Buyer’s Guide to VINTAGES June 26th, 2021

John Szabo’s VINTAGES Review June 26th: Cottage Classics and Chianti Classico

By John Szabo MS, with notes from Sara D’Amato, David Lawrason and Michael Godel

The weather is hot, vaccines are rolling out at unprecedented speed and restrictions have been eased. The rest of the summer looks far brighter than it did just a few short weeks ago – a bit of good news we all needed. It means cottage owners and renters can (more safely, and legally) join communities across the province in vacation land and make the most of our short but oh-so-sweet summer break. And that puts the main theme of the June 26th VINTAGES release into sharp context – “Cottage Wines”. What might have been a cruel dangling of a carrot under different circumstances, can now be fully exploited. Of course, there’s no universal definition of a ‘cottage wine’, so the crü has assembled a list of wines we’d be happy to sip at the cottage, or anywhere else for that matter. These are the wines from the release that represent the holy trinity of price, quality and pleasure. Add in refreshment and you’ve got the perfect summer mix, and there are whites, reds and rosés that all fit the bill. As an aside, based on the strength of two excellent Chianti Classicos in the release, I also wanted to turn your attention to a recent development in Italy’s most historic demarcated wine region: the approval, by large majority, to move forward with communal labelling – sub-zones – in Chianti Classico. Read on for the details.


The Chianti Classico Consorzio Announces “Additional Geographic Units”, or UGAs

In a move long-awaited by Gallo Nero insiders, the Chianti Classico Consorzio announced the approval in mid-June of 11 Additional Geographical Units (Ùnita Geografiche Aggiuntive or UGA), within the historic Chianti Classico zone. The areas were identified and delimited based on specific criteria such as “oenological recognisability, historical authenticity, renown, and significance in terms of volumes produced”, according to the press release.

The approved areas are: Castellina, Gaiole, Greve, Radda, and San Casciano, which correspond to the communes of the same names; Lamole, Montefioralle, and Panzano, which are three hamlets (frazioni) withinGreve, San Donato in Poggio, which conversely brings together together the coummunes of Barberino Tavarnelle and Poggibonsi thus encompassing two sides of the same range of hills,and Vagliagli, the western ‘wing” of Butterfly-shaped Castelnuovo Berardenga, splitting the commune into two distinct halves along with Castelnuovo Berardenga itself, again with both logical physical and cultural features taken into account.

Considering the wildly varying terroirs within the c. 7,500 ha currently planted in Chianti Classico DOCG, it’s long been thought by many that subdividing the production zone into smaller and more homogeneous sub-zones would be a useful and necessary development. For producers it allows an important point of differentiation by creating closer links between the product and its area of origin, while for consumers it allows, at least a starting point, to begin to differentiate the styles produced with the Chianti Classico appellation and to connect the dots back to specific origins.

“As I have often said in my three years as President”, says Giovanni Manetti, President of the Chianti Classico Consortium, “wine reflects the territory like a negative photographic image, and this is why it is so important to preserve its environmental context and landscape, and be able to tell the consumer about it, in all its various facets, also through the label.”

Still awaiting the official rubber stamp from authorities in Rome, it’s expected that UGAs will start appearing on labels as early as next year for the 2020 and 2019 vintages, provided that the winery can demonstrate the origin of the wine through the cellar register. Initially the UGAs will be applicable only the top Gran Selezione category of Chianti Classico, though it’s expected that the Riserva and Annata categories will soon be eligible to include sub-zone mentions on the label.

Another measure approved at the same time concerns a change to permitted grapes varieties in the Gran Selezione category. Previously, Chianti Classico wines of all categories allowed 80-100% Sangiovese and up to a maximum of 20% of authorised native and/or international red grapes. With the new specifications, the minimum percentage of Sangiovese for Gran Selezione will rise to 90%, and international grapes will no longer be permitted, i.e. only native black grapes up to a maximum of 10%. This change, however, won’t be fully in vigour until five years from approval by the ministry of agriculture, even if most of the 150+ wineries producing Gran Selezione already comply with the changes. Riserva and Annata varietal specifications remain unchanged.

For a more detailed report, read Michael Godel’s article, Chianti Classico Goes to Eleven.

For now, let’s get on with the patio/terrace/dock/deck/backyard summer enjoyment.

VINTAGES Buyer’s Guide June 26th:

Whites & Rosés

Le Fils Des Gras Moutons Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie 2019, Loire, France
$16.95, Connexion Oenophilia

Le Fils Des Gras Moutons Muscadet Sèvre Et Maine Sur Lie 2019

John Szabo – I never tire of proclaiming the extreme value afforded by good Muscadet, and this latest edition from Claude Branger deserves wider recognition, as it’s one of best vintages of this wine in memory. It delivers the classic spectrum of crunchy citrus fruit, lime and lemon, and plenty of wet stone, while the warm 2019 vintage yielded an uncommonly generous and broad palate, with exceptional concentration and density in the category.
David Lawrason – Great value in a summer quencher! A surprisingly complex and detailed Muscadet, still very much within its lighter bodied, tart edged idiom, but showing excellent verve and length.
Sara d’Amato – More than meets the eye, this rather innocuous looking Muscadet surprises on the palate with richness and complexity above the norm yet remains true to place and style. Salty, dry and dominated by citrus, this briny beauty is everything you’d want from an elegant summer sipper. Serve this up alongside some refreshing ceviche or just on its own to beat the heat.

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That’s all for this report. See you around the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

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