updating Chianti Classico

Chianti Classico is one of my favourite wines, I could drink it every day and be happy. The last eight or so years has seen a surge in the quality of Chianti Classico and the best examples are one of the world’s great value wine buys. Here in Australia, $40-$50 (retail) will get you a great wine – Poggerino, San Giusto, Castellare, Felsina, Fontodi, Riecine, Monsanto and Querciabella to name more than a few – that will drink beautifully over 8 years, more in the best vintages.

Recently, the Chianti Classico Consorzio voted to change the regulations for Chianti Classico and Riserva, and also to introduce a third tier that, although unnamed, is being referred to as ‘Selezione’. The Consorzio says that this third tier will complete the missing ‘top of the quality pyramid’.

Click here to read the Consorzio’s press release.

In truth this third tier isn’t missing, its just that these wines, such as Flaccianello, Cepparello, Percarlo and Le Pergole Torte exist as IGT wines. Whether or not the new regulations have done enough to appeal to these wineries to re-label their most famous Sangiovese wines as a Chianti Classico remains to be seen.

To qualify for ‘Selezione’, the wine must meet requirements on ageing (30 months from harvest) and be entirely from estate grown fruit. Its stating the obvious that this top tier must come from estate grown fruit, and leaves me to ask why Riserva does NOT have to be from estate fruit.

In effect, there are already lots of Riserva wines that would qualify for ‘Selezione’. By introducing this third tier, I hope that Chianti Classico does not get left behind as wineries trade up to the other two categories. One of things that makes Chianti Classico great is the philosophy of making the best Chianti year in year out, before declaring Riservas and Super Tuscans.

I think the Consorzio has missed an opportunity to make some real and long lasting changes for the future. I would have started with these:

  • Increase the minimum percentage of Sangiovese (in all categories) from 80% to 90%
  • Allow the producer to promote their village/sub-zone in all categories should they wish to do so. This could be as simple as listing the village/sub-zone in a certain font size.
  • Tighten the regulations for the existing Riserva category – this should already be estate grown fruit only.
  • ‘Selezione’ should be reserved for Chianti Classico Riserva from a single vineyard within an estate.
  • Allow wineries to use screwcap, at least beginning with Chianti Classico