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Brunello vs Chianti

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Similarities of Brunello & Chianti

Brunello and Chianti are both region-specific Italian red wines, made from the Sangiovese grape. Brunello (Brunello di Montalcino is its full name) is always made from 100% Sangiovese, while regular Chianti can contain up to 30% of other grapes. Wines labeled “Chianti Classico” can only be blended with up to 20% of other grapes.  Both wines are also made in the region of Tuscany. They have a similar array of aromas and flavors, including classic Sangiovese notes of cherry, plum, tomato stem, balsamic vinegar and licorice. Both wines can develop more dried fruit notes and hints of leather, tobacco and chocolate as they age. 

Differences of Brunello Versus Chianti

In terms of location, the Chianti appellation covers a fairly large portion of Tuscany, while Montalcino is situated further south and is much smaller.  Sometimes, it can be very difficult to tell Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti wines apart. There is also a lot of room for variation between producers and specific locations. It is also said that Brunello is made from a slightly different clone of the Sangiovese grape, though that may not affect the flavor significantly.  Brunello is often a bigger wine than Chianti, leaning more towards a full body, and containing up to 16% alcohol. Chianti is required to have at least 12% ABV, so sometimes the difference is not stark, but it may be noticeable. 

How To Distinguish Between Brunello & Chianti

By law, Brunello di Montalcino must be aged for at least 2 years in oak, and 4 months in the bottle before release. This offers a shortcut to distinguishing between the two wines – Brunello is more likely to show age-imparted notes of dried fruits, dried flowers, leather, nut, chocolate and spice. This will be particularly apparent if you’re dealing with a young Chianti and an older Brunello.  Chianti is also more approachable at a younger age and usually exhibits a less powerful structure. Look for a more intense, tongue-coating texture in the Brunello. Despite these differences, when they are well-made, both wines can easily age for a decade or more. 

Brunello vs Chianti Comparison Chart

Characteristic Brunello Chianti
Sweetness Dry Dry
Acidity High High
Tannins High High
Body Full Medium-Full
Tasting Notes Cherry, plum, strawberry, cranberry, fig, flowers, licorice, coffee, chocolate and leather. Cherry, plum, raspberry, licorice, tomato stem, balsamic vinegar, tobacco and leather.
Popularity 12,100 Monthly Searches 40,500 Monthly Searches
Calories Per Glass 126 calories 126 calories
ABV % 13.5-16% 12-14%

Pairing Food With Brunello & Chianti

Regardless of whether you are drinking Brunello or Chianti, Sangiovese is a fantastic grape to pair with traditional Italian dishes, particularly those with typical Italian herbs, lots of tomato, and rich pieces of meat. Think along the lines of spaghetti with meatballs, eggplant parmesan, or a reliable seasoned steak. Click on our food pairing articles below to explore this topic in more detail.