The 7 Best Wines Similar to Chianti

The legendary Chianti is a wine so famous even those who don’t drink are aware of it through pop culture osmosis. While wandering down the fascinating roads of your wine journey, you’ve likely wondered if there are other wines as good as Chianti.

Red blends are often favored for being exceptionally balanced. Winemakers combine years of expertise to carefully blend multiple grapes with different percentages to bring you the best of all worlds. If you regularly buy Chianti and want to see if there are any similar wines out there, you’re in luck!

Our list below will detail single-origin grapes and red blends with similar profiles to Chianti. By the end of the article, you’ll have a hefty list of must-try wines similar to Chianti you will be able to try yourself!

A Brief History of Chianti

brief history of chianti

Chianti is a fiercely protected Italian red blend crafted in the Chianti region of Tuscany, Italy. We’ve written about the fascinating artistic and technological history of this region in the past and for good reason: Tuscany is a showstopper!

Winemakers first crafted Chianti wine back in the 14th century. Believe it or not, this iconic red wine used to be designated as a white wine. The documentation of wine blends didn’t originate from artistry or experimentation, but as a way to legally control the development and export of wine throughout the country.

The 18th century is when the Chianti wine started to take the form we know and love today. The ongoing efforts of winemakers and lawmakers narrowed down the grapes allowed in the recipe.

A statesman by the name of Bettino Ricasoli is believed by historians to have implemented the sangiovese-dominant recipe of modern Chianti, though some historians believe other winemakers played a part.

What is Chianti Wine?

Also known as Chianto Classico, Chianti is a somewhat broad designation that has only grown larger with time. To qualify as a Chianti, the wine must be produced in the Chianti region and have a minimum of 70% to 80% sangiovese grapes.

Some Chianti is made with 100% sangiovese, while other bottles will have slivers of other red wine grapes. Italian grapes take dominance, but you will see the occasional French or Greek red wine grape allowed as a supplementary percentage.

Grapes you can expect to find in your bottle alongside sangiovese include:

  • Trebbiano
  • Canaiolo
  • Cabernet sauvignon
  • Merlot
  • Malvasia

What are Chianti’s flavors?

chianti’s flavors

Chianti is a deliciously balanced, fruit-forward wine with a medium body and a higher level of acidity. Subtle changes will arise depending on the age of your bottle and the supplementary grapes used in the blend.

A young bottle of Chianti is aged for six months. The dominant flavor notes of a fresh vintage are usually:

  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Cherries
  • Dried herbs
  • Potpourri

In contrast, older Chianti tends to be aged at least one to three years. These bottles lean toward flavor notes such as:

  • Sweet tobacco
  • Cedar
  • Balsamic
  • Baking spices
  • Violets

Top Wines Similar to Chianti

The primary characteristic of Chianti wine is a brilliant balance. These vintages tend to be medium-bodied and described as rather rustic, mixing brambly red fruit with earthy aromas and smoky finishes.

The wines similar to Chianti below will lean toward a balanced, fruit-forward profile, a higher level of tannins, and an impressive finish. We will also explore the unique differences of each suggestion to give you the full picture.

1. Sangiovese

sangiovese wine bottle
Image: Keira Morgan

The most logical place to start with choosing wines similar to Chianti is sangiovese. Since Chianti requires a minimum of 70% to 80% of this Italian red wine grape, you’ll already have several details to love with a single origin bottle.

This wine is favored for being rather savory and rustic, leaning toward dried red fruit, tea leaves, and baking spices. While some wine grapes have a more limited flavor profile, sangiovese is legendarily flexible and changes quite readily in different climates or oak barrels.

Younger vintages are often bright and tangy, while older bottles will yield an impressive earthiness or smoky quality.

Another great feature of sangiovese is how easy it is to find. Just about any grocery store or wine outlet will have a solid selection for you to sift through.

Try This Wine If…

You want to see how your usual Chianti would taste if it leaned a little harder into its dried red fruit and tobacco notes. Like Chianti, sangiovese is also medium-bodied and smooth.

2. Montefalco Sagrantino

montefalco sagrantino

The next wine similar to Chianti is the Montefalco Sagrantino. This single-origin wine is crafted only with sagrantino grapes, a rather rare Italian grape known for its dry and savory profile.

Easily the most notable aspect of sagrantino is its robust tannins. From the moment you open the bottle, you’ll enjoy a powerful bouquet of herbs, baking spices, and flowers. Its flavor profile shares similarities with Chianti in leaning toward red fruit such as red plum and cranberry.

Its most notable differences are its highly dry character and rather leathery, earthy finish. This is one vintage that isn’t for the faint of heart!

Try This Wine If…

You love the high tannin count of Chianti and want to see how it fares with a more wooden or leathery finish.

3. Morellino di Scansano

morellino di scansano

When it comes to red blends that mimic Chianti, Morellino di Scansano is the go-to comparison. This blend is grown in the Maremma region of Tuscany and also prioritizes sangiovese, required by law to have at least 85%.

The similarities between Morellino di Scansano and Chianti are obvious from the word go: expect a dry and tart red wine with a focus on red fruit.

Red cherry and brambly berries are beloved descriptors. This wine is popular enough to nearly stand toe to toe with the beloved single-origin sangiovese in a 2018 Italian red wine survey.

Where this wine stands apart is its drier character and notably wooden, spiced finish, a testament to the power of Maremma’s microclimate.

Try This Wine If…

You’re curious to try a more homely and cozy spin on the sophisticated Chianti. The flavor profile is similar enough not to stand out too much but has a drier mouthfeel and more spiced aftertaste.

4. Brunello di Montalcino

brunello di montalcino

What is special about Brunello di Montalcino? This Tuscany darling is widely considered by wine experts to be one of the best red blends in the world. In fact, this wine is so famous it holds the country’s most prestigious DOCG (their classification for red wine).

A solid descriptor for this wine is more: more tannins, more acidity, and more fruit-forward flavors!

Sometimes nicknamed Brunello or Prugnolo Gentile, this wine is crafted solely with sangiovese grapes and is usually consumed after several years of aging. If you can get your hands on a decade-old bottle, you’ll be astounded by the sheer complexity on display.

Chocolate, figs, and espresso are some of the most popular tasting notes of an aged bottle of Brunello. A younger bottle will be more similar to Chianti with a flavor profile of dried cranberries and juicy cherries.

Try This Wine If…

You already are curious about sangiovese due to its similarity to Chianti, but want to try an origin that has a few extra stamps of approval.

5. Barbera

barbera

This Italian red wine grape is one of the most popular choices in Italy, rarely grown outside the country and well-suited to the country’s clay soils. If you enjoy the bright acidity of Chianti, Barbera will have you quite satisfied!

Barbera leans toward high acidity with reduced tannins, the result of which creates a balance between raspberries, cherries, and blueberries.

This grape also responds wonderfully to aging, picking up a slew of delicate vanilla and toasted notes.

Try This Wine If…

You want a similar acidity to Chianti, but also want a set of flavors that veer toward a berry medley instead of mainly red fruit.

6. Tempranillo

tempranillo

It’s time to step away from Italian wine grapes and into the sunny expanse of Spain!

Tempranillo is the most notable Spanish red wine grape, earning the designation as a ‘noble grape’. This term refers to a grape variety most frequently associated with the highest-quality, award-winning wines.

Winemakers frequently use tempranillo as a blending grape, though you can find single varietals with a little digging. Ribera del Duero and Rioja are two regions that frequently use tempranillo as the majority grape in red wine production, with some bottles as much as 90% to 100%.

Aged tempranillo is similar to Chianti due to its propensity for berry flavor notes and leathery, tobacco-like finishes. If this sounds up your alley, try to find a bottle that’s at least four or five years old.

On the other hand, tempranillo is often full-bodied and tends to incorporate dark fruit notes like plum or blackberries.

Try This Wine If…

You crave the smoked, leathery kick of older Chianti, but also want to try a more full-bodied wine.

7. Oaked Merlot

oaked merlot

The last wines similar to Chianti will be a little bit of a surprise! Merlot not only has less acidity than a Chianti, it’s also lower in tannins and has a different flavor profile. Why are we still recommending it?

Fortunately, oaked merlot has a few characteristics that fans of Chianti will love. This wine is consistently medium-bodied, offering a rounded sensation that pairs nicely with its berry-focused flavor profile.

While merlot is frequently not aged due to its simpler structure, you can still find bottles with a few years of oak aging. Similar to an older bottle of Chianti, you’ll enjoy faint hints of vanilla and cedar.

Try This Wine If…

You enjoy Chianti’s bright acidity, body, and mouthfeel, but want to try a gentler variation that leans toward darker fruit.

Are you thinking of trying other Italian wines? Check out our guide on Tuscany wines here!

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