripe red berries, tomato leaf, oregano, blood orange rind and sweet spice jump from the wine’s garnet-hued profile. For a more affordable option, and an easy gateway into Volpaia’s world of viticulture, simply snag its entry-level Chianti Classico cuvée.
Fattoria Cigliano di Sopra
Watch out, long-standing Chianti Classico producers: This up-and-coming duo is certain to give you a run for your money. After honing their winemaking crafts with gurus Rajat Parr and Sashi Moorman, Maddalena Fucile and Matteo Vaccari returned to their native Tuscany to take the reins at Cigliano di Sopra. This organic/biodynamic wine jumps with flavors of pithy cherries, red currants, thyme and damp earth. This could easily become your new go-to bottle of red.
Fattoria Le Masse
This structured and savory Chianti Classico bottling is produced by Robin Mugnai, a former actor in Rome who returned to his family’s farm to pursue organic and biodynamic viticulture in the heart of Tuscany. Intense flavors of red cherries, tobacco leaf, tomato and fresh-cut herbs jump from the wine’s layered palate. Serve it slightly chilled with basically anything; you really can’t go wrong with this one.
This widely available bottle of wine from Giovanni Manetti, the president of the Chianti Classico Consorzio, is perfect for serving slightly chilled and sipping year-round. Notes of black cherries, sweet baking spice and used leather dominate the wine’s dynamic palate, which is marked by dusty tannins and ample amounts of bright acid. Lovers of all medium- to full-bodied reds, you’re going to love this wine.
If Chianti’s the kingdom, Monteraponi reigns king. Produced in Radda from high-altitude vineyards, this delicious juice is fermented in cement, macerated for three-plus weeks and aged in large oak botti (traditional large oak casks). Vibrant notes of red berries, cedar, flower petals, fresh basil and sandalwood ooze from the wine’s textured palate. Serve it with Margherita pizza or roasted poultry.