Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione | Denomination which was introduced in February 2014 as the new top level of three tiers for the Chianti Classico DOCG, directly above the existing Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva which itself was above Chianti Classico DOCG at the base. 

Gran Selezione v Chianti Classico | The rules for Gran Selezione are essentially the same as those for Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva. Both Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva and Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione made from the same formula of 80-100% Sangiovese plus an optional 0-20% other permitted grapes. Both are also made from identical yields of 7.5 tonnes/hectare. 

The only substantive differences between Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva, and Chianti Classico Gran Selezione are:

  • Gran Selezione must be made from 100% grapes which were 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 purchased 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 (very easily achieved, even before climate change…).
  • 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 test | 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.

Sceptics

Ian D’Agata | ‘I am generally not a huge fan of such new categories, especially those as hard to pronounce (for non-Italians) as “Gran Selezione”, because they generally add very little and come to mean just more bureaucratic red tape. I believe that simplifying the categories of Italian wines, and not complicating them further, is the route to go. However, the establishment of the top-tier Gran Selezione wines is just the first step in changing the Chianti Classico we have come to know and love. In fact, work is underway on phase 2 of the Gran Selezione project, in which mapping and promotion of individual communal terroirs will take center stage. In the near future, wines will be sporting the names of the townships where the grapes grow, such as Castellina in Chianti or Greve in Chianti, which I find a very good idea,’ (Ian D’Agata, Vinous, Sept 2014).

Paolo Cianferoni of the Caparsa winery in Radda in Chianti told me on 04th Oct 2017 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 morph 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.’

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 [the SuperTuscan style wines Paolo Cianferoni noted above] 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).

Dr Ian D’Agata, Tuscany Part 1: Chianti, Vino Nobile and Supertuscans (Sep 2014) | Vinous

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

Ian D’Agata, Tuscany Part 1: Chianti, Vino Nobile and Supertuscans (Sep 2014) | Vinous

,’ (Ian D’Agata, Vinous, Sept 2014).