The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Changes in Chianti and Chianti Classico–the Chianti Classico Gran Selezione

Posted on | October 16, 2014 | Written by Robin Kelley OConnor | No Comments

unnamedToday’s eletter offered Badia a Passignano Chianti Classico Riserva 2008, so we wanted to revisit the latest changes to Chianti’s regulations.

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione made its United States debut last week in New York City, and I had the privilege of moderating its U.S. premiere to the press and trade. This action-packed day was the first look at the new top tier wine category of Chianti Classico. It began when I introduced Sergio Zingarelli, President of the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico and owner of on behalf of the nearly 600 members of the Consorzio and the 28 wineries in attendance, who gave opening remarks highlighting this new era for Chianti Classico on behalf of the nearly 600 members of the Consorzio and the 28 wineries in attendance. Sergio’s father, the famed Italian film producer, Italo Zingarelli, purchased Rocca delle Macìe estate in 1973. Sergio referred to Gran Selezione as the Chianti Classico Revolution, suggesting its importance.

unnamed-4The new Chianti Classico Gran Selezione designation will sit at the top of the summit of the Chianti Classico pyramid. Chianti Classico itself was born in 1716 when Cosimo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, delimited the Chianti production zone to the nine communes between the provinces of Florence and Siena. In 1932 a ministerial decree was issued to distinguish the Chianti made in its zone of origin by adding the suffix “Classico.” Today, the Chianti Classico production zone still lies between the provinces of Florence and Siena, entirely covering the Chianti communes of Castellina, Gaiole, Greve and Radda, as well as parts of Barberino Val d’Elsa, Castelnouvo Berardenga, Poggibonsi, San Casciano Val di Pesa, and Tavarnelle di Pesa.

In short, Chianti Classico now makes three types of Chianti:The suffix “Classico” is important because it distinguishes Chianti Classico and Chianti. The two different DOCGs have different sets of production regulations, production zones and consortiums. The total Chianti vineyard area is 24,700 acres, while 17,784 acres of vineyards are registered as Chianti Classico. Sangiovese reigns as the king of all grapes planted in both, although rules allow for the option of maximum 20% of red indigenous varieties such as Colorino and Canaiolo, as well as “international” varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. At the top of the DOCG Chianti Classico quality pyramid, Gran Selezione must be produced exclusively with grapes from single vineyards or selected from the estate’s best-suited vineyards. The technical and organoleptic characteristics are stricter, and the wines can’t be released to market before a minimum of 30 months after the harvest, including three months of bottle aging. The wineries will be obliged to declare in advance whether the intended wine is going to be Chianti Classico Annata, Chianti Classico Riserva, or Chianti Classico Gran Selezion, which will eventually account for about 10% of the Chianti Classico production. At the moment it is about 7-8%.

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG

• Gran Selezione must be made from exclusively from a winery’s own grapes

• A minimum aging requirement is 30 months, including 3 months of bottle aging

• Grapes permitted are Sangiovese from a minimum of 80% to 100% including the option of a maximum 20% of red indigenous varieties such as Colorino and Canaiolo, as well as “international” varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot

• A minimum alcohol content of 13%

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG

• A minimum aging requirement is 24 months, including 3 months of bottle aging

• A minimum alcohol content of 12.5%

• Grapes permitted are the same as Gran Selezione

Chianti Classico Annata DOCG

• A minimum aging requirement is 12 months

• A minimum alcohol content of 12%

• Grapes permitted are the same as Gran Selezione and Riserva

The presentation was followed by a well-organized, focused tasting with 28 wineries presenting their Gran Selezione mostly from the 2010 vintage, with a smaller selection of 2011s and 2009s. As all good Chianti wine needs good food to showcase the glories of the vine, the Consorzio hosted a magnificent seven-course dinner prepared by famed Tuscan Butcher and Chef, Dario Cecchini at the Four Seasons Restaurant with thirty two Gran Selezione wines. It was, in all, a lovely premiere for a very exciting new designation.

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