Chianti Classico has added a new classification to it’s typologies on top of the already rewarded DOCG quality – Gran Selezione. To learn more about this classification, we took part in a panel discussion and seminar led by Culinaire Magazine’s own editor, Linda Garson as well as president of Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico, Sergio Zingarelli.
On the discussion panel was also wine journalist, and WineCollective friend, Tom Firth and he made a point to urge consumers to be educated in the new Grand Selezione: “Consumers need to see that this is a new tier and recognize what it is, and also what it means.” Here’s what you need to know.
If you are unfamiliar with Chianti Classico, the first detail to note would be, it is not Chianti. The two terms Chianti and Chianti Classico have caused much confusion regardless, and potentially due to their popularity. Chianti Classico wines are produced in the geographical zone, Chianti, which sits between the two Italian cities of Florence and Siena in Tuscany. This territory covers nine communes and was determined by the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico in 1716. This zone is classified under DOCG, giving it its first distinction prior to the several levels of Chianti Classico quality. Chianti, on the other hand, is simply a type of wine produced through out the greater Tuscany area.
The three layers of Chianti Classico are Chianti Classico Annata, Riserva and now, Gran Selezione.
So far the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico has awarded 84 wineries and 89 labels with the Gran Selezione classification after laboratory and tasting committee approval. With nearly 600 members, it is difficult to reach the standards of many Chianti Classico experts.
With Grand Selezione, all grapes used must be 100% estate grown fruit and the wine can not be released without a minimum of 30 months between harvest, three of which must be spent in bottle refinement. For the Annata and Riserva, release must be after 12 and 24 months respectively.
In addition, the Gran Selezione must use between 80% to 100% of Sangiovese. The remainder, and up to 20%, can carry any other red grape variety as long as it is estate grown. According to Zingarelli, more Sangiovese is used in Chianti Classico then ever before, likely due to recent spending and replanting of estate vineyards. Since 2000, 400 million Euros have been spent in replanting seven of the best Sangiovese clones through out the Chianti zone.
Chianti Classico Zone
The Chianti Classico zone is made up of various soils including limestone, sandstone and clay. Vineyards are typically sloped and can be elevated up to 600 meters above sea level providing the vines with excellent sun exposure. With continental conditions, summers can reach up to 40 degrees Celsius followed by thirst quenching rainfall in early Autumn.
Sangiovese was first documented in Italy in the 15th century and is quite affected by its external surroundings such as terroir and climate. Though it has the ability to interpret the soil and exposure characteristics in the wine, the varietal is overall quite genetically unstable with its best representations coming from Tuscany, another reason for finding and planting the best clones.
“There’s something about Tuscany that imprints itself on the wines.” Wine Anorak‘s, Jamie Goode
The Revolution of Chianti Classico
Although he does not take any credit, a “revolution” has taken place in the Chianti Classico world since 2013, when Sergio Zingarelli was elected president of the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico. Not only has a third tier been added to the classification of these great wines, but also, higher requirements in production have been introduced as well as updates to the trademark symbol of the Black Rooster. A tell-tale sign for Chianti Classico wines is the Black Rooster label, which can be found (and must be used) on either the neck or rear of the bottle. The history of the rooster dates back to medieval times, when Florence and Siena continuously fought for dominance over the now, Chianti territory.
Today 7,200 hectares of vines are planted in Chianti zone and annually, 35 million bottles of Chianti Classico are produced. Sergio and members of the Consorzio, were also travelling to Vancouver as Canada is the 3rd leading nation of Chianti Classico sales out of the 60 countries the wines are exported to. Currently following the United States and Germany, Canada makes up for 10% of total sales.
Chianti Classico Gran Selezione wines carry typical characteristics of ripe red berry fruits, wood, tomatoes, herbs, vanilla and cocoa and soft spice. The wines are finely balanced with medium acidity, silk and velvet textures and elegant tannins. Though produced to be full bodied and round, Grand Selezione still carries a bright juiciness that enjoyable alongside a variety of meat and pasta dishes, or completely on its own as we enjoyed during the tasting portion of the seminar.
Along with the panel, we tasted eight Grand Selezione wines, including Zingarelli’s own Rocca delle Macie Sergio Zingarelli 2011. Composed of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Colorino the wine aged in new French oak barrels for 18 months followed by a full year in bottle, prior to release. The result is an intensely fruity wine with a touch of spice, soft and drying tannins followed by a plumb and concentrated long lasting finish.
We hope to bring the new Grand Selezione classification to WineCollective members in future packages, but for now, we encourage you to find one of these spectacular wines at Highfield or a store near you. Remember to first look for the Black Rooster and after enjoying the wine, let us know what you think!