Chianti Classico vintages: See Chianti Classico DOCG.
2011 Growing season: ‘The 2012 and 2011 vintages were generally hot. The main differences between them are that in 2011 the heat started immediately: even April and May recorded record-high temperatures,’ (Ian D’Agata, Vinous, Sept 2014). Abundant winter rains. ‘Mild and rainy spring; hot end of June, early July; very hot August; mild September,’ (Nesto & Savino, 2016, p.190). | Summer temperatures above average, low rainfall. Low vine vigour. Both fruit set and veraison ahead of the norm. High temperatures at the end of August further accelerated ripening. ‘Very hot august; vines in hilly, water-retaining clay soils did best. Wines have rich tannins but good acidity,’ (Susan Hulme MW, Decanter May 2018, p.91). | 2011 Production 28.6 million hl (Source: Federdoc as reported by I Numeri del Vino). | 2011 Wine quality ‘Another hot year [very hot late August], but far better balanced wines [than 2012]. Bags of extract. Ripe tannins though and the fruit has richness and depth. The riservas and Gran Selezioni are plush, round,’ says Richard Baudains (2016, p.59).
2010: Growing season ‘Cool and rainy spring; sunny and dry end of June, early July; cool rest of season,’ (Nesto & Savino, 2016, p.190). Michael Schmelzer of Monte Bernardi reported an ‘incredible lack of sunlight that lasted from winter [which was very cold] through to mid spring, which was cool and somewhat wet. The lack of sunlight also delayed the start of the vine growth by as much as three weeks, especially in our older vineyards and poor sunlight exposure in the early season produced reduced cluster formations (bunches shorter in length and width) than in a typical year. The bunches were also missing their winged lobe (or ‘ali’) off the main bunch which is classic to Sangiovese, and the berries were smaller and fewer.’ However, summer and autumn weather was much better, with a hot July which accelerated vine growth. The fruit ripened well given the late start (especially if yields had been reduced by the lack of early season sunlight, mentioned above). Smaller than usual berries and looser bunches also reduced the potential for grey rot, allowing growers to wait. Harvest took place from mid- to late-September and into October in good conditions with warm and dry days and cool nights.
2010: ‘The 2009 and 2010 vintages are two of the greatest ever (with caveats) for Chianti Classico and central Tuscany. The two growing seasons differed markedly from each other. In general, the warmer 2009 vintage yielded wines that are more exotic, riper and higher in alcohol. That said, please note that the cooler microclimates tended to suffer in 2010, with some wines, such as those of Gaiole, marked by green and vegetal streaks,’ (Ian D’Agata, Vinous, Sept 2014).
2010: Wine quality ‘Not many Riservas made in 2010, which was a little under-ripe in some places and arguably more of an annata vintage. Despite the slight edginess, it is a vintage with authentic aromas and real Sangiovese grip. A vintage one could see stylistic changes [less oak, less French varietal influence] under way in the region,’ says Richard Baudains (2016, p59). The 2010 Chianti Classico ‘is shaping up to be a great vintage, perhaps one of the greatest. It was a cold year, with an irregular flowering that lowered yields, and a very late harvest. The wines possess stunning depth, well-delineated aromatics and massive structure. If I had to draw comparisons with recent years, I would say the 2010s have the aromatics of 2004, the fruit density of 2007 and the structure of 2006′, says Antonio Galloni in ‘Tuscany 2009 and 2010: A World of Opposites’ (Vinous). In my report for the 2013 Decanter World Wine Awards (for which I was Tuscany Chair) I wrote that ‘the cooler, less hyped 2010 Chianti Classico vintage should attract those looking for perfumed reds with savoury elegance.’
2009: Growing season ‘Abundant spring rain; warm early May; June rain; hot and dry July, August,’ (Nesto & Savino, 2016, p190). ‘Although initially it looked like 2009 would be known as “another hot vintage” just like 2003, the growing cycle and weather pattern were unsual and in many ways different. Proof of this are the 2009 wines which are much fresher, more aromatic and have more finesse than expected based on the 2009 weather conditions. The winter preceding 2009 was extremely wet, replenishing low water tables, which guaranteed an ongoing water supply for the vines throughout the warm and dry 2009 season. Owing to a very hot May with temperatures shooting up to 30 °C and higher, flowering and fruit set were swiftly completed so that harvest was expected to begin a good 10 days earlier than normal. But the growing cycle rate was greatly slowed down by the middle of May, when it started to rain, which continued for almost 30 consecutive days resulting in increased fungal pressure. But as our vineyards are quite isolated we managed to keep the vines unaffected while using only minimal treatment. The beginning of August was dangerously similar to 2003 with very high day temperatures reaching almost 40ºC. This heat spike initially made us fear high levels of alcohol and sunburnt fruit. However, the high altitude of the vineyards and the big difference between day and night temperature preserved the grapes’ freshness while keeping alcohol levels in check. The beginning of September proved hot and dry, but the heat became less intense during the second half of the month and we started the harvest under near perfect conditions on September 24th with the first picking of the Merlot. We finished harvesting by the 8th of October when we brought in the Cabernet Sauvignon, finishing harvest only one week earlier than our norm. Although alcohol levels are slightly up due to higher than average sugar accumulution in the berries, it is paired with good acidity levels and lovely, fresh aromatics,’ (La Porta di Vertine 2007 vintage report from its website, 23 Dec 2013).
2009 ‘The 2009 and 2010 vintages are two of the greatest ever (with caveats) for Chianti Classico and central Tuscany. The two growing seasons differed markedly from each other. 2010 yielded wines of greater elegance and balance [than 2009]. That said, please note that 2009 wines from warmer parts of Chianti Classico (such as Castelnuovo Berardenga) can be tarry, heavy and disappointing,’ (Ian D’Agata, Vinous, Sept 2014).
2008 | Growing season ‘Mild and rainy May, June; hot and dry July, August; dry and mild September,’ (Nesto & Di Savino, 2016, p.190).
2008: Wine quality 2008 was ‘good, but with a question mark over the stayability. A wet spring followed by a hot summer and then a cool wet August. The run in to the harvest had good conditions however and the fruit came in ripe and healthy. The lightly oaked annata wines were attractive, with very typical Sangiovese aroma, easy to drink immediately, albeit a little short. Stylistically a vintage made more for drinking than keeping. The riservas are a mixed bunch, with some rigid tannins [due to cool weather] which might not settle down. It is a slightly enigmatic vintage, but one to watch,’ says Kerin O’Keefe (in a Decanter article).
2007: Growing season ‘A mild winter was followed by a cool, even Spring, leading to an early budbreak, and fears for a Spring frost proved unfounded. The weather remained pretty textbook, with occasional downpours at regular intervals. Temperatures climbed rapidly in July, with one week of scorching heat causing for some sunburnt fruit, which needed to be cut out, but this did not affect the overall volume. The remainder of the growing cycle was cooler and sunny until the beginning of September. Overall 2007 has resulted in complex wines, with fine tannins and density of fruit,’ (La Porta di Vertine 2007 vintage report from its website, 23 Dec 2013).
2006: Growing season Some excellent wines. Similar to 2004 although bigger in body. It rained when rain was needed, and the summer was not excessively hot, so the resulting wines are fresh, lively with an excellent structure and body.
2006: Growing season ‘The growing cycle in Spring started under drier conditions than the previous year, followed by a rather warm summer with average temperatures in the mid 30s° C. As the season progressed it started to show similarities to the very hot 2003, with sugar levels shooting up. However, the crucial difference was that night temperatures went down as much as 10° C, allowing the plants to rest and retaining good acidity levels. During September some rain fell, but not enough to harm the grapes. Although high sugar levels resulted in alcohol regularly approached 14% and more, there is good balance with ripe tannins and good acidity. It is certainly a vintage with great cellaring potential,’ (La Porta di Vertine 2007 vintage report from its website, 23 Dec 2013).
2005: Growing season ‘A vintage  that would go down in history as a challenging one, with an overall cool season and abundant rains in August, as well as regular precipitation in September and early October. This caused for delay in ripening, which could only be offset by intensive canopy management and green harvesting. The wet season caused for heightened mould pressure, which quality conscious producers tried to counteract opening the canopy, as well as severe fruit selection. In many cases this meant that volume went down with as much as 30%. September showed some hot weather. Still, many wines would show green unripe tannins with sometimes cooked fruit flavours, the result of prolonging bunch hang time in the vineyard in an effort to achieve more balance in the grapes. However, it is certainly not a vintage to write off, and some very good Riservas were produced, the result of a severe selection, whereas others chose to not produce a Riserva at all and using the fruit to upgrade their straight Chianti Classico,’ (La Porta di Vertine 2007 vintage report from its website, 23 Dec 2013).
2005: Wine style Lighter than usual wines. An average vintage, sandwiched between two exceptional ones in 2004 and 2006.
2004: Growing season ‘After the very hot 2003, 2004 seemed positively more regular. After a cool spring, which delayed budbreak and flowering, there were some substantial rains in May, which appeared to be a blessing from the sky as water reserves were replenished for what turned out to be a dry summer. September’s weather was one anyone would wish for with warm days and cooler nights with grapes maturing evenly while retaining acidity. A delayed harvest was envisaged and didn’t start before the end of September, in some instances even later, well into October. The resulting wines show fairly high levels of alcohol, but with enough substance and a ripe acidic core with lots of extract. The Consorzio of Chianti Classico initially gave it a four star rating out of five, but while the wines age this seems more and more a conservative assessment,’ (La Porta di Vertine 2007 vintage report from its website, 23 Dec 2013).
2003: Growing season Good vintage, balanced wines.
2000: Growing season ‘A tricky vintage’ (Gambero Rosso: 2003, p.571). ‘A not very extraordinary year,’ (Gambero Rosso: 2003, p.560).
1999: Growing season Drought conditions.
1998: Growing season Drought conditions. ‘A far from excellent year,’ (Gambero Rosso: 2003, p.553)
1997: Growing season Hot summer.
1988: Growing season See David Gleave (1989, p.103).
1987: Growing season See David Gleave (1989, p.103).
1986: Growing season See David Gleave (1989, p.103).
1985: Growing season See David Gleave (1989, p.103).
1984: Growing season See David Gleave (1989, p.103).
1983: Growing season See David Gleave (1989, p.103).).
1982: Growing season See David Gleave (1989, p.103).
1981: Growing season See David Gleave (1989, p.103).
1980: Growing season See David Gleave Gleave (1989, p.103).
1978: Growing season See David Gleave (Gleave (1989, p.103).
1978: Growing season See David Gleave (1989, p.103).
1977: Growing season See David Gleave (1989, p.103).
Bill Nesto MW & Frances Di Savino, Chianti Classico, the Search for Tuscany’s Noblest Wine, (University of California Press, 2016).
David Gleave, ‘The Wines of Italy‘ (Salamander Books, London, 1989).
Dr Ian D’Agata, Tuscany Part 1: Chianti, Vino Nobile and Supertuscans (Sep 2014) | Vinous.
Richard Baudains, ‘Sleepy? Never,’ Decanter Italy Supplement 2016, p.59.
Susan Hulme MW, ‘Chianti Classico 2013 & 2014: top tiers’ Decanter May 2018.
Walter Speller, ‘Chianti Classico 2013, and then some’, www.jancisrobinson.com 07 April 2015.
Walter Speller, ‘Chianti Classico Riserva’s struggle,’ www.jancisrobinson.com 07 April 2016.