One of Chianti Classico's best estates, Castello di Ama, rejoined the Chianti Classico Wine Consortium last week, after a separation of 12 years.
This means that the Castello di Ama Chianti Classico, as well as the estate's two single-vineyard Chianti Classicos, Bellavista and La Casuccia, will once again bear the black rooster emblem, the symbol of the Chianti Classico appellation. In recent blind tastings by Wine Spectator editors, the 2003 Chianti Classico scored 90 points on the 100-point scale, while the Bellavista 2001 and La Casuccia 2001 scored 95 points and 92 points, respectively.
The estate, run by managing director Lorenza Sebasti and winemaker Marco Pallanti, decided on the move following the recent reunification of Chianti Classico's two growers' associations--one concerned with regulatory issues, the other with promotional efforts--into a single consortium that will take on both functions.
Castello di Ama left the consortium in 1993 because it was unhappy with a system that merely monitored the minimum standards required for wines made under the Chianti Classico appellation.
According to Pallanti, the decision to return was prompted mainly by the fact that the new consortium will no longer be subject to directives from bureaucratic bodies in Italy's capital, Rome. Instead, the consortium will be able to decide on issues of quality control locally and internally. He hopes that Castello di Ama's participation in the consortium will encourage it to improve the overall quality of Chianti Classico.
"It's important now to be part of the family, and we're happy to be back," he said. "But there's a lot of hard work to do, and we all have to take seriously our dual role as both the controllers and the controlled."
A difficult task awaits the new consortium, as export sales of wines from the whole region of Tuscany are dropping because of tougher international competition and the strength of the euro.
Pallanti predicts that this may be the last chance that the Chianti Classico appellation has to improve its image and regain the confidence of consumers at home and overseas. "We have to work well as a body," he said. "If not, we'll end up where we started--with each estate thinking only about itself and its own labels."
The Chianti Classico Wine Consortium currently consists of around 600 producers, of which about 270 are bottlers. The Chianti Classico territory covers about 173,000 acres of vineyards in the area between Florence and Siena and produces around 2.9 million cases of Chianti Classico per year.