Chianti Classico DOCG made a splash in 2014 when it introduced a unique quality level above Riserva called Gran Selezione. The new designation’s purpose was to distinguish some of the highest quality, most serious wines from the denomination and claim a secure spot in the luxury wine tier. The strategy was an earnest one and has had moderate success in elevating Chianti Classico’s reputation. The consorzio reports that 154 wineries now make at least one Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, and the designation represents 6% of the denomination’s total production.
Gran Selezione was controversial from the start, however, because many saw it as only a half measure at best. As written, GS is really just a Riserva with a little extra aging (2½ years rather than 2 years minimum). The main innovation of the concept was to require the grapes used for GS to be entirely from vineyards controlled by the winery. This sounds like a mandate for locally specific, terroir-driven wines in the mold of Bordeaux estates—and in many cases, it is. However, a large winery that owns or leases vineyards sprinkled all over Chianti Classico can also make a relatively unremarkable blend that meets GS requirements. Furthermore, there are no subzones or defined areas inside Chianti Classico that are technically allowed to be identified on the wine label.
At the June 2021 assembly of Chianti Classico’s governing consorzio, a “very large majority” of consorzio members approved changes to the disciplinare that have the potential to put some real separation between the Riserva and Gran Selezione levels and fulfill more of the latter’s initial promise. There are two key aspects to the proposal:
Chianti Classico DOCG includes all or part of nine communes, and the new UGAs will follow commune boundaries to a large extent (see accompanying map). The communes of Castellina, Gaiole, Radda, and San Casciano will remain intact as subzones, while the three partial communes of Barberino Val d’Elsa, Poggibonsi, and Tavarnelle in Val di Pesa will be combined as the San Donato in Poggio UGA. The commune of Greve will become four UGAs: Greve, the highly regarded frazioni of Panzano and Lamole, and the lesser known frazione Montefioralle. Finally, the southern commune of Castelnuovo Berardenga will be broken into two UGAs: Castelnuovo Berardenga and Vagliagli—which is destined to be added to the list of most mispronounced wine locations (vah-LYAH-lyee). While not included in the current proposal, there is already talk about extending the use of these UGAs to the basic and Riserva levels as well as GS.
Don’t rush to the wine shop asking for these wines quite yet. This proposal will have several hoops to jump through before it becomes official, which will take time. According to Gambero Rosso, governmental approval is not expected for about a year—but, as for the introduction of Gran Selezione itself, will be made retroactive, probably to the 2019 vintage. If so, wines that qualify under the new rules could be labeled as Gran Selezione with a UGA and released as early as July 2022.