Chianti Classico Reserva and Gran Selezione Wines and the New Unità Geografiche Aggiuntive

Jason Yamasaki
Jason Yamasaki

This is Part Two of my article covering the Chianti Classico Masterclass led by Jason Yamasaki.  In Part One I covered the history, and grape varieties used for Chianti Classico, touched on the DOCG quality pyramid, and reviewed a basic Annata tier of Chianti Classico wines.  In Part Two I am covering the Chianti Classico Riserva and Gran Selezione tiers of wine, the newly defined 11 Unità Geografiche Aggiuntives (UGAs), and review a selection of Riserva and Gran Selezione wines that you can purchase in BC.

Riserva and Gran Selezione Tiers

One step up from the basic Annata tier is the Riserva tier.  Wines in this tier require 24 months of minimum ageing that includes 3 months of bottle ageing.  Chianti Classico Riserva wines are usually more concentrated and structured than Annata. This used to be the top tier for Chianti Classico wines until 2013.

Starting in 2013, the Chianti Classico Consorzio updated their DOCG wine quality pyramid, adding the “Gran Selezione“ tier.  In 2021 they further increased the restrictions for wine to qualify for Gran Selezione.  To qualify for “Gran Selezione”, a Chianti Classico must be produced exclusively with grapes from single vineyards or selected from an estate’s best-suited vineyards.  There has to be at least 90% Sangiovese grapes used in the wine and no international grape varieties. Gran Selezione wines may only be released on the market after 30 months of cellaring plus a set period in bottle.  Gran Selezione wines currently account for around 6% of Chianti Classico production. 

Before 2013 some of a winery’s wines may have been in the Riserva category, but of a higher quality, so these wines were reclassified as Gran Selezione.  There are then also some wineries creating new Gran Selezione wines from scratch.

Here are the winemaking requirements for all three tiers.

Chianti Classico - Tiers with production requirements
Chianti Classico – Tiers with production requirements

The 11 UGA

In June 2021 the Chianti Classico Members’ Assembly approved that the production zone for Chianti Classico will be apportioned into tighter subdivisions with more homogenous characteristics, known as Unità Geografiche Aggiuntive (UGA), or Additional Geographical Units. The Assembly wanted to strengthen communication around the correlation between wine and place of origin. The 11 UGAs have been demarcated within the Chianti Classico production area, each one distinguished by a combination of unique natural attributes (soil composition, microclimate, position of the vines, etc.) and human factors (cultural background, local traditions, community ethos).

The 11 UGAs that make the Chianti Classico DOCG area are now defined as San Casciano, Castellina, Gaiole, Greve, Montefioralle, Lamole, Panzano, Radda, Vagliagli, Castelnuovo Berardenga, and San Donato in Poggio.  At the moment the UGAs will apply only to the Gran Selezione wines but will eventually extend to all levels of Chianti Classico wines.  

Chianti Classico - The Territory and the 11 UGA
Chianti Classico – The Territory and the 11 UGA

Topography, consisting of elevation, slope and aspect (direction of slope) influences the amount of sun and moisture the vines will receive.

Chianti Classico - Topography
Chianti Classico – Topography (coloured elevation and sun shaded slope direction)

Using Google Earth I tried to put together a perspective view of the 11 UGAs.  I was unable to put a blue pin for Montefioralle. But you can see the region is hilly and has a large area covered in forest.

Chianti Classico UGA points (Image by Google Earth)
Chianti Classico UGA points with UGA locations at blue pins (Image by Google Earth)

Characteristics of the Wines by UGA

Jason gave us some descriptive characteristics of the wines coming from these distinct UGAs and he commented on these characteristics as we tasted through the wines.

UGA Descriptive Characteristics
Castellina warmth, rustic, richness
Radda high elevation, elegance, red fruit
Gaiole quintessential, structure, dark tone
Greve fresh, bright, varied
San Casciano warm, ripe, pure
Castelnuovo Berardenga savoury, round, rich
San Donato in Poggio tense, vertical, crunch
Panzano intensity, freshness, power
Lamole lightness, delicacy, bright
Montefioralle fresh, bright, varied
Vagliagli warmth, round, rich

Tasting through with Jason, he did point out the darker fruit, black cherry flavours and structure of the wines from the Gaiole UGA. Castelnuovo Berardenga has a sandier soil. The wine we tasted from this region, Jason noted had a sappy texture. Radda and Lamole will give tasters the most extreme version of Chianti Classico due to the highest elevations according to Jason. He noted that the Radda wine gave him fresh fruit flavours from the higher elevation. San Donato in Poggio is cooler with lots of forest surrounding the vineyards and has limestone soil.  Jason said the wines from San Donato may need time to reveal the silkier style.  They can be hard and savoury when first released. Panzano is in a valley that captures a lot of heat, producing an intensity of fruit. A wine we tasted from Panzano was full of fruit plus had savoury herbs on the palate. San Casciano is a warm area and gives ripe fruit flavours.

My Wine Tasting Notes

LAMOLE DI LAMOLE Chianti Classico Riserva Lareale 2018, LAMOLE (BC $35.99) – an organic wine made with a blend of 95% Sangiovese and 5% Canaiolo. 24 months in oak. Medium clear garnet colour.  Light red fruit aromas.  Dry, round, smooth, buttery mouthfeel. Dried herbs and red fruit on the palate.  Medium acidity and fine tannins.  Light mouthfeel.  An organic wine. 4.5 stars

CASTELLO DI GABBIANO Chianti Classico Riserva Castello di Gabbiano 2016, SAN CASCIANO (BC $29.99) – a blend of 95% Sangiovese and 5% Merlot. 10 months in cask and small barrel, 10% new. Deeper garnet coloured.  Light aromas of candied cherries followed by dark fruits.  Medium body, round with higher acidity and light tannins.  Floral and red cherries to start then add oak and pepperiness on the mid-palate.  Medium length. 4 stars4.5 stars

TENUTA CAROBBIO Chianti Classico Riserva Carobbio 2014, PANZANO (BC $50.99) – 100% Sangiovese. 18-20 months in oak. Deep garnet in colour.  Unique aromas, hard to pin down, but there is floral, cinnamon? and red liquorice.  Lighter body and mouthfeel.  Red fruits, some leather and oak.  Medium acidity.  Some bitterness on the medium-length finish. 4.5 stars

CASTELLO DI AMA Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Castello di Ama San Lorenzo 2017, GAIOLE (BC $64.99) – a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 13% Merlot, and 7% Malvasia Nera. 14 months in oak.  Almost opaque garnet.  Light aromas of dark fruit and soya sauce.  Dry, medium body, higher acidity and medium-plus tannins. Plums and tart cherry flavours.  Very grippy tannins on the finish.  8-10 years ageing potential. 4 stars4.5 stars

IL MOLINO DI GRACE Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone 2016, PANZANO (BC $59.99) – 100% Sangiovese. 24 months in oak.  A medium-plus garnet colour.   Light aromas of ripe dark fruit. Medium-plus body, dry with a lighter mouthfeel.  Gets rounder with some swirling in the glass.  Medium tannins and higher acidity.  Quite tart red fruits, plus touches of capsicum and dark chocolate.  Grippy tannins on the finish.  10-12 year ageing potential. 4.5 stars

Author: mywinepal
Drink Good Wine. That is my motto and I really want to help you drink good wine. What is good wine? That can be a different thing for each people. Food also loves wine so I also cover food and wine pairings, restaurant reviews, and world travel. Enjoy life with me. MyWinePal was started by Karl Kliparchuk, WSET. I spent many years with the South World Wine Society as the President and then cellar master. I love to travel around the world, visiting wine regions and sharing my passion for food & wine with you. Come live vicariously through me, and enjoy all my recommended wines.