Ian D’Agata, Decanter’s Italian wine expert and an award-winning author, brings you a bitesize guide to Chianti Classico Gran Selezione - a new top-tier of wines that he believes has proved the doubters wrong.

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In front of a dramatic backdrop of the Hong Kong waterfront at Vinexpo Asia-Pacific 2016, Ian d’Agata introduced some of the most exciting wines from the new Chianti Classico Gran Selezione category.

When did all this begin?

Since 2013, Gran Selezione is the highest quality level within the historic Chianti Classico production area, which sits neatly between the region’s twin capitals of Florence and Siena. ‘This is the cradle and birthplace of Chianti,’ d’Agata said.

‘So the area is very small and Chianti Classico produces three levels of wine – Anata, Riserva and the now Gran Selezione’

How do you join the club?

To be a Gran Selezione, the grapes must be estate grown and aged for thirty months, three of which must be in bottle.

However, a wine must also be judged against its peers. A tasting panel convened by the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico acts as a quality control mechanism, and all wines put forward for Gran Selezione status must be approved the panel.

Proving the doubters wrong

‘At the time, there were those who weren’t sure Gran Selezione would work,’ d’Agata said. ‘But I think it has been a remarkable success and has produced some genuinely outstanding wines.’

One of the reasons why D’Agata believes the category has worked is because the wines show reassuringly similar recognisable characteristics – with distinct terroir and vintage variations.

That was certainly the case with the 10 exceptional Gran Seleziones on show at this masterclass, including wines from Fontodi, Fonterutoli, Castello di Volpaia, Felsina and Barone Ricasoli.

What about ageing?

A good Chianti Gran Selezione from a top vintage will certainly age for 30 years providing it is well kept, d’Agata.

John Stimpfig’s favourite wines from the Vinexpo masterclass:

Principe Corsini, Don Tommaso Gran Selezione, San Casciano Val di Pesa, 2013

Grown in a notably cooler area of the region at 350m, this distinctive Chianti Classico is a blend of 80% Sangiovese with 20% Merlot. The latter modifies the wine’s dominant red fruit profile, giving the wine a touch of coffee bean and cocoa. The palate is dry, juicy and vibrant with lively acidity, minerality and wild Tuscan herbs. 90

Drink: 2016-2027+

Fontodi, Vigna del Sorbo Gran Selezione, Greve in Chianti, Panzano, 2012

A 100% Sangiovese from this benchmark estate, which has become one of Italy’s finest producers. Vigna del Sorbo’s small, dark and concentrated grapes are grown in a special amphitheatre-like of vines which acts as a sun trap for the forty year old vines. Red fruits and spice again predominate on the nose. The palate provides a seam of ripe red cherries, tapenade, cream and spice. The tannins are also very polished while the bright acidity means this will age for many years. 94

Drink: 2016-2035+

Felsina, Colonia Gran Selezione Castelnuovo Berardenga, 2011

This wine comes from closer to Siena in the south where the soils are richer, giving a more powerful expression. A touch of violet on the nose but also tobacco and sweet spices. On the palate, are ripe red cherries and balsamic notes with Asian spices alongside brisk acidity and grippy tannins. The finish is long and complex. 92

Bibbiano Vigna del Capannino Gran Selezione Castellina in Chianti 2011

A 100% Sangiovese from the warmer Bibbiano area of the DOCG. Aged in large old oak barrels and made in a more traditional style, this benchmark Chianti Gran Selezione has a certain weight and rounder texture with flavours of sour cherries, soft tannins and herbal tobacco notes. Impressive length. 90

Drink: 2016- 2028+

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Editing by Chris Mercer