Thursday, April 17, 2014

The World’s First Chianti Classico Gran Selezione

Pietro Losi's 2007 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 
When I was in Tuscany earlier this month, inevitably the subject of the Chianti Classico classification came up. Roberto Stucchi at Badia a Coltibuono is at the spearhead of trying to move the Chianti Classico Consorzio towards a more comprehensive ordering of the different terroir of the classic zone. That is a slow dance, taking many years, but one which Roberto and many other people are very passionate about. Alessandro Masnaghetti is moving the discussion further with his mapping strategy, which gives a visual person like me the possibility to imagine the differences without necessarily having to reorganize the discipinare. In all, good things happening, albeit at a snail’s pace. That’s said, if a snail can still traverse the path the meaning is that the waters (and the lands) haven’t been poisoned.

In a discussion with Valeria Losi and her dad Pietro of Querciavalle they have positive impressions about the Gran Selezione. They are excited about it. “We have always had a Gran Selezione, which we call Millennium.” I remember this selection starting with the 1997 from the Losi estate. “To us it makes sense, because we are already doing it,” Valeria Losi noted.

Indeed, Losi has also, from what I can gather, released the first Gran Selezione in the world. First in that it comes from the oldest harvest yet bottled as a Gran Selezione, in this case the 2007.

On Jack and Geralyn Brostrom’s Italian Wine Central site, they note, “The new category was approved by the European Commission in early February 2014 and takes effect immediately. This means that any estate-grown wines that have been aging for at least 30 months and meet the new minimum technical standards can now be sold as Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. According to Michele Cassano, the vice director general of the Chianti Classico Consorzio, the new quality level is available from the 2010 vintage — wines that are already beyond the minimum 30 months of aging. In other words, 2010 Gran Selezione wines can be released immediately. The earliest release date for 2011 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione is July 2014.”

While seemingly the 2010 is the first vintage noted to be allowed the Gran Selezione, it appears there is a some wiggle room regarding the first allowable vintage. On the Chianti Classico Consorzio site, there is a mention of the world premier for the Gran Selezione, which was held in Florence on February 7, 2014. Clearly among the wines debuted, the Losi 2007 was noted. I suspect this means it was officially sanctioned; hence the claim as the world’s first (and oldest) Chianti Classico Gran Selezione (for now).

Does this mean it is a better wine? Better than it was before it was a Gran Selezione? I remember the wine as always being a grander style of wine than their Chianti Classico or Chianti Classico Riserva, which are for my tastes very traditional. These wines age very well, like a Brunello. And the wines of Querciavalle are some of my favorite wines from Chianti Classico.

Will Gran Selezione be subverted by some wineries? Already there is concern. A landowner who asked that I not identify them in this post said, “Our worry is that companies like Ruffino and Piccini will turn Gran Selezione into a way to market huge amounts of wine. Already the Ruffino uses the trademarked name ‘Riserva Ducale’ with the word Riserva as part of its name (note: the wine ultimately is denoted a Riserva). Wineries use all kinds of names to market wines. What will large wineries do to use the name Gran Selezione to perhaps sell wines that did not come from their own properties?”

Where there is the hand of man, there is the possibility for duplicity. Ultimately, the consumer must decide. Great vineyards will still make great wines. Mass marketers will make wines for other purposes; nothing has changed in that regard.

Prestigious and even great estates are looking at Gran Selezione. At Fèlsina, we were at a vineyard above the Rancia property. “What do you use this in?’ I asked Chiara Leonini, Fèlsina’s export manager. “This vineyard will be for our Gran Selezione,” she replied. Maybe it would be the Vigna Colonia, that red labeled wine I spied in the tasting room, standing ever so patiently next to the brown labeled Rancia, awaiting its day of even greater glory?

Fèlsina's highest vineyard, Vigna Colonia

written and photographed by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
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