Chianti Classico to Put New Vigor into Gran Selezione

By Jack Brostrom
June 17, 2021
Posted June 16, 2021; last updated May 11, 2023

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 5% of the denomination’s total production—but 13% of revenue.

Gran Selezione was controversial from the start, however, because many saw it as only a half measure at best. As originally written, GS was 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 sounded like a mandate for locally specific, terroir-driven wines in the mold of Bordeaux estates—and in many cases it was. However, a large winery that owns or leases vineyards sprinkled all over Chianti Classico could also make a relatively unremarkable blend that still meets GS requirements. Furthermore, there were no subzones or defined areas inside Chianti Classico that were technically allowed to be identified on the wine label.

Aware of the shortcomings of the Gran Selezione specifications as initially introduced, Chianti Classico’s governing consorzio has continued to work on additional provisions 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. These efforts were presented with great fanfare at Vinitaly in April and can be expected to be officially approved soon. 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 30-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 eight 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 two partial communes of Barberino Tavarnelle and Poggibonsi 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 (vahl-YAHL-yee). 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.

Stand by for further details after the new disciplinare is fully approved.



Note: This news brief describes proposed changes as of mid-2023, not the current rules for Chianti Classico DOCG.
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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