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Editor Picks: 5 Chianti Classico Under $30

Editor Picks: 5 Chianti Classico Under $30

Chianti Classico Under $30

Chianti Classico has long been a favorite of mine. Since realizing the secret to reading Old World wine labels in my early days of pursuing wine certifications, the simplicity of ‘Chianti = Sangiovese’ kept me curious. My love for the region has been going strong for well over a decade, allowing ample growth to realize that Chianti Classico wines, though affordable and often under $30, are anything but simple.

Chianti is the world’s oldest wine region, becoming official with rules and boundaries in 1716. The tale of the black rooster, the once military symbol of the area, is centuries older. However, the image didn’t become a part of the region’s wines until the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico began in 1924. 

For much of its history, Chianti Classico wines comprised various percentages of regional grapes, including reds like Canaiolo Nero, Colorino, and Sangiovese, along with whites like Trebbiano and Malvasia. The ‘official recipe’ for Chianti came in 1872 when Baron Bettino Ricasoli thought Sangiovese to be the most expressive grape of the land. Since then, and by ruling in 1984 when the DOCG came into effect, wines of the region must contain at least 80% Sangiovese. Some expressions still use native grapes like Canaiolo Nero and Colorino to fill out their blends, while others use international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. White grape varieties, however, became prohibited in 2006.

In 2021, to further the region’s diversity of expression, eleven UGA (Unità Geografiche Aggiuntive) sub-regions were announced, effective the 2019 vintage. However, the optional label designations are only available to the highest tier, Gran Selezione.

Whether Gran Selezione, Riserva, or entry-level Annata, Chianti Classico offers a wide range of expressions within comfortable reach.


Tenuta Perano 2019

Chianti Classico DOCG


The Frescobaldi family has been making wine in Tuscany for 700 years, a substantial amount of time to perfect Sangiovese vinification. Their Gaiole estate, where this wine hails, receives concentrated sun and heat from its southern/south-western exposure, intensifying its fruity aromas and energetic tannic structure.

After spending 12 months in barriques, this majority Sangiovese (with a smattering of other local varieties) puts ripe blackberry and raspberry aromas on a pedestal, leading into notes of wild herbs and purple flowers. The bouquet makes way for a firmly structured, full-bodied wine with elegance and richness — a never-miss mouth-watering weekday crowd-pleaser.

Castello di Gabbiano

Cavaliere d’Oro Riserva 2017

Chianti Classico DOCG


The Cavaliere d’Oro (‘golden knight’ in English) became a part of Castello di Gabbiano’s Riserva labels a few vintages ago. The knight is an historical figure rumored to have protected the Gabbiano castle and its vineyard during the Middle Ages.

In 2017, the Sangiovese grapes (95%) for the Riserva came from the estate’s oldest vineyards, with the balance of Merlot kept separate during fermentation and aging.

The nose offers a wide array of red and black fruits, highlighting strawberries and blueberry compote. Hints of tobacco and cedar bring a nice contrast that mirrors on the palate, offering nice complexity, silky tannins, and fresh acidity through its finish.

Tenuta di Arceno

Annata 2019

Chianti Classico DOCG


The Tenuta di Arceno estate has a long history at the southernmost edge of Chianti Classico. It’s cited in historical documents as a small independent community as far back as the year 1000. Since 1504, its ownership has passed through only three families: The Del Taja family from 1504 to 1829, then the Piccolominis — one of the most illustrious families of Siena — until 1994. Since then, the estate has been under the ownership of the notable Jackson Family as one of their first purchases outside of California.

The 2019 Annata, which sees ten months of aging in French oak, comprises 85% Sangiovese and 15% Merlot. The cool vintage resulted in modest fruit aromas, including black cherry and raspberry, with a marriage of white pepper spice and licorice. An inviting medium-ish body combines pomegranate and blood orange flavors alongside bright acidity, earthy tannins, and a driving, mineral finish.

Castello di Verrazzano


Chianti Classico DOCG


Several wines on this list come from sustainable estates; however, Verrazzano Chianti Classico is also certified organic — a shockingly low representation considering more than half of the vineyards across the region are organic certified. Nonetheless, their organic philosophy stretches further than grapes, as they also grow vegetables and produce extra virgin olive oil and honey, all organically.

The 2019 expression, which comes from Greve in the region’s northeast, consists mainly of Sangiovese (95%), with the remaining a mystery blend of red grapes from the estate. Aromas of cherry and blackberry mix with subtle hints of floral. On the palate, 18 months of oak aging brings taught structure with sweet tannins, rich cedary undertones and a harmonic balance of acidity through the finish.



Chianti Classico DOCG


The next flight I book will be to Italy, so I can stay at Cinciano and taste their white Sangiovese. Yes – Preziano is a unique version of the red grape, vinified as a white wine, with only 1,400 bottles produced annually. 

I digress, however, as it’s not Chianti Classico. 

The only wine on this list to be wholly Sangiovese, Cinciano Chianti Classico radiates fragrant aromas of black cherry and violet with a mash of mixed red berries in the background. Concentrated flavors offer themselves up on the palate, with even more raspberry and blueberry offerings with hints of cinnamon and clove. There’s a depth of structure, though unexpected, as there’s no apparent signs of oak (despite 8-10 months of oak aging). The tannins are elegant and polished, with lingering juiciness throughout. 

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