Discover Chianti Classico is a seven-part series that seeks to paint a detailed portrait of Tuscany’s Chianti Classico, a region that deserves our attention not only for the outstanding quality of wine achieved today but for the exciting promise of tomorrow. A work in progress, Chianti Classico is poised for even more success, thanks to the unified thinking and systematic approach of its producers.
Flaunting its noble pedigree, its fluid beauty and elegance, its golden light and iconic landscapes, its varied subzones and its historic ties to indigenous and international grapes, Chianti Classico is Italy’s most dynamic wine appellation in my view. It is the premier territorio of vino italiano.
With this in mind, I am keen to present a new format for my reviews of releases from Chianti Classico. Rather than group my nearly 500 wine reviews into a single catchall article, I am presenting a series of Spotlights, one for each of the seven comuni, or villages, that together form the greater Chianti Classico appellation. In this manner, I am able to contribute specific thoughts and information on the unique character of each comune.
Before I get started, it is important to underline two broad-brush themes that emerged consistently and rather emphatically in each of the villages I profiled for this series. Both came as delightful surprises that I may not have noticed with the same intensity had I not broken up my tasting by subzone.
First is the growing number of organic and biodynamic farmers and winemakers in this region. I did not keep track of this data in my past Chianti Classico reports and therefore couldn’t guess by how much this farming philosophy has grown. But this year I did identify in the text of my review each producer with an organic and/or biodynamic certification (those who printed the certification logo on their back labels). The number of organic wines was exceptionally high across the board, with roughly half of all samples from certain comuni, such as Castellina in Chianti, Radda in Chianti and Gaiole in Chianti, showing the certification. I did not previously appreciate just how many green wines are made in this part of Tuscany.
The second surprise to emerge from this tasting is how diverse the producers are and how many new discoveries await. Chianti Classico is home to household names, such as Marchesi Antinori, Fontodi, Isole e Olena, Mazzei and more, but those are the tip of the iceberg. The real weight of the region is carried forth by small, family-run boutique estates, some new and some that have existed for centuries. They dot the landscape atop each hilltop, or poggio, over this vast panorama with golden sunlight reflected off the cream-colored stone houses.
I cast a wider net and collected submissions from a larger population of producers than I normally would. In fact, I more than doubled the number of samples I normally taste from Chianti Classico. I estimate that approximately one-third of the wines reviewed here are either totally new to the virtual pages of The Wine Advocate or were otherwise not reviewed for 10 years or more. Many are wineries I am not familiar with despite the many years I have worked in this region. I hope I have been able to transmit the sheer sense of excitement and enthusiasm that comes with making new discoveries.
This entire series is framed around the concept of “discovery.” I hope this series presents a blueprint for discovering each village in the greater Chianti Classico appellation. I have profiled each new winery included here and have created a list of my own favorite discovery wines from each comune. This is surely only the beginning, with many more discoveries to be made.
Of the seven Chianti Classico Discovery reports, these are the ones that have been published so far: