On a gorgeous Tuscan summer day, Chianti Classico can look like a sleepy region resting on its history, but the region's wine producers have been moving forward with major developments.
The assembly of the Consorzio Chianti Classico, the official alliance of wineries, voted earlier this month on two important issues for the region. It agreed to formally recognize 11 subzones of Chianti Classico, known as Unità Geografiche Aggiuntive ("Additional Geographical Units"), or UGAs. Members also voted to stiffen the rules of wines in the Gran Selezione category. Wines in that elite category must now contain 90 percent Sangiovese, with the remaining grape varieties traditional to the region.
"The assembly voted with 90 percent the introduction of the UGA, and I didn't do anything special to convince them," consorzio president Giovanni Manetti told Wine Spectator. "They are all increasingly aware that 'the territory makes the difference' and that we had to reinforce the relationship between the wine and the specific piece of land giving birth to it. Quality is not only satisfaction for the palate but also uniqueness, and the territory is the production factor that mostly provides it."
As consumers become increasingly interested in the wines' vineyard origins, the modifications highlight the region's unique terroirs. The names of the 11 subzones will also be added to the labels. They are: Castellina, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Gaiole, Greve, Lamole, Montefioralle, Panzano, Radda, San Casciano, San Donato in Poggio and Vagliagli.
Chianti Classico's producers have long debated whether it is better to offer straightforward labeling or highlight the historic region's distinct terroirs. The UGA decision definitely moves toward the latter.
In formalizing the UGAs on the labels, some regions, such as Castellina, Gaiole and Radda, will keep the same boundaries as in recent years. Others have been modified: The former Castelnuovo Berardenga has been carved in two, its western half now called Vagliagli. Barberino Val d'Elsa and Tavernelle have been combined in San Donato in Poggio. Greve has seen the largest modifications, split into four UGAs: Greve, Lamole, Montefioralle and Panzano.
Initially, the UGAs will only appear on the labels of Gran Selezione bottlings, the region's highest-quality wines, representing about 5 percent of the wines produced each vintage. The goal is to extend the UGA concept to the Chianti Classico and riserva wines over the next four years.
"We planned to start with the Gran Selezione because it has to be integralmente prodotto e imbottigliato (estate grown and bottled) and also because it is the category with higher positioning in the market," said Manetti.
The other approved proposal eliminates the use of international grape varieties in any blend of Gran Selezione. It also increases the proportion of Sangiovese to a minimum of 90 percent, while the requirement for estate-grown grapes remains unchanged.
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