A Grand Selection: 2019 Chianti Classicos Reach New Heights

The newest classic vintage shines in a tasting of Gran Selezione Chianti Classicos from Antinori, Fontodi, Castello di Ama and Barone Ricasoli

A Grand Selection: 2019 Chianti Classicos Reach New Heights
From left: Albiera Antinori, Tenuta Fontodi's Giovanni Manetti, Wine Spectator's Bruce Sanderson, Castello di Ama's Marco Pallanti and Francesco Ricasoli (Rick Wenner)
Oct 25, 2022

“After centuries of growing grapes and producing wine, Chianti Classico is enjoying its moment in the spotlight,” said Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson at the 2022 New York Wine Experience, “and the region is on a path to even greater success for many years to come.” The Chianti Classico seminar starred four wines bearing the zone’s top designation, Gran Selezione, and all from the stellar 2019 vintage.

Sanderson outlined the Tuscan region’s trajectory over the past 50 years, from making ordinary table wine to an increasingly fine and distinctive wine emphasizing the Sangiovese grape and the Chianti Classico DOCG’s terroir. “The driving force has been the vision and passion of [Chianti’s] producers and viticulturists,” he said. “The people who are determined to interpret their territory and make great wines from it. We have four such producers on stage this morning.”

Albiera Antinori, president of Marchese Antinori, spoke about Badia a Passignano, a small abbey dating back some 12 centuries, with a long history of grapegrowing. “It's about 300 meters above sea level,” said Antinori. “It is in an amphitheater. South-facing, so perfectly catching the sun.” Sharing the Antinori Chianti Classico Badia a Passignano Gran Selezione 2019 (95 points, $60), she said, “It has the wonderful silkiness that you will always find in Chianti Classico wines when the Sangiovese has well-managed tannins. They're silky, they're savory, a bit salty, and they have very good aging potential.”

 Server pouring a bottle of Antinori Chianti Classico Badia a Passignano Gran Selezione 2019 for a guest at the 2022 New York Wine Experience
The Badia Passignano Gran Selezione 2019 started off a series of Chianti Classicos that each showed a distinct sense of place, characteristic of both their appellation and their individual site. (Daphne Youree)

“Territory really makes a difference,” said Giovanni Manetti, owner of Fontodi and president of the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico. “It's really possible to make something authentic, unique, that cannot be replicated in another part of the world.” Tasting the Fontodi Chianti Classico Vigna del Sorbo Gran Selezione 2019 (94, $110), he admired its dark cherry and floral aromas, its solid structure and its long, fresh finish. “Remember: Fresh finish is one of the trademarks of Chianti Classico. They’re always vibrant and never heavy and never boring.”

Marco Pallanti, winemaker and technical director at Castello di Ama, recently finished his 41st harvest there. He showed great pride in his craft, and in the Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Vigneto La Casuccia Gran Selezione 2019 (not yet reviewed): “It is one of the best—probably the best—wine I've ever made.” He also waxed philosophical, quoting from The Little Prince: “‘If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.’ This encompasses my goal and the legacy I’m trying to pass to my staff, to my son and daughter. This wine is the best expression of our place, and the best wine that I've made, but in the next 40 years maybe you'll make something better.”

“The previous three wines were so good, my ankles are a little bit shaky,” said Francesco Ricasoli, 32nd-generation owner and president of Barone Ricasoli. The scion of one of the oldest winemaking families in Italy also spoke of past and future: “I carry on my shoulders a great tradition in this place. Modern Chianti was created by one of my ancestors in the 19th century. When I took over, I felt this pressure, but at the same time I thought that a great and successful tradition needs to be dynamic. If they don't move ahead, they will die.” He shared the Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Castello di Brolio Gran Selezione 2019 (95, $70). “It's already displaying an amazing balance and elegance. I think it will have a long life.”

Read senior editor Bruce Sanderson's full tasting report on the 2019 vintage in Chianti Classico and other parts of Tuscany!

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