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Chianti Classico to Put New Vigor into Gran Selezione

By Jack Brostrom
June 17, 2021
Posted June 16, 2021; updated June 24, 2021

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:

  1. Focus on Sangiovese and native grape varieties. The current rules for all Chianti Classico wines require a minimum of 80% Sangiovese, but the new GS level will strengthen the connection with that variety (and push the wines a little closer to those of Brunello di Montalcino) by raising the requirement to 90%. In addition, the remaining 0–10% of the wine will be restricted to native Italian grape varieties (e.g., Canaiolo, Ciliegiolo, Colorino, etc.). International varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, which even in small quantities can move the flavor profile out of the traditional Chianti spectrum, will not be permitted in Gran Selezione bottlings.
  2. Zonation. At long last, the consorzio has come to an agreement on a first order of non-overlapping subzones that will allow producers to highlight and promote local variations within the 20-mile-long Chianti Classico denomination. These will be officially known as UGAs (unità geografiche aggiuntive, “additional geographical units”). It does not appear that there will be a requirement for a GS wine to be from a single UGA, but those that are will be able to carry the subzone name on the label.

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.


Note: This news brief describes proposed changes as of June 16, 2021, not the current rules for Chianti Classico DOCG.
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All images courtesy of Chianti Classico consorzio

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3 comments on “Chianti Classico to Put New Vigor into Gran Selezione”

  1. Thank you Jack for breaking this down and attempting to make the proposed new disciplinare easier to understand. The classic producers have always had a good following for their Riserva and GS offerings. The proposed sub zones noted on the label are long overdue. Why not right? People are still going to buy Riserva Chianti Classico. However, to pay that much more for GS will need to be promoted with good education to explain the differences. I see some regional educational seminars in Geralyn’s future!!! The maps were great to reference as well. Thank you!

  2. Thank you for this summarised up-dated information with relevant time lines too. I have read several articles on this topic but your presentation is far more effective given the clarity provided by the maps side-by side plus supplementary information. Thank you.

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