The debut of Chianti Classico's new Gran Selezione designation in New York gave me the opportunity to taste more wines offered under the new category and speak with some of the producers behind the wines.
In all, I tasted eight wines at the event, held at the Four Seasons restaurant. Dario Cecchini, the celebrated butcher from Panzano in the heart of the Chianti Classico zone, oversaw the dinner, an ode to beef.
This wasn't my first my look at Gran Selezione Chiantis—I had a visit from San Felice in March, tastings at Vinitaly and a subsequent trip to Tuscany in April.
In a previous blog, I questioned whether the new Gran Selezione designation would guarantee quality. Based on what I have tasted and learned to date, the answer isn't clear.
Most of the Chianti Classicos under the new designation are not new wines, they're just held a little longer. As of the 2009 or 2010 vintages, they will simply carry a new name—Gran Selezione—on the label. For example, Antinori's Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Badia a Passignano, Fontodi's Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna del Sorbo and Il Molino di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone, wines that often receive outstanding reviews, are formerly the estates' riserva bottlings. Under the new diesignation, they are aged an additional six months longer than the riservas were.
That said, what Gran Selezione does bring to the table is the emphasis on estate-grown grapes and estate-bottled wines. First, this offers the potential for the best quality Chianti Classico; second, it precludes the practice of purchasing grapes or bulk wine, with bottling done by companies that don't own vineyards or are located outside the production zone.
Furthermore, what gives the Gran Selezione category gravitas is the widespread support from the major producers in the zone. Working together to promote not only Gran Selezione, but also Chianti Classico and its wines is the right way to move forward.
Finally, Gran Selezione will be offering new wines in the future. Sandro Sartor, managing director of Ruffino, pointed out that in order to launch the Gran Selezione concept now with a regulatory minimum of 30 months aging, it was impossible to create new wines with the Gran Selezione designation. They will release an original Gran Selezione in 2016. For now, it is the Ducale d’Oro 2010.
Rocca delle Macìe debuted its Chianti Classico Sergio Zingarelli Gran Selezione 2010, a selection of Sangiovese and Colorino (10 percent) from the Le Macìe estate. It represents one of the few new wines in the group. Proprietor and consorzio president Sergio Zingarelli told me he was pleased with the support so far from the producer members.
This is a category to watch. Though ultimately, Gran Selezione isn’t a guarantee of quality by itself, six of the eight wines I tasted at the event were potentially outstanding. It is, on the other hand, a guarantee of authenticity. I look forward to blind tasting more Chianti Classico Gran Selezione over the coming months.