They said that the category had got diluted, that “Chianti Classico Riserva” as a quality indicator had lost its oomph, its integrity. They said this and we said “Ok, right” and they said “We’ll show you” and they did.
Because humans since the earliest records have had it in them to divide and classify, and because classifications convey a sense of meaning, because winemakers are human and because humans search for meaning, let us now welcome onto the market a new category of wine—and very good wine at that: Chianti Classico Gran Selezione.
On June 17 in New York City, the Consorzio Chianti Classico trade association introduced this designation to the US market and the world with a short conference followed by a trade tasting at Metropolitan Pavilion.
Robin Kelly O’Conner CSW, CWE, wine specialist at Italian Wine Merchants, presided over the afternoon, introducing the president of Consorzio Chianti Classico, Sergio Zingarelli. (Zingarelli is also the owner and winemaker of one of the participating estates: Rocca delle Macìe in Castellina in Chianti, and makes a smooth, sprightly wine with darkness and fruits, from Sangiovese and Colorino.)
Chianti Classico is the oldest wine consortium in Italy, being founded on May 14 1924, Zingarelli said, and it was the feeling of a need for a “deep change” in the Chianti wine denomination that sparked the discussions in 2011 for what would become Gran Selezione.
Gran Selezione was created to valorize the best of Chianti Classico’s wine production. Instead of a minimum ageing of 24 months, of which three in bottle, and at least 12.5% abv, as with the Chianti Classico Riserva, which was until now the top label, Gran Selezione wines are made with grapes from a single vineyard or from a selection of an estate’s best grapes, and have a minimum ageing requirement of 30 months, counted beginning the January following harvest, of which 3 in bottle, and a minimum abv of 13%. Furthermore, each wine must be evaluated each year by blind, specialized tasting committees and must pass chemical analyses at authorized laboratories. The goal of this is to assure that the wines respond to certain organoleptic criteria, including balance, depth of flavor and aromatic complexity.
Silvia Fiorentini, the brand manager of Chianti Classico Academy, a consortium educational initiative, told Vino247 that the selection of grapes and methods and vessels for ageing the wine was up to each producer, as was submitting a wine for classification. Environmental standards—pesticide use, vine density, organic or biodynamic techniques and so on—did not figure into the requirements.
This high level of quality paired with a refreshing diversity of styles and flavor profiles was evident at the tasting.
Grouped by commune, of which 6 were present—San Casciano in Val di Pesa, Greve in Chianti, Castellina in Chianti; Radda in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, Castelnuovo Berardegna—the wines ranged from chewy and tight, with a good, clean body like the Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione Vigna del Capannino 2010 from Bibbiano, made from the Sanviovese Grosso clone and which underwent its malolactic fermentation in cement; to the Colle Bereto Gran Selezione 2010 in Radda in Chianti, whose chewy, floral, pretty wine was made with organic grapes; to the Gran Selezione Il Grigio da San Felice 2010, grown in Castelnuovo Berardegna and made with Abrusco, Pugnitello, Malvasia Nera, Ciliegiolo and Mazzese in addition to the requisite Sangiovese. The San Felice winery dedicates 14ha of its vineyards to experimental plantings—a place called “Vitarium”—hence the assemblage.
Some wines had liquorice and pepper, while others were dealers of delightful acidity and florality. All would be a pleasure to drink, an impressive feat for a wine tasting.
And the United States is on the game. In 2001 it became the top export market for Chianti wines from all categories, and in 2006 the US surpassed Italy in Chianti consumption. The appellation today encompasses 175,000 acres, of which 25,000 are planted with wine grapevines, of which 18,000 are part of Chianti Classico.
All red wines with a “Chianti” appellation must be at least 70% Sangiovese. The widest zone is Chianti DOCG, which geographically encompasses baseline Chianti DOCG; Chianti Superiore DOCG and Chianti + subzone, i.e. Chianti Colli Senese DOCG. Within this wider Chianti area is a separate zone called Chianti Classico DOCG, which has its own regulations such as a minimum of 80% Sangiovese, and now includes this new designation, Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG. Only Chianti Classico wines may use the black rooster image on their bottle’s neck.
For further information on the new Gran Selezione category, the Consorzio Chianti Classico has created a fact sheet: Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Identity Card
Wines mentioned in this story:
− Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna del Capannino 2010, from Bibbiano winery, imported by Vos Vinum
− Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Grigio da San Felice 2010, from San Felice, imported by Premium Brands
− Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Colle Bereto Gran Selezione 2010, from Colle Bereto, looking for importers
− Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Sergio Zingarelli 2010, from Rocca delle Macìe, imported by Palm Bay International