I had planned to publish an article today reviewing a wonderful, new recently released Chianti Classico Riserva when the little diablo on my shoulder began to shout down my better angels. As an Italian wine journalist, I naturally taste and review a lot of wines. I analyze them, pick them apart, pair them with food, music, family and friends in order to provide my opinion as to the overall quality of a wine. After all, that’s the mission of Tuscan Vines.
However, those things are admittedly “reactive”. I think part of my sphere of responsibility extends to proactivity and that providing an opinion, which might be considered in charting the overall course of the wine landscape, is beneficial.
This morning, a fellow wine blogger reviewed a Gran Selezione from San Felice and I made note at the end of his review that although the wine was 80% Sangiovese, the balance contained no less than 5 other grapes! Therein lies the problem in my mind.
Why? What’s the big deal you say? Consistency. Clarity. Quality. Branding. The notion that something is special and worth seeking out.
Almost a year ago, I covered the Premiere Tasting for Gran Selezione. It was a wonderful event with dozens of excellent wines. But many of the Gran Selezione present were very expensive. Many were routinely about $50 and many bore three figure price tags. If a consumer is going to spend that amount of money on a wine, they should know what they’re getting and their expectations should be met.
Let’s examine the San Felice mentioned above. The wine is made from 6 different grapes: Sangiovese, Abrusco, Pugnitello, Malvasia Nera, Ciliegiolo and Mazzese. Imagine that someone buys this wine and really enjoys it, and then on a subsequent trip to their wine shop, they buy another “Gran Selezione” from a different producer.
Except now the bottle they buy is 80% Sangiovese and 20% Syrah. If they’re displeased with that wine, what might they think about the “Gran Selezione” designation? Or worse yet – what if the scenario is reversed? What if their first experience with Gran Selezione is a wine that’s 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet or Merlot? A wine of that blend is likely to be more lush and “international” than the blend sported by the San Felice. Who does that benefit? The consumer? The Consorzio? Certainly not San Felice!
When I covered the Gran Selezione event last May, the wines I tasted were variously produced from over 11 different grape varieties in combinations and percentages too numerous to quantify. I wrote at the time:
“What is Chianti Classico? This is another concern that was voiced to me by more than a few people at the tasting. Typically, by people far less experienced than me. I was asked: “How do you compare these wines when they are so different?” It’s a major issue I think. They are very difficult to compare against one another. Why? Primarily it’s because almost anything goes in the production of Gran Selezione. Most of the Gran Selezione wines were produced solely from 100% Sangiovese. I applaud that. But not all were and by law they don’t need to be.”
The wines tasted that day were produced from the following in some fashion: Sangiovese (100%), Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Colorino, Malvasia Nera, Mammolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Syrah and Alicante. That’s 11 different grapes if you’re counting and if we add the varieties present in the San Felice, the number jumps to 15!