Op-ed: “It’s time for Chianti Classico subzones,” says Roberto Stucchi

chianti subzones

Above: a geological survey of the Chianti Classico DOCG was presented by a group of leading grape growers and winemakers in Florence in December, 2013.

Yesterday, Italian wine writer and wine professional Andrea Gori published his notes from a Chianti Classico subzone held in Florence in early December 2013.

(Even if you don’t speak Italian, I highly recommend watching this video, included in Andrea’s post, in which enologist Maurizio Castelli — “heir to the Giulio Gambelli legacy,” as Andrea calls him — presents his overview of Chianti and its subzones.)

The conference, organized by Sangiovese activist Davide Bonucci, was as controversial as it was significant.

Many in the Chianti DOC oppose subzoning and even though the list of presenters included some of the appellation’s top names (Maurizio Castelli, Niccolò Montecchi, Roberto Stucchi, Sebastiano Capponi, Tommaso Marrochesi Marzi), the Chianti Classico consortium was loudly absent from the proceedings.

Yesterday, winemaker Roberto Stucchi sent me the following essay.

*****

The Evolution of Chianti Classico
by Roberto Stucchi

The time has arrived for Chianti Classico to evolve towards its natural future, by recognizing, describing, and communicating (and possibly regulating) the local communal and village appellations that compose this beautiful territory.

This zone is too large and diverse to remain locked in the current DOCG regulations, which make no distinction between the extremely diverse expressions of Sangiovese in its original territory.

The first natural level of evolution above the simple “Chianti Classico” appellation would be naming the Comune [township] of origin of the grapes for wines that truly represent their territory.

The 9 Comuni of Chianti Classico: Castelnuovo Berardenga, Gaiole, Radda, Castellina, Greve, San Casciano, Tavernelle, Barberino and Poggibonsi would clearly establish a link between the wine and it’s actual territory of origin.

Today, someone vacationing in Gaiole might return home and buy a Chianti, wrongly believing it’s a wine produced in the land she or he visited. With clearly defined communal appellations this wouldn’t be the case.

The next step would be to define the village appellations, the smaller zones that are distinctive and that would clearly define some of the top wines in the appellation. So we could have Panzano, Monti, Lamole, as possible zones as well as the many others that have a common geography and history.

This process of defining the subzone identities would take time and would help in the process of narrating the multiple identities of this extremely varied territory. Few wine regions are as complex and diverse as the Chianti Classico zone, by way of soils, microclimates, and altitudes. Sangiovese amplifies these differences, and the 130 complementary traditional varieties and the use of international ones now allowed further increase the diversities of expressions.

It’s time to give names to this galaxy of wines, starting from naming the specific area that the grapes come from. To be clear, this wouldn’t in any way remove the name Chianti Classico, which is and will remain the name of our zone. It is a way to strengthen the name by giving it depth and meaning.

There are a lot of aspects to this, details that would need to be discussed and decided upon, and of course any change of this type would require time, effort, and willingness to work together between all the producers, whether large or small.

But what’s at stake is a better future for our appellation which is after all one of the oldest, if not the oldest in the world (1716). This type of classification wouldn’t eclipse the current definitions of Classico, Riserva, Gran Selezione.

It would give the right emphasis to one of the aspects that matters the most: the origin of the grapes, giving a key to unlock and understand (and ultimately enjoy) the incredible diversity of this most elegant, food-friendly and age-worthy wine made from this “divine” grape variety, Sangiovese, or better Sangioveto, as traditionally named in Chianti (Classico).

Roberto Stucchi is one of Chianti Classico’s leading grape growers and winemakers.

8 thoughts on “Op-ed: “It’s time for Chianti Classico subzones,” says Roberto Stucchi

  1. Love this idea. This is why I have found Piemonte more interesting. If this happened to Toscana I would be more motivated to explore this region more.

    Is there a chance something like this could happen?

  2. Interesting idea, and one i find appealing, but mainly for the growers and “informed” consumers; maybe its the informed consumers you’re targeting with this. However, in the U.S., we’re still battling to get wine buyers to understand the “basics” of the various Chianti zones. Most don’t (and won’t care) even about the differences between Chianti Classico and the other appellations. Anything more nuanced will be lost on them…unless they come to visit and see the tremendous variations in terrain. (I pay much more attention to it, but then I’ve visited 10 times.) Even after visiting, however, I suspect most won’t buy by commune let alone subzone. Most don’t understand (or care) about the subzones even in their own famous growing areas (e.g., Napa, California.) Maybe the answer is different among your other large buyers…Germans?

  3. Dear Jeremy,
    Sorry to post this a bit late-nevertheless better late than never.(I hope)
    I think that what Roberto says about subzones would be interesting to see on the labels even though if I’m sure that it might be ignored by many. In the end who cares, when the info is there, first some geek will start to notice and then perhaps the word will spread. The basic idea is that Chianti Classico is an extremely varied territory and that one of the variables is that differences are due to different geografic origin. Another difference however I believe that would be equally important to point out on labels and that should interest wine lovers would be the nature of the producer. There are 385 producers in Chianti Classico: some big that often outsource their produce often speculating on undercost operations especially in moments of economic difficulty while others are small artisans that bottle only their “home grown” wine. Both wines are undistinguishable once bottled and both carry the same identical “gallo nero”. It would be high time to be able to distinguish the Chianti Classico produced and bottled by the artisan from that bottled by the big industrial bottler.
    Surely this would be just as important, if not even more than indicating the Comune or Subzone of origin. In France nègociant wines are clearly distinguishable from rècoltant wines, the same should apply for Chainti Classico too.I’m sure the final consumer would like to know this, don’t you think ?

  4. Pingback: The World’s First Chianti Classico Gran Selezione | The Globe Trotting Wino on Wine Tourism and Tasting

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