Gran Selezione: The New Big Brother in the Chianti Classico Family

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Painting at the entrance of the Edna Barnes Salomon Rooms at the New York Public Library.

I was delighted to attend ‘An Exploration of the Terroirs of Chianti Classico’ master class tasting presented by Antonio Galloni, the founder of Vinous; one of the fasted growing wine websites in the world, along with Sergio Zingarelli, President of the Chianti Classico Wine Consortium, at the New York Public Library.

The class focused on 8 wines from different producers in order to introduce and thoroughly explore the brand new Chianti Classico designation of ‘Gran Selezione’. This is the first time in the history of Italian wine denominations, that a new type of wine was created to be positioned at the top of the quality pyramid, and not at its base. Improvements in technology and winemaking have resulted in higher quality wines that the consortium and winemakers felt there should be another category. In addition to attracting a new audience to the Chianti region, Gran Selezione wines are also poised to directly compete with the premium Super Tuscan reds that carry a heftier price tag [50$-$150 on average] then the majority of Chianti. With Chianti so popular in America, 31% of all Chianti in 2014 headed to the States, being able to compete with the Super Tuscan crowd allows for more flexibility, exposure and dollars.

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Antonio Galloni on the left, and Sergio Zingarelli, President of the Chianti Classico Wine Consortium.

Gran Selezione is being produced throughout the entirety of the Chianti Classico appellation, with 73 wineries certified in 2014 with a million and half bottles produced. At the beginning of 2015 there were 78 labels of Chianti Classico Gran Selezione for one or more vintages.

Essentially Gran Selezione is “an important Chianti Classico”; crafted to be intense and rich. To have a Gran Selezione designation, the following must happen:
• Grapes must be 100% estate grown. Winemakers are not allowed to include any grapes other then their own.
• A minimum of 80% Sangiovese, Colorino and Canaiolo, typical to Chianti can be included, as well as classic Bordeaux grapes.
• The wine must be aged for a minimum of 30 months, with at least 3 months of bottle ageing. This is 6 months longer the Chianti Classico Riserva.
• A minimum of 13% Alcohol.
• The wine will be evaluated by a 5 person tasting panel that judges if the wine is “good enough” for the designation.
• The trademark Gallo Nero [black rooster] has been restyled and is placed in a more dominant position on the label or neck of the bottle.

Mr. Galloni advised when purchasing Gran Selezione wines, to purchase by the estate. He explained that the sign of a good winemaker is not noticing the winemaker. The wine should reflect the place, essence and vintage, not the maker. Furthering this concept, he instructed, “modern winemaking means you can pay less attention to vintages”, so again, look for your favourite winery, or one you’ve heard great things about and pick it up!

All of the following wines were aged in various sized French oak barrels. All of these wines are expected to age incredibly well, 10 or 20 years or potentially even longer. Prices are the listed retail price supplied by the winery.  Continue reading