Sitting at the top of the pyramid, Chianti Classico’s Gran Selezione classification is inevitably fraught with high expectations. The question is, do the wines live up to them? The answer is not straightforward.
Scroll down for Michaela’s top Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2018 picks, plus 2017 and 2016 late releases
Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2018
In terms of new releases, my impressions echo those of their Riserva counterparts.
Among the small sampling of 2018 Gran Selezione, the wines demonstrated more overt structure than the annata but with the gracious tannins and fruit of the vintage. Oak was often dialled up, though by no means de-facto.
Bibbiano’s Vigna del Capannino allows a sense of place to shine through, and in Il Molino di Grace’s predominantly new barrique-aged Il Margone, the wood is well-integrated.
These first releases suggest 10 to 12 years of cellaring potential.
Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2017
As with the 2017 Riserva, there were many successes among the 2017 Gran Selezione.
A standout, Fèlsina’s Colonia harnesses the extremes of the vintage with confidence and admirable poise.
Others, like Le Miccine practically defy it with freshness and elegance.
Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2016
Alongside the 2018s and 2017s were a handful of 2016s from producers who choose to hold back their Gran Selezione for longer before release.
These examples underscored the accomplishment of the 2016 vintage, with Castello di Monsanto and Rocca di Montegrossi’s Vigneto San Marcellino standing shoulder to shoulder with previously released top scorers.
Wine quality aside, I was disheartened by the number of heavy bottles – both at the Gran Selezione and Riserva levels. Chianti Classico is a leader in sustainability and biodiversity, with 40% of production now certified organic. The region’s top wines should reflect these values. While many do, those in unnecessarily heavy bottles are incongruous.
As for the bigger picture – does Gran Selezione represent the best of the region?
There is no doubt that some of the denomination’s top wines sit at this level, while others – although adhering to the letter of the law – don’t seem to add anything to the idea of being the highest quality classification.
In some cases, I preferred a producer’s Riserva, or found more value in the annata.
In a denomination with over 500 estates of various shapes and sizes, it is challenging for a newly created topmost designation to achieve one-size-fits-all.
According to Tim Schefenacker at Castagnoli, the classification allows larger wineries to showcase their best company wine. ‘It goes without saying that there are some great wines made, but I think the criteria and definition of Gran Selezione is quite contrary to our philosophy and style,’ he says.
Like various other estates, Castagnoli’s top wine is an IGT. Which means that some of the region’s greatest wines still sit outside the denomination.
Change is in the air
Seething underneath all of this is ‘a smell of change,’ describes Le Cinciole’s Luca Orsini. The growers’ consortium is presently working to tighten Gran Selezione regulations.
The proposed requirements would see an increased minimum of Sangiovese from its current 80% and the possible elimination of international grape varieties.
In tandem with this, is a potential, long awaited sub-zonation of the region.
Officially called Unità Geografiche Aggiuntive or UGA, it would essentially be based on existing communes. Alas, at the moment this is only being tabled for Gran Selezione which represents just 6% of Chianti Classico’s production.
As the above proposals have yet to pass, it remains to be seen if they will be enough to lure eligible IGT wines into Chianti Classico’s Gran Selezione fold. Nevertheless, it has encouraged Orsini to upgrade Le Cinciole’s Aluigi bottling from Riserva to Gran Selezione with the just released, excellent 2016.
His decision precedes any official change but is rooted in the hope that ‘in the future this classification will put greater emphasis on territory and typicity,’ states Orsini.