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.