CHIANTI CLASSICO DOCG GRAN SELEZIONE was introduced in February 2014 as the new top level of three tiers for the Chianti Classico DOCG, directly above Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva with Chianti Classico DOCG at the base. The reason for Gran Selezione’s creation Walter Speller (30 Mar 2016) says, was that ‘after more than 20 years, the Consorzio has had to come to terms with the fact that its efforts to try to explain [mainly to consumers rather than the wine trade] the difference between Chianti Classico [DOCG] and Chianti [DOCG] tout court have failed. As a result, its marketing is now focused on the promotion of Gran Selezione. This in turn has created a situation in which more and more producers are keen to put their wines forward for this category even though the relatively lenient regulations have done little to promote higher quality. There are still plenty opportunities for getting it all wrong, the biggest of which would be to limit the application of subzones to Gran Selezione wines only. It would be disingenuous to use the creation of subzones to force producers into the Gran Selezione designation. Originality starts with origin, and not with an invented category that seems to be intended to drive prices up.’

THE RULES FOR GRAN SELEZIONE / These are essentially the same as those for Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva, both being made from 80-100% Sangiovese and 0-20% other grapes and from identical yields of 7.5 tonnes/hectare. The result is a stylistic jumble which asks consumers to accept their GS purchase may turn out to be a 100% Sangiovese wine or and 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet one. 

GRAN SELEZIONE VERSUS CHIANTI CLASSICO / The only substantive differences between the three tiers are:

  • Gran Selezione must be made 100% from grapes estate grown by the producer whose name appears on the label [“integralmente prodotto”]. Chianti Classico DOCG and Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva permit wines to be made from bought-in grapes or bulk wines
  • Gran Selezione can only be released from 30 months after harvest, compared to 24 months for Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva
  • Gran Selezione’s minimum alcohol of 13% is higher than the 12.5% minimum for for Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva
  • Gran Selezione’s dry extract level is one (symbolic?) gram more than for Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva

OAK AGEING / Oak ageing is not required for any of Chianti Classico DOCG’s three tiers (which is very sensible, giving growers greater flexibility in terms of style).

TASTING / All Gran Selezione wines must pass a mandatory, independently run blind tasting (see Roberto Stucchi’s comments on this, below).

THE MARKET / The first Gran Selezione wines (from the 2010 vintage) were released from February 2014. Older vintages of Chianti Classico DOCG or Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva wines can be labelled as Gran Selezione if they qualify under the rules.

GROWTH / ‘Chianti Classico Gran Selezione…Even if currently [2016] only 7% of Chianti Classico’s output is labelled as such, it is a category that is growing fast because many producers, even some who are not really convinced by it, seem to be succumbing to the attractions of Gran Selezione’s growing importance,’ (Walter Speller 30 Mar 2016).

THE CRITICS

Paolo Cianferoni of the Caparsa winery in Radda in Chianti told me on 04th Oct 2017 by ‘phone that he felt Gran Selezione was ‘an extra layer of confusion created by the marketing people to help Chianti Classico out of a sales crisis by tempting ‘Super Tuscan’ wines previously labelled as Toscana Rosso IGT back into the Chianti Classico fold. My best wine is labelled Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva and won’t be change into a Gran Selezione. Adding value to Chianti Classico DOCG could have been so much simpler by allowing producers to put the name of the village the wine comes from on the label, as in Burgundy.’ This echoes the view of  Walter Speller (and others) above.

Roberto Stucchi of Badia a Coltibuono in Gaiole told me on 05th October 2017 that ‘around 7% of Chianti Classico production appears to now be Gran Selezione. Rather than making the Chianti Classico pyramid higher with Gran Selezione it would have made much more sense to have the geographic mention of where the grapes come from on the Chianti Classico label, given how diverse the zone is. I wouldn’t stop at the township (‘comune’) level, either. To make sense of the huge diversity of the zone we need to break it down and identify the villages, such as Monti-in-Chianti, Panzano, Lamole, Montefioralle and others. One apparent goal of Gran Selezione was to absorb IGT wines but this appears to be a near-100% failure. A big problem with Gran Selezione is that growers do not have to declare at harvest that a specific lot of grapes will become a Gran Selezione, so in the end it’s just the tasting panel that chooses just before bottling what can be Gran Selezione. The tasting panel comprises five people and is independent and there are some great wines in there, but the panel does also seem to prefer mostly the more fuller, more oaky wines.’

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bill Nesto MW & Frances Di Savino, Chianti Classico, the Search for Tuscany’s Noblest Wine, (University of California Press, 2016).

Walter Speller 30 Mar 2016 ‘Chianti Classico to be subzoned?’, www.jancisrobinson.com.