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Where the Wine Comes From: UGA Innovation in Chianti Classico

I was delighted to attend the Chianti Classico Grand Tasting February 28th, at the Altman Building in NYC. In addition to the walkaround tasting, the event featured the seminar Chianti Classico: No Wine is an Island, presented by Giovanni Manetti, president of the Chianti Classico Consorzio and owner of the legendary Fontodi estate along with renowned wine cartographer Alessandro Masnaghetti, an absolute pioneer in cartography.

Alessandro Masnaghetti

In addition to revealing the creation of Chianti Classico zones based on Alessandro Masnaghetti’s research, it also functioned as an announcement of the changes to the Gran Selezione discipline/classification.

Alessandro Masnaghetti has spent over 20 years mapping the vineyards of Barolo and Barbaresco. [Barolo MGA Vol. 1: The Barolo Great Vineyard Encyclopedia, Barolo MGA Vol. II: Vintages, Recent History, Rarities and Much More, Barbaresco MGA, The Barbaresco Great Vineyard Encyclopedia]. His precise, meticulous maps have revolutionized our knowledge of soil, microclimates and their relationship to viticulture. This innovative approach has now been applied to Chianti Classico, identifying and delimiting 11 UGA [Unità Geografica Aggiunte] which are micro zones or crus, established by both natural and human factors.

The 11 areas give prominence to the different soil structures, elevations, exposures and micro climates of Chianti Classico, along with historical significance and shared winemaking traditions. With an established delineated production zone dating back over 300 years, the winemakers of Chianti Classico are utilizing the UGA as a way to call attention to their traditions, style and distinct sense of place.

Deriving from the Barolo MGA system, these UGA are a new approach for Toscana, giving precedence to the place where the wine comes from, as opposed to aging methods or varietal composition. Giovanni Manetti reiterated “the territory makes a difference”; more than 65% of Chianti Classico area is woodlands, over 50% of the wineries are dedicated to organic viticulture. This preservation of biodiversity coincides with the ability to “transfer more territory into the bottle”.


Primary points:

The 11 UGA are:
Greve, San Casciano, Montefioralle, Lamole, Panzano, San Donato in Poggio, Castellina, Radda, Vagliali, Gaiole, Castelnuovo Berardenga

Some of the UGA correspond to the existing commune, however the “in chianti” has been dropped [for example, ‘Radda in Chianti’ will now simply be known as ‘Radda’].

One of the largest changes is in Greve, where the region of Panzano has been created, with the remaining Greve area divided into 3 UGA.

This is the first phase, applying only to Gran Selezione. For the next few years, research and feedback will continue, followed by an evaluation of the system by winemakers and the Consorzio. [The UGA system was approved by 90% of the Chianti Classico Consorzio members.] If all goes according to plan, eventually the UGA will extend to Riserva and Chianti Classico.

Changes to the Gran Selezione discipline :
Increase from a minimum of 80% Sangiovese to 90% Sangiovese, the remaining 10% must be red grapes indigenous to Toscana such as such as Canaiolo, Colorino, Malvasia Nera; they cannot be international grapes such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Winemakers have until 2025 to choose which designation they want to label under, with the hope that they will choose to include the specific UGA, rather than just the larger category of Gran Selezione.

Media event presented by Consorzio Chianti Classico, map image courtesy of Alessandro Masnaghetti and Consorzio Chianti Classico.

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