(Top Right) Conti Sebastiani Capponi with
Daniel Bellino Zwicke and Joe Macari Jr.
(Bottom) Castel Vicchomaggio in Greve as
seen from the apartment of our Terrazzo
on the Estate of Castello Verazzano, Greve
CHIANTI CLASSICO TASTING
On Monday , April 21st 2008 the greatly anticipated Chianti Classic Tasting was held at 583 Park Avenue. Hosted by the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico, which is a Consortium of Professionals who are made up of Wine Producers (Proprietors and Winemakers) of the wine Chianti Classico. This group is not a Governmental Body but a private group of individuals that was created in 1924 to define the area of Chianti Classico and its wines, also called Chianti Classico and the manner and guidelines of how the wine was to be made and the parameters of what constitutes a Chianti Classico. Yes the name of the zone and the wine are the same, “Chianti Classico,’and the wine was actually name after the zone.
When the Consozvio Vino Chianti Classico was created in 1924, there did not exist any governmental bodies that now do to set guidelines and laws to which wines have to adhere to all over Italy.This is why the consorzio was created in the first place, in order to define which area was the “Classico” area and to maintain quality and consistency.
This Grand tasting held in New York on April 21, 2008 by the Chianti Consorzio was personally hosted by the President of the Consorzio, Marco Pallanti who is also the Enologist and proprietor along with Lorenza of the renowned estate of the
Castelo Di Ama in Gaiole in Chianti. As for myself, if feel that the wines of
Castelo Di Ama are overrated, grossly overpriced, and not worth the money. I actually have personally monikered the the “Gaja of Chianti” of Angelo Gaja and his wines, which are highly overrated and even more grossly overpriced, but that is all for another discussion.
Along with Dr. Pallanti the event was also hosted by esteemed Sommelier and wine writer David Lynch, who co-authored one of the Italian Wine Worlds most renowned books on the subject of Italian Wine, Vino Italiano along with Joseph Bastianich.
The tasting was made up of 40 producers of Chianti Classico of which there were over 150 different Chianti offered for tasting. The Chianti presented were both
Chianti Normale (base Chianti) and Chianti Riserva and the vintages ranged from 2001 to 2006.
Note that “Chianti Normale” or base Chianti does not infer that these Chianti are of a lesser quality. The styles are different and the base Chianti are to me and many others, actually more the true and traditional of Chianti as the weight is lighter more correct and less concentrated than the weight (body) of Chianti Reserva.
As with many subjects there is debate and differences of and agreement of what is true traditional Chianti is and what is not. I as a Wine Professional of many years who has focused mainly on Italian Wine and a great lover of Chianti and a traditionalist at heart, of course I am of the Old-School Traditional Chianti. I do feel that the laws of the Chianti Consorzio are not correct and are not for the Great Tradition of Chianti in that the wine Chianti when created by the Baron Ricasoli almost 150 years ago was created as a wine made up as a blend of local grapes that was dominated by Sangiovese as its main grape and that Sangiovese was to be the primary grape of Chianti and to give it its special character along with small percentages of other local blending grapes such as Cannaiolo, Colorino, Trebbiano, Ceiligiolo, Malvasia Nera, and Mammolo.
I feel, as do other respected authorities on Italian Wine, such as one of my esteemed peers Charles Scicilnoe feel that the Italian Government and Chianti Consorzio are by allowing Cabernet, Merlot, and Syhrah into Chianti, are ruining this “Great Wine” Chianti and its great traditions.
Just a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot in what is allowed to be Chianti, completely changes the feel and taste of Chianti and what, according to tradition it should be.
“It’s not Chianti anymore!” Not it if has the slightest trace of Cabernet or Merlot, and traditionalist like myself, Charles Scicilone and others will not cease our Crusade until the day that the Italian Government and Chianti Consorzio come to their sense and completely eliminate Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, or any non-native grape variety from ever entering Chianti again.” We wait patiently, but why is it taking these people so long to act. They ruin one of their own National Treasures and every year that these grapes that are not of Chianti Classico, is another bad vintage for any producer that uses them.
Let’s note that although the sacrilege of allowing Cabernet, Merlot, and others into Chianti, it is not mandatory and is at each individual producers (Wine Estate) choice whether to put these grapes in their wine or to leave them out and thus make “Real,”
True, Traditional Chianti. There are a number of Estates that make real true Chianti devoid of any trace what so ever, of the dreaded Cabernet or Merlot. Some of these estate are; Castello Volpaia, Castello Verazzno, Monsanto, Castello Querceto, and
Castel Vicchomaggio to name a few. These estates are to be highly commended and there should be more. If all the producers in Chianti had enough pride, non would ever permit a bottle of wine that they label be called Chianti if it has Cabernet, Syrah, Merlot or any non-native grapes in it. Hey if you have acres of Cabernet or Merlot planted on your estate and want to use them, “Fine.” Just don’t call the wine Chianti! Classify it as IGT and call it “Super Tuscan,” it’s OK by me, “Just don’t call it Chianti!”
If you want to make a wine and call it Chianti, make sure it is a blend. A wine that is made of 100% Sangiovese is allowed to be called Chianti, though it should not. As per the original Chianti Recipe, Chianti is always a blend, made primarily of Sangiovese with other native grape varieties such as; Mammolo, Cannaiolo, Malvasia Nera, Trebbiano, and Colorino and Chinati should always be made with mostly Sangiovese with other minor blending grapes. It should never be made solely of Sangiovese (though according to the Government it can, but what does the Gov’t. know?) but have at least one or more other native grapes, even if it’s just 2 or 3%, there “Must” be at least one other native grape varietal accompanying the Sangiovese, it should not stand alone. This must be changed in order to make true Traditional Chianti.
Daniel Bellino Zwicke April 2008
Some of our Favorites of the Chainti Classico Tatsing 2008 were:
CHIANTI CLASSICO, VILLA CALCINAI 2004 from Conti Capponi in Greve
CHIANT CLASSICO, CASTELLO BROLIO 2001 from the Brone Ricasole Gaiole
CHIANTI CLASSICO RIS. ROCCA GUICCIARDO, CASTELLO BROLIO 2005
CHIANTI CLASSICO, FONTERUTOLI 2005 from Marchese Mazzei, Castellina