If you are a wine industry professional, chances are that you’ll know there are two Chiantis in Tuscany. One, Chianti DOCG, is a large appellation whose discontinuous subregions cover a great deal of Tuscan land. The other, Chianti Classico DOCG, is a much smaller area covering the historical (ie ‘classico’) Chianti region, whose pedigree dates back to the 13th century.
But while professionals manage to appreciate the qualitative differences between the two (Chianti DOCG being often criticised for lacking distinction), and navigate the intricacies of both regions and their subregions with relative ease, consumers are instead presented with two sound-alike wines, one of which is inexplicably cheaper to buy.
Well, if you like us think it’s time they got this sorted, then sit back and prepare for a new load of confusion. Earlier in November, the Consorzio Chianti DOCG (CC) announced it will be following the steps of its nobler counterpart – Chianti Classico DOCG – and add the Gran Selezione at the top of its qualitative pyramid.
The CC motivated the decision as a move to foster quality across the appellation, with the Chinese and the American markets in mind. The Consorzio Chianti Classico (CCC) – which created the Gran Selezione tier back in 2014 to distantiate itself from Chianti DOCG’s poor-quality image – isn’t impressed: ‘We’re going to strongly oppose the proposal at all stages,’ stated Gianni Manetti, president of the CCC. 'This is clearly a frontal attack against us… the CC’s choice finds us sharply opposed, but also incredulous as we believe this strategy isn’t constructive and lacks innovation and originality.’
The move is indeed highly controversial, especially as it comes only weeks after the CC increased the amount of residual sugar allowed for the production of Chianti DOCG, a decision whose explicit purpose was to cater to the sweeter tooth of key foreign markets such as China and the United States.
See it, say it, sort of
It’s likely we’ll be seeing Chianti DOCG Gran Selezione wines hitting the market relatively soon: ‘The process to approve the new regulation will take about two years,’ said CC president Marco Alessandro Bani. Yet, they'll ‘request that the new regulations will be implemented retroactively, so that our winegrowers will be able to start making what’s going to become Gran Selezione as of next vintage'.
The CC highlighted that some of the specifications for the production of Chianti DOCG Gran Selezione will mirror those of its nobler cousin; for instance, 30-month ageing and an abv of 13% are some of the minimum requirements put forward by the CC (and no 'fiasco' allowed, despite the provocative picture above...). However, the Consorzio hasn’t made public other crucial details such as origin of the grapes, acidity levels, yields, etc.
Is the Chianti DOCG Gran Selezione a simple strategy to deliberately mislead the public in some of its more profitable export markets? Yes, it probably is. Will the UK be affected? Well, dear buyers and sommeliers, over to you now.