There are many great grape varieties in Italy but it if I was forced to choose a favorite, it would be Sangiovese. Wines made from the Sangiovese grape are the perfect wines to go with food. They have bright fruit flavors, hints of violets, and good acidity. The best wine made from the Sangiovese grape is Chianti from Tuscany.
For the last four years I have been attending the annual seminar and tasting presented by the Consorzio Vino Chianti. I enjoy these seminars, the guided tasting, listening to the speakers and catching up on the latest news from one of my favorite wine regions. This year was was no exception.
Ray Isle of Food & Wine Magazine introduced the three panelists for the guided tasting: Sarah Bray of Town and Country Magazine, Luize Alberto of WineHub, and Giovanni Busi, president of the Consorzio Vino Chianti and owner of Villa Travignoli.
Mr. Busi seemed to set the tone of the seminar when he said that “Chianti is one of the best know wines and one of the least known wines.” This led to the panelists discussing Chianti in the market place, the beauty of the Tuscan landscape, the confusion with Chianti Classico and what could the Consortium do to help consumers better understand Chianti and improve its market share.
The panelists agreed that by having these seminars and tastings the Consortium was doing it best to promote Chianti. The confusion with Chianti Classico may be hard to overcome. Near the end of the seminar the woman next to me whispered, “I have been drinking Chianti all my life and I thought that all Chianti had a black rooster on the neck of the bottle.”
Mr. Busi discussed the grapes that are used to make Chianti and how the wine is aged. Chianti must be at least 70% Sangiovese but the law has limited the amount of international grapes such as Merlot to 10%. Traditional Tuscan grapes like Canaiolo can also be used up to 30% as well as Trebbiano and Malvasia, which are white grapes. Mr. Busi wanted to change the law so that Chianti to allow that the wine can be made from 100% Sangiovese and this was recently approved.
Chianti may be released on March 1st of the year following the harvest. The sub-regions of Montalbano, Arentini, Pisane and Senesi may also be released on March 1st after the harvest. The sub-regions of Montespertoli may be released on June 1st. The sub-regions of Fiorentini and Rufina may be released on September 1st of the year following the harvest. Chianti Superiore may be released on September 1st of the year following the harvest.
For the Riserva the wine must be aged a minimum of two years from January 1st following the harvest. For Chianti Fiorentini and Rufina, the Riserva has to spend at lest 6 months in wood. For the Chianti Senesi Riserva the wine must spend at least 8 months in wood and 4 months in bottle.
The panel also discussed the Chianti Consortium and the production zones for Chianti. The Consorzio Vino Chianti was established in 1927 by a group of wine producers in the provinces of Pistoia, Siena, Arezzo and Florence. Later the Consorzio expanded to cover the whole production area covered by the DOCG. Now the Chianti production area is located in the provinces of Arezzo, Florence, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato and Siena. Chianti wines are designated as: Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colli Senesi, Colline Pisane, Montalbano, Rufina, and the last, added in 1997, Montespertoli. In addition is the return of the Chianti “Superiore” which can come from anywhere in the Chianti wine area with the exception of the Chianti Classico zone between Florence and Siena. Superiore cannot have a name of an area on the label. There is also the Colli dell’ Etruria Centrale. The DOC permits in the Chianti DOCG area the production of wines of a different quality from Chianti, which include reds, whites, roses, novello and Vin Santo.
The tasting was blind in that we were not given the names of the producers. All other information about the wine was given to us.
Chianti DOCG 2013 San Vito 100 % Sangiovese. The soil is sandy clay and the exposure is southwest/northwest. The training system is spurred cordon, the vines are 20 years old and are at 150 meters. Organic farming is practiced. Fermentation with 8 to 10 days of maceration on the skins with regular pumping over. The wine matures in steel and g;ass-lined vats and is aged for another 3 months in bottle. This is an easy drinking wine with hints of cherry, blackberries and a touch of violet. It is a perfect food wine.
Chianti DOCG 2012 Priore 90% Sangiovese and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. The soil is rich in organic material. The vineyards are at 300 meters and face south. The vines are 15 years old and are spurred cordon trained. Aging takes place in stainless steel vats for at least 12 months and in second passage oak barrels for at least 5 months. The wine remains in the bottle for another 6 months before it is released. It has hints of violets, cherries and a touch of prune.
Chianti Colli Fiorentini DOCG 2001 Il Castelvecchio 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot. The soil is made up of clay, sandstone, gravel and stone. The vineyard is at 250-300 meters, with the Sangiovese facing west and the Merlot northwest. The vines are 18 years old and the training is guyot. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks for 14 days with a slow maceration. There is a pressing of the grapes and a daily pumping over. The wine spends 12 months in different size oak barrels and second passage barriques. The wines remains in bottle for 3 months before release. It has hints of red berries, with a nice finish and aftertaste.
Chianti Colli Fiorentini Riserva “San Camillo”2010 Il Corno 100% Sangiovese. The vines are 15 to 20 years old, south facing at 350 meters and the training system is spurred cordon. Fermentation in stainless steel vats and the malolactic fermentation is in concrete tanks. The wine is aged for 6 months in large barrels and 3 months in bottle before release. It has hints of spice, pepper and nice minerality
Chianti DOCG Riserva 2009 Casalbosco 100% Sangiovese. The soil is made up of rocks and clay, the exposure is south/southwest, the age of the vines is 15 years and the training system is spurred cordon. Fermentation is in stainless steel vats. The wine is aged in second passage medium toasted barriques for 12 months and spens 6 months in bottle before release. The wine had hints of cherry and plum.
Chianti Colli Senesi Riserva 2008 DOCG 95% Sangiovese and 5% Colorino Coppiole. The hillside vineyards have mixed soils with a prevalence of sand. The vines are 25 to 30 years old and are at 300 meters. The exposure is south/southwest and the training system guyot. The wine spends 12 to 15 months in tonneaux (500 liters) and 12 months in cement vats. It remains in the bottle for another 4 to 8 months before it is released. It is a fruity wine with hints of cherry and spice and a nice finish and aftertaste.
I was very pleased with the wines chosen for the seminar because they were a true expression of the Sangiovese grape and of the Tuscan terroir which makes Chianti so unique and a wonderful food wine.