What Do You Know About Chianti Classico?
“Chianti Classico” and should not be confused with “Chianti”, which is a separate denomination that surrounds Chianti Classico. In 1716, the Tuscan Grand Duke Cosimo III, established for the first time in history the borders of the production area for Chianti Classico. It covers the area between Siena and Florence and covers 70,000 hectares, but the area occupied by vineyards is only 7,200 hectares. FYI 4,130 hectares of wine grapes are grown in BC, so the Chianti Classico region is not that much larger than us. The communes (which you will see on the labels of the wines) that make the Chianti Classico DOCG area include Castellina, Gaiole, Greve, Radda, Barberino Tavarnelle, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Poggibonsi and San Casciano.
As with all grape growing regions, soil type plays a role in the types of grapes grown and the flavours of the grapes. The major soil types in Chianti Classico cover:
- Alberese: Marl (Clayey Limestone)
- Galestro: Schistous Clay
- Macigno Toscano: Sandstone
- Argilla: Clay
According to chianticlassico.com, ” Chianti Classico coming from Alberese are usually rich in structure, muscular, but also fresh and elegant, sometimes showing floral and cherry notes, with a noteworthy minerality. Galestro soils give power and aromatic diversity. Sandstone comes out in elegance and a certain smoothness, with floral hints and citrusy notes, while clay-rich soils give power, smoothness and opulence to the wines. In many cases the wines are raised on a combination of soil types and in turn reflect the confluence of the terroirs.”
Chianti Classico Blend
Chianti Classico can be made with 100% Sangiovese grapes, but it is allowed to be blended with other red grapes, either indigenous or international. There must be at least 80% Sangiovese if a blend is made. The other 20% can be made of the indigenous grapes Canaiolo, Colorino, Mammolo, Malvasia Nera, Pugnitello, or Foglia Tonda, and/or the international grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, or Petit Verdot. No white grapes are allowed in the production of Chianti Classico since 2006.
Chianti Classico Quality Pyramid
In 2013 the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico members approved their 3 tier quality pyramid of Chianti Classico wines. The basic wine is Chianti Classico Annata, although you will likely never see the word “Annata” on the label. One step up is the Chianti Classico Riserva, followed by their new top tier, Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. The production methods specified for these three tiers of wines are shown below.
Typical Aroma and Flavour Profile of Chianti Classico
When you open a bottle of Chianti Classico, in general, you can say that the wine will be fresh and fragrant with primarily red fruit aromas, although you can also get cherries, plums and other dark fruits. There can also be a floral tone, such as violets on the nose and palate. The wine is usually lighter coloured, but some do get quite dark garnet. Any spiciness would come from oak barrel ageing. Tannins are usually not overly strong, meaning that you get a wine that has a nice balance between fruit, tannins, and acidity.
I have been told that Chianti Classico, with its differences in regions, soil types, and blends, can produce a wine that could be paired with any dish. So try a lighter bodied Chianti Classico from the Radda commune with fish, or a fuller bodied one from Castelnuovo Berardenga with a grilled beef skewer.
Below are my favourite Chianti Classico wines from a recent Trade tasting. My selections cover Annata, Riserva, and Gran Selezione. As the wine can be a blend of grapes, I list the grapes that went into each wine. About half the wines listed have a local BC agent and half need an agent. Enjoy.
My Favourite Chianti Classico Wines
Bibbiano Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva 2015 – 100% Sangiovese. Ripe red cherry nose. Medium body, roundish, with red cherry and dark chocolate flavour. Spicy with the pepperiness from mid-palate to finish. Medium oak. Very good.
Bibbiano Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione Vigna del Capannino 2015 – 100% Sangiovese Grosso. This wine was fermented in concrete then some spent time in oak. This wine is a lighter translucent garnet in colour. Light, bright raspberry and red cherry nose. Dry, semi-round, with a lighter mouthfeel. Medium acidity. Ripe cherries and Old World oak flavours. Light pepperiness. Elegant.
Castello di Albola Chianti Classico DOCG 2015 – 100% Sangiovese. Light cedar nose. Light body with a mineral streak. Floral, nutmeg and red fruit flavours. Medium acidity and fine tannins. Classy. –
Cantina Castelvecchi Chianti Classico DOCG Capotondo 2016 – 88% Sangiovese, 12% Canaiolo. Lifted, bright light red fruit nose. Lighter body, dry with a soft mouthfeel. Red fruit, red apples and floral on the palate. Medium bright acidity and medium tannins. Yum!
Cantina Castelvecchi Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva Lodolaio 2015 – 100% Sangiovese. Light red fruit and cinnamon aromas. Medium plus to full bodied. Ripe, sweet red fruit flavours. Soft and round mouthfeel. Tasty.
Cantina Castelvecchi Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione Madonnino della Pieve 2015 – 100% Sangiovese. Almost opaque garnet in the glass. Light intensity aromas of cedar, dark fruit and vanilla. Full-bodied, round and soft with medium minus tannins. Off-dry or just fruity? Lots of ripe red and black fruits. Rich sweet flavourful fruit. –
Castello di Meleto Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 – 100% Sangiovese. It has an interesting cherry & raspberry nose. It is off-dry light bodied with flavours of tea leaves and red fruits. Medium acidity and light tannins. Tasty. Reminds me of a Pinot Noir.
Castello di Meleto Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva Vigna Casi 2015 – 100% Sangiovese. Light intensity red fruit and bramble aromas. Medium plus body, round and soft, with medium acidity and dusty tannins. Nice, fresh red fruit flavours.
Castello Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva Agostino Petri 2015 – 90% Sangiovese and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine has a light red raspberry and floral nose. Off-dry, round with medium plus body. Firmer tannic backbone. Riper red fruits, along with some oak and pepperiness. Quality.
Conti Capponi Chianti Classico DOCG Villa Calcinaia 2016 – 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo. Matchstick and red fruit on the nose. Medium plus body, round with medium tannins and higher acidity. Quite fruity; red and black fruit mix.
Dievole Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva Novecento 2015 – 95% Sangiovese, 3% Canaiolo, and 2% Colorino. This wine is medium intensity translucent garnet. Very nice ripe red apple and red cherry aromas. Medium body with medium acidity and firmer tannins. Red cherry and red apple flavours. Very tasty.
Fattorie Melini Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva La Selvanella 2014 – 100% Sangiovese Grosso – The wine has a light intensity red fruit, red cherries, and dustiness on the nose. It is medium bodied, dry with some roundness. Firmer tannins and medium acidity. A mix of red fruits and raspberries in particular.
Felsina Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva Berardenga 2016 – 100% Sangiovese. Medium translucent garnet in colour. Red apples, red fruits, and some sweet spice aromas. Medium plus body, dry with firm tannins and medium acidity. Cedar / Old World Oak and red fruit flavours. Fruit acidity and tannins balanced.
Il Molino di Grace Chianti Classico DOCG Solo Sangiovese 2016 – 100% Sangiovese. Medium plus intensity translucent garnet. Ripe bramble fruit nose. Full body with firm tannins and medium acidity. Ripe raspberries, red fruits and red cherry flavours. Round and dry. This wine can age.
Il Molino di Grace Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva 2015 – 100% Sangiovese. Deeper garnet colour in the glass. Smoky, coffee and dark fruit nose. The wine is full body, off-dry, soft, with fine tannins and medium acidity. Ripe brambleberry and coffee flavours. An overall soft mouthfeel to this wine.
Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico DOCG 2015 – 100% Sangiovese. Light translucent garnet colour. Light red fruit and cedar on the nose. Dry, lighter body with an angular mouthfeel and fine tannins. Floral, red fruit and cedar on the palate. Nice. Elegant.
Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva Fanatico 2013 – 100% Sangiovese. Medium translucent garnet. Ripe raspberry and red fruit nose. Medium plus body, dry and round with soft medium tannins and acidity. Ripe red fruit and cedar nose.
The Stories Continue…
There is more that I can tell you about the newest tier, Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, and this will come in another article. Also, in the Chianti Classico region you get a sweet wine called Vin Santo. I was fortunate to have a chance to try a wide selection of these dessert wines and will write an article on them as well. Cin cin.