Marco Pallanti, the new president of the Chianti Classico Wine Consortium (Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico), wrote me this letter in Italian last week following a blog post I wrote on his region. I thought you would find the letter (translated, of course) interesting to read:
I feel honored to receive your approval for my new position, and I thank you for the extremely nice words you said about me. Chianti Classico is a beautiful area, rich in history, culture and winemaking tradition, which deserves particular attention. That is why I accepted with enthusiasm the opportunity to take the helm of the oldest wine Consortium in Italy, and I am eager to place my experience at the service of Chianti Classico. I know that you too have a special place in your heart for this territory, because you chose to come and live here with us. Since then, you have come to know and love Sangiovese in its many guises, and it is because of this that I would like to give my analysis, which differs from yours, of the problems this territory faces.
The Chianti Classico wine territory covers a very large area and, as you know well, in any great region there are different types and qualities of wine. Think of Bordeaux, often quoted as the benchmark for quality, which doesn't only produce "great wines;" there are also "cheap and bad" wines, and you can even find the precarious category of "expensive and bad" wines. The only major difference is that Bordeaux has a 200-year-old classification system that puts everything, or almost everything, in context. I could say the same for Burgundy, where the classification system is tied to the terroir, so it's not so scandalous that, in a vast wine territory, you can get zones and/or producers that are less than extraordinary. Maybe the "minefields" you mention would disappear if we could manage to set up some guidelines like other great wine regions have.
I'm also happy that you found many very good wines in your recent tastings, with prices to match their quality level. However, I don't believe that any Chianti Classico producer set out to make a "Brunello-buster;" I would say it was the very hot summer of 2003 that gave them this character. As you say, we have a climate that is different, but not less advantageous. We also have different terrain, which, together with the climate, allows us to make wines that are different from the rest of Tuscany -- unique wines. This is wine's greatness, and those who love wine, as we do, are aware of these differences.
These are some of the principle guidelines I will hold to during my presidency, and I am sure that, if important journalists such as you give us a hand, we will quickly be able to recover any lost time. I assure you that all the Chianti Classico producers have the idea of quality in their heart and that we all want to make better and better wine. But, unfortunately, the market has tried to transform what each individual zone knows how to do best, pushing it into making a single type of wine, always the same, with what is called an "international" style. This type of wine was not part of our DNA and, I admit, there have often been pale imitations and caricatures.
This is the first letter I have written as president, and I'm glad that it was addressed to a journalist whom I admire and also happens to write for one of the most important American journals. I believe that, with the help and collaboration of important figures such as you, we will be able to regain the trust of even the most particular consumer. In the meantime, I will endeavor to do my best to raise the quality of our Chianti Classico wines even higher. The fact that my election came about through a unanimous vote of the Administrative council of the Consortium proves that there is a definite willingness to change and improve. The Gallo Nero (Black Rooster) has crowed and, I can assure you, everyone has heard the call.
With sincere friendship and esteem,
Michael Pierce — Oswego, IL — July 31, 2006 3:09pm ET
Troy Peterson — Burbank, CA — August 1, 2006 6:07pm ET
Robert Johnston — Washington DC — August 2, 2006 8:24am ET
Kelly Walker — Charlotte — August 10, 2006 7:34pm ET
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