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Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010s

November saw the debut of the first crop of Chianti Classico ‘Gran Selezione’ wines in the UK. Around 40 estate bottled wines that meet the criteria of the new and indeed unprecedented amendment to the DOCG structure (inserted above ‘Riserva’) were on taste in Whitehall’s No.61.

Over all they were excellent; rustically charming in youth but possessed with the distinctive potential to age into dignified, elegant wines, they will represent a clearer statement of premium quality Chianti to the consumer.

Chianti is in fact a complicated business. Six subzones exist with Classico forming it’s own breakaway appellation and consequently it’s own production rules. Yet merely contemplating the Classico zone itself reveals a number of clear subtleties in terroir. Castellina in the west of the appellation is different than Greve or Radda for example further east.

Providing consumers with a flagship wine that can easily be identified as top of the tree is a step in the right direction. It does set precedent for added chaos in other areas of Italy’s appellation mine field, but regardless, it’s a promising marketing move for producers of the infamous black rooster wine.

Below are my tasting notes for wines that really stood out despite the hectic tasting conditions.

Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Gran Selezione’ 2010 by Casa Emma

Fruit forward and modern, good concentration of berry fruit, balanced with lively acidity and a seductively playful finish.

Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Gran Selezione’ 2010 by Casa Sola

Just 2000 bottles produced; violet scented with dark cherry and cranberry while the palate is brimming with crushed red fruit.

Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Gran Selezione’ ‘Don Vincenzo’ 2009 by Casaloste

100% Sangiovese with spicy, peppery forest fruits on the finish held together with a firm tannic grip and pushy acidity.

Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Gran Selezione’ ‘Sassello’ 2011 by Castello di Verrazzano

Wonderfully concentrated, it’s dry and structured with heaps of earth and a savoury element that leads to a balanced, fruity finish.

Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Gran Selezione’ ‘Vigna la Prima’ 2010 by Castello Vicchiomaggio

Produced off 2.2 hectares, it’s elegant and sophisticated with delicate berry fruit and morello cherry. The palate reveals some oak but more light, airy cherry fruit.

Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Gran Selezione’ ‘Il Margone’ 2010 by Il Molino di Grace

Consistently excellent, ripe cherry fruit on the nose with seductive wood nuances. He palate is dry and dusty with concentrated red fruit that finishes with light spice.

Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Gran Selezione’ La Forra’ 2011 by Tenuta di Nozzole

Lots of crushed cranberry and violet on the nose with rustic, lashing acidity.

Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Gran Selezione’ ‘Castello di Monna Lisa’ 2010 by Vignamaggio

Dry and rustic, subtle Cabernet character running through Sangiovese cherry. It finishes with a touch of spice.

Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Gran Selezione’ ‘Sei’ 2011 by Querceto di Castellina

Lots of ripe black fruit on the nose with savoury earth. Powerful on the palate with rustic acidity.

Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Gran Selezione’ 2011 by Tenuta di Lilliano

Very soft with impressive concentration of red fruit personality. Rustic but age worthy.

Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Gran Selezione’ ‘Il Solatio’ 2010 by Castello d’Albola

Fine nose of red berry fruit; lots of power but a balanced, lingering finish.

Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Gran Selezione’ ‘San Lorenzo’ 2010 by Castello di Ama

Subtle nose but gorgeous red fruit on the palate. Perfectly balanced with subtle spice, finesse and elegance.

Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Gran Selezione’ ‘Millennio’ 2009 by Castello di Cacchiano

Powerful nose but distinctly modern with lots of approachable berry fruit; on the palate a medium more damson and black cherry with the savoury tones of Classic Sangiovese.

Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Gran Selezione’ 2010 by Castello di Meleto

Lots of sweet ripe cherry floral undertones; the palate is dry with subtle oak and spice. 15 % Cabernet adds a darker berry element with hints of balsam.

Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Gran Selezione’ ‘Stielle’ 2010 by Rocca di Castagnoli

Ruby red with genet reflections, this is robustly powerful, dry and tannic with an impressive concentration of fruit. Will age well.

Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Gran Selezione’ ‘L’Imperatrice’ 2010 by Fattoria di Corsignano

Red fruit driven on the nose, firm tannins and acidity undoubtedly make this one for the future.

Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Gran Selezione’ ‘Colonia’ 2009 & 2010 by Felsina

Just 2.5 hectares of vineyard produce attractively austere, dry and ethereal wines. Both 100% Sangiovese, they demonstrate good evolution, the 09 tending towards a softer, leathery palate complimented by fresh cherry.

Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Gran Selezione’ ‘Il Grigio di San Felice’ 2010 by San Felice

Garnet colour with a strong spicy nose of black fruit. Juicy on the palate but a streak of fresh acidity provides rusticity before finishing with balanced raspberry.

Two glasses, 19 years apart

Two glasses, 19 years apart. Colheita Port is perhaps the closest one can get to the full single year Port experience without removing a significant wedge from the wallet. The fun doesn’t only reside with declared vintages however and tasting Krohn’s 82 and 01 side by side proves so.

Founded in 1865 by two Norwegians, the Krohn house boasts an unusual heritage, predominately shipping to Scandinavian and German markets rather than traditional British importers.

While Ruby, Tawny and LBV Ports are easy to come by, Colheitas are much rarer. Despite them routinely benefiting from a considerably longer sojourn, they must be matured in wood for at least seven years. It is not unusual for them to be bottled just before sale.

Partnering one against the other made for curious inspection. The 1982 was impressively complex; fruit, power but also the more mature edges of hazelnuts and raisins emmerged. It’s silky in the mouth, textured and balanced with delicate notes of ginger, fig and orange rind. A few more slaps of fruitcake reveal it is quite simply, Christmas in a glass.

The 2011 is no less festive. Just younger, more boisterous and devoid of those nutty nuances that come with time. Plum and raisin sit with lively acidity and the enveloping, spirited warmth. With 19 years apart the evolution fascinating.

Dry Zibibbo : Marco de Bartoli’s Pietranera

Sicily’s stickies have been favourites among sweet wine lovers for some time; a modest following of these low production labels from the island of Pantelleria, or the towns of Noto and Siracusa has been gaining momentum for years now.

Consumers are attracted to the intensely rich aromas of orange peel, honey and citrus and the often luxuriously but naturally sweet palate of mango, lychee and candy.

Rarely though has this winemaking success translated into the courage to ferment the Muscat de Alexandria grape, or Zibibbo as it is known in western Sicily, to full dryness; creating a dry and structured white wine from this variety has always been seen as craziness.

Perhaps it is. But Marco de Bartoli’s ‘Pietranera’ however is one such example of the quality that can be achieved with a little risk and know how. Famous for producing one of Sicily’s truly magnificent sweet wines, (the Bukkuram Passito di Pantelleria), he has been working away at this wine since 1989.

Just 2500 bush vines per hectare are planted on three hectares in Contrada Cufurà on the island of Pantelleria and are now almost 60 years old. North facing so as to curb the risk of over ripening, Zibibo is hand harvested in the first half of September and destemmed before undergoing a cold maceration. Two thirds of the resulting wine is aged in steel tank while the remainder is aged in French oak to facilitate additional complexity.

Marrying the zesty character of the nose with a complex, mineral driven palate, this is a truly interesting wine. Aromas of concentrated lemon gushes from the glass while in the mouth, the distinctive aura of Pantelleria’s black volcanic soils comes through strongly. The wine is indeed dry, but nevertheless, quenching. One sip provokes contemplation, and then undoubtedly requires another.