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11 class-leading Chianti Classicos (Part 1)

We count down the best Chianti Classicos from all quality levels following a comprehensive tasting of wines from this famous Italian region.

NEW-LOGO-ChiantiClassico_nuovo_Logo_19_02_20131The wines featured in this list were selected by a panel of experience tasters at the inaugural Chianti Classico Masters by the drinks business, which was held on Thursday 12 March at London’s Clos Maggiore restaurant.

All the entries were tasted blind during the course of one day using Schott Zwiesel glasses supplied by Wine Sorted. Each sample was scored and discussed before the medal was awarded, with the top Chianti Classicos given Gold, Silver or Bronze medals. Meanwhile, those that stood out as being outstanding received the ultimate accolade – the title of Chianti Classico Master.

The juding panel, which was chaired by myself, comprised Tom Bruce-Gardyne, a wine writer specialising in Italy; Alex Canneti, longtime Italian wine buyer and off-trade director at Berkmann Wine Cellars, where he is also brand manager for Antinori in the UK, and Roberto Della Pietra, native Italian and former head sommelier at Clos Maggiore.

Overall, the judges found themselves repeatedly commenting on the refreshing nature of the wines. The tasting may have included a range of styles, from young to old, big to medium bodied, and those both with and without new oak influence, along with varying proportions of international grapes, but all the samples had a pleasingly Italianate, food-friendly character which results from a combination of bright fruit and firm tannin.

Furthermore, the quality differences between the different tiers was clear as the tasting moved up from Chianti Classico to Riserva and then the new Gran Selezione (which you can read more about here).

In particular, the latter classification, introduced in February 2014 as an additional, uppermost layer to the Chianti Classico quality pyramid, was clearly home to the most impressive wines of the day.

Part 1 of the very best Chianti Classicos in the tasting can be viewed over the following pages, and comprises five wines which all scored a gold medal or above.

Chianti Masters_judges
The judges (clockwise from bottom left): Patrick Schmitt MW; Tom Bruce-Gardyne; Alex Canneti, Roberto Della Pietra

11. Fattoria Casa Sola, Chianti Classico, 2013

chianti07With a retail price in the UK of around £15, this wine represents a very good value example of a benchmark Chianti Classico, with lots of bright cherry fruit and plenty of grippy tannin, along with the region’s hallmark mouth cleansing acidity. The wine is youthful, and can be kept for another 12 months, but it is certainly ready to drink now.

Blend: 90% Sangiovese, 4% Canaiolo, 4% Cabernet, 2% Merlot
Ageing: 18 months partly in oak casks and partly in French oak barriques
Retail price (UK): Approx £15
Chianti Classico Masters: Gold

10. Villa Montepaldi, Tagliafune, Chianti Classico, 2010

Villa Montepaldi, Tagliafune Chianti ClassicoThis first-rate Chianti Classico comes from one of the region’s oldest wine estates, although the Tagliafune shows a modern touch, with a dose of Merlot to complement the Sangiovese. As a result, this wine has an attractive core of ripe red fruit and a relatively smooth texture for a Chianti Classico, although it retains the regional hallmarks of cherries and bright acidity.

Blend: 85% Sangiovese. 15% Merlot
Ageing: 24 months in cask
Retail price (UK): Approx. £15
Chianti Classico Masters: Gold

9. Castello Di Bossi, Chianti Classico, 2012

Castello di Bossi
Castello di Bossi

If you’re looking for a high quality and typical Chianti Classico that’s showing perfectly right now, then this example from Castello Di Bossi won’t disappoint. Showing a touch of colour and aroma development, the wine has a lovely balance of ripe cherry fruit and a hint of tobacco. Helping to keep your palate alive is a slightly bitter orange peel character on the finish, and a gently mouth-coating dry tannin. This is a lovely, pleasingly traditional Chianti Classico that’s ready to drink now.

Blend: 100% Sangiovese
Ageing: 10-12 months in cask
Retail price (UK): Approx. £15
Chianti Classico Masters: Gold

8. Brancaia, Chianti Classico Riserva, 2012

brancaia-chanti-classico-riserva-2012_08With a modern appearance, a touch of Merlot, and 16-months ageing in French oak barriques, half of them new, this is not a Chianti Classico for the staunch traditionalist. That said, it offers a delicious example from the region, with a ripe core of slightly sweet red fruit, lots of fine chewy tannin, and a lasting finish, with, thankfully, enough acidity to cleanse the palate. It is a luscious wine, with a touch of alcohol warmth, but retains that all-important Chianti Classico freshness and tannin-sourced dryness.

Blend: 80% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot
Ageing: 16 months in French oak barriques (50% new)
Retail price (UK): Approx. £30
Chianti Classico Masters: Gold

7. Tenuta San Vincenti, Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, 2011

gran-selezione-bottigliaOur first highly-rated example of a Gran Selezione – the new uppermost layer of the Chianti Classico quality pyramid – is a generous wine. With 14.5% abv, lots of ripe red cherry fruit, masses of tannin, and a tobacco and toast character from 24 months in tonneau (5hl oak barrels), this wine shows a step up in all aspects, from alcohol to fruit ripeness, extraction and oak influence. The result is certainly impressive, but also pleasingly balanced – the components may be powerful, but they are complementary. This fine wine can be enjoyed now, but will also benefit from another fives years or more maturing in a cool cellar.

Blend: 85% Sangiovese,15% Merlot
Ageing: 24 months in tonneau
Retail price (UK): Approx. £40
Chianti Classico Masters: Gold

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