Chianti & Food Pairings

Chianti is a fresh and youthful Italian wine from Tuscany with rustic charm and is made from the Sangiovese grape (with up to 15% content from other grapes). Rustic is a description often applied to Italian wines, and it often implies an earthiness or forest component to it. Expect flavours of rich mulch, violet and green olive. Meanwhile, in the mouth, you’ll find bright red flavours of strawberry, cherry and cherry tomato.

Chianti has great acidity, enough tannin for character, and a spicy/smoky finish that makes it a popular pairing with common Italian food dishes. Spaghetti or Pasta Bolognese, Pizza, Veal Marsala, Lasagna, Eggplant/Veal & Chicken Parmesan are all enhanced by the herbal notes and smoky finish. Meanwhile, the tart acidity of the wine ensures that it never clashes with the tomato sauce used to build these Italian staples.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Here are our top 5 Chianti and Food Pairings

Spaghetti and Meatballs & Chianti

We’ve all seen the Disney Classic, Lady and the Tramp. Remember that wicker covered wine bottle on the makeshift table that has a candle stuck in it? That’s an old school Chianti bottle. Chianti was such a staple in American Spaghetti restaurants as it perfectly pairs with every component in a spaghetti and meatball dish.

High in acidity, this red never clashes with a tomato-based sauce. Tomatoes, which are highly acidic, needs a highly acidic wine to compete with it, or else the dish will come off as flat and metallic. Sangiovese also has plenty of tannin, which is tamed by the meat in the meatballs. This harmonizing of the food & wine combo ensures that you taste both the wine and the meatballs on the finish.

When selecting a Chianti, you want a style that is traditional, as more modern versions might be too oaky and soft to compete with the sharpness of the tomato sauce.

Lasagna & Chianti

Perhaps the best wine to pair with lasagna is a Chianti. Tart, spicy and herbaceous, Chianti tastes like you’d expect Italy to taste like. This Sangiovese based red wine has a rustic profile and acidity that it won’t taste metallic against the tomato sauce backdrop.

Chicken Parmesan & Chianti

Chicken Parmesan is a dish that is always bound to cheer you up. It’s both filling and tasty, and adding a glass of Chianti to the side livens this dish up even further!

The herbaceous notes complement any herbs you may have added to the Parmesan sauce that you are smothering your breaded chicken with. Meanwhile, the spice and tartness liven up the somewhat neutral chicken within the sauce.

Pepperoni Pizza & Chianti

Chianti is a fabulous wine to pair with Pepperoni Pizza as they are both easy going foods. However, when paired together, they brighten each either up considerably. The acidity in Ruffino Chianti washes away the fattier component of the pizza, and the true pepperoni, cheese and tomato flavours will leap out. Meanwhile, the protein in both the pepperoni and cheese will have something for the tannin in the Chianti to cling on to, and thus the bright and fresh flavours of this wine will have a chance to strut its stuff across your palate.

Chianti’s acidity ensures that it will pair with all types of Pizza no matter what your topping might be. Green Pepper, Mushrooms, Ham, Bacon, and sun-dried tomato will all taste appealing under Chianti’s smoky and herbal umbrella.

Bruschetta & Chianti

Chianti hits a home run with this popular appetizer for wine pairing. Bruschetta recipes vary, but often it is garlic and tomatoes tossed in olive oil and spread across warm and toasty bread. It’s easy to prepare at home, and it’s delicious with Chianti.

Chianti is acidic enough to hold up against the tomatoes and has enough body to stand up to the strong flavours of the garlic and olive flavours. This winning combination is perfect for a starter, or to share on a chilly fall evening in front of the fireplace.

Classifications of Chianti

Chianti is not a complex wine, but the variety of options might be. What you need to know is that Chianti can be aged from 6 months to 2 and a half years or more. The longer the ageing, the deeper the flavours. Here is the breakdown.

  • Chianti – Aged for 6 months, and is quite tart
  • Chianti Superiore – Aged for a Year. Less tart, more bold and smoother acidity
  • Chianti Reserva – Aged for Two Years. A smoother red with bolder flavours
  • Chianti Gran Selezione – Aged for 2.5 years and sold as a top wine from the Chianti Classico sub region

Chianti Sub Regions

Chianti also has several sub regions which has different minimum ageing requirements

  • Chianti Classico – Aged for 1 year (min) or more
  • Chianti Colli Aretini – Aged for 6 months
  • Chianti Colli Fiorentini Aged for at least 1 year
  • Chianti Colline Pisane – Aged for 6 months
  • Chianti Colli Senesi – Aged for 6 months
  • Chianti Montalbano – Aged for 6 months
  • Chianti Montespertoli – Aged for 9 months minimum
  • Chianti Rufina – Aged for a least 1 year

What is Chianti Classico?

Still confused? Our advice is to pick up Chianti Classico Superiore or Reserva. They are the most common and graceful Chianti’s available on the market.

Why are there so many Chianti names, and what exactly is Chianti Classico? Here’s a brief history lesson. Before the 20th century, the name Chianti by itself used to focus on a very site-specific region in Tuscany. This region had been producing quality wines since the Middle Ages.

Then, during the 20th century, the original Chianti zone was expanded to cover a much larger area of Tuscany. We saw the Chianti region from 17,000 acres to 42,000 acres. The local government wanted to focus on branding the “Chianti” name, rather than focusing on a site-specific wine. During this period, winemakers were also allowed to add up to 30% of white wine grapes to their Chianti wines.

During the 1950s there was also a mass exodus of people moving out of the Tuscan countryside, and this spurred the government to plant a lot of Tuscan vineyards with the sole purpose of mass-producing Chianti wine. This is why from the ’50s to 80’s you saw cheap Chianti out of straw-covered bottles of wine sitting in every pizza restaurant. A lot of this wine was incredibly tart, and blended with cheap white wine grapes. The Sangiovese grapes used in it may have been from new vines that have not had centuries to develop. Thus, Italy was able to saturate the North American restaurant with cheap wine fro consumers who did not know any better.

The winemakers who were focused on quality were pissed off, and rightly so! In 1984 they established the Chianti Classico DOCG standard, which eventually eliminated any allowance of white grapes and limiting Non-Sangiovese grapes to 15%.

So when you buy Chianti Classico, you are ensuring that you are buying quality due to the higher standards and picking quality grapes from vines that have been planted for centuries.

That’s not to say the other Chianti regions are not of high quality. Many of them are, but that’s a conversation worth discussing from whomever you buy wine from.

(out of 5)
Red WineChianti Classico, Riserva DOCGPecorino Cheese4.5
Red WineChianti Colli Senesi DOCGCottage Pie4.5
Red WineChianti Colli Senesi DOCGShepherd's Pie4.5
Red WineChianti DOCGTomato4.5
Red WineChianti Classico DOCGLasagna4.5
Red WineChianti Classico, Riserva DOCGWild Boar4.5
Red WineChianti DOCGPasta with Tomato Sauce4.5
Red WineChianti DOCGMinestrone Soup4.5
Red WineChianti DOCGLasagna4.5
Red WineChianti Classico DOCGPizza4.5
Red WineChianti DOCGSpaghetti and Meatballs4.5
Red WineChianti DOCGBruschetta4.5
Red WineChianti Classico DOCGChicken Parmesan4.5
Red WineChianti Classico DOCGPecorino Cheese4.5
Red WineChianti Classico DOCGPasta with Venison Red Sauce 4.5
Red WineChianti Riserva DOCGPecorino Cheese4.5
Red WineChianti DOCGHerbed Dishes4
Red WineChianti Classico DOCGSteak Sirloin4
Red WineChianti DOCGPasta Bolognese4
Red WineChianti Classico DOCGProvolone Cheese4
Red WineChianti Classico DOCGSteak Tartare4
Red WineChianti Riserva DOCGProvolone Cheese4
Red WineChianti Classico DOCGBeef Braised4
Red WineChianti DOCGTomato Sauce4
Red WineChianti Classico DOCGPasta with Meatballs/Meat Sauce4
Red WineChianti Riserva DOCGTaleggio Cheese4
Red WineChianti Classico DOCGChicken Cacciatore4
Red WineChianti DOCGVeal4
Red WineChianti Classico DOCGWild Boar4
Red WineChianti DOCGCannelloni4
Red WineChianti DOCGPizza4
Red WineChianti Classico DOCGRoasted Chicken4
Red WineChianti Classico DOCGLiver4
Red WineChianti Classico DOCGCarpaccio4
Red WineChianti DOCGPepperoni Pizza4
Red WineChianti DOCGSautéed Chicken with Tomato Sauce4
Red WineChianti Classico, Riserva DOCGSteak4
Red WineChianti DOCGPizza with Sausage4
Red WineChianti DOCGGrilled Pork4
Red WineChianti Classico, Riserva DOCGSteak Bistecca Alla Florentina4
Red WineChianti DOCGMozzarella Cheese4
Red WineChianti DOCGPork Roasted4
Red WineChianti DOCGBasil4
Red WineChianti DOCGSteak Filet Mignon4
Red WineChianti DOCGParmesan Cheese4
Red WineChianti Classico DOCGTimpano Pantheon4
Red WineChianti DOCGProsciutto4
Red WineChianti DOCGOregano4
Red WineChianti DOCGRabbit4
Red WineChianti DOCGChicken Cacciatore4
Red WineChianti DOCGHamburgers3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGBeef3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGSteak Porterhouse3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGPasta3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGSalami3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGBeef Brisket3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGBLT3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGHummus3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGBeef Braised3.5
Red WineChianti Classico DOCGPasta Alla Carbonara3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGMarinara3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGKidneys3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGSweetbreads3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGPasta with Cheese Sauce3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGRomano Cheese3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGLamb3.5
Red WineChianti Classico, Riserva DOCGBeef Prime Rib3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGItalian Sausage3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGSpicy Sausage3.5
Red WineChianti Classico DOCGRoasted Lamb3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGBistecca Alla Fiorentina3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGTuna with Pesto3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGPasta with Meatballs/Meat Sauce3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGBean and Bacon3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGFried Chicken3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGVeal Parmesan3.5
Red WineChianti Classico DOCGChicken with Mushroom Sauce3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGPotato Soup3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGLiver3.5
Red WineChianti Classico DOCGVeal Roasted3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGRibolita3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGTomato Soup3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGMexican Cuisine3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGFontina Cheese3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGPizza with Onions and Peppers3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGDishes with Roasted Tomato and Pasilla Sauce3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGAntipasto3.5
Red WineChianti Classico DOCGMiddle Eastern Cuisine3.5
Red WineChianti Classico, Riserva DOCGGorgonzola Cheese3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGCod3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGBarbecue3.5
Red WineChianti Classico, Riserva DOCGWild Mushrooms3.5
Red WineChianti Classico DOCGCornish Game Hen3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGNuts3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGCrudité3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGBay Leaf3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGSteak Flank3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGEggplant3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGRed Beans3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGGrilled Steak3.5
Red WineChianti Classico DOCGOsso Buco3.5
Red WineChianti Classico DOCGPoutine3.5
Red WineChianti Classico DOCGEpazote3.5
Red WineChianti DOCGCasu Marzu3

Bonus pairing, as we all know from Dr. Lector and Silence of the Lambs, Chianti, Liver and Fava Beans are another ‘classic’ pairing. However, Amarone is the original pairing in the novel. Movie producers changed the pairing as they felt audiences would not know what Amarone was.

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