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Tuscany Taste: Anteprima 2016 for Chianti Lovers

Posted: Wednesday, 24 February 2016 12:37


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Tuscany Taste: Anteprima 2016 for Chianti Lovers

Feb 24: Encouraged by the success of the Chianti Tasting organised by the Consorzio Vini Chianti at the old cigarette manufacturing facility last year, the same event took place on Valentine’s Day on February 14, attended by a group of international journalists and general public, writes Subhash Arora who has been a regular visitor for several years and felt the organisation for the 1-day event was much better as were the wines, than in the maiden edition last year

Click For Large ViewTuscany has been often equated with Chianti wines because of the typical Sangiovese based wines with fresh acidity making them ideal with pizzas and other cheesy products and the not-too-harsh tannins making them good condiments with most vegetarian dishes and the lighter red meat preparations.  Chianti became so popular locally and internationally that the quantity took precedence over quality and Chianti’s image took a beating as a brand in the overseas markets and it was relegated to cheap Italian wine, thanks to the very straw flask bottles that had made it popular and recognisable initially; this was about 40-50 years ago.

However, with the young generation winemakers studying oenology and viniculture in the universities and entering the family business because of passion and the aspirations for higher quality and to help mend the somewhat tarnished image in the international market, the wines have been constantly improving in quality. Though cheap Chianti still Click For Large Viewabounds, it’s the programs like Chianti Lovers that are trying to create the image make-over and aided by an excellent 2015 vintage (after the poor 2014), the event has helped change that image to quite an extent.

The Chianti Zone

A country which thrives on a plethora of decrees and wine laws, unlike India where there are practically no wine laws to talk about, Chianti may be produced in the provinces of Arezzo, Florence, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato and Siena that represent the places of production excellence, and even whose soils cultivated with vines are defined by law. Gentle, rolling hills, valleys and rivers are typical of Tuscan landscape. Some of the very old wineries are architectural beauties and are increasingly becoming destinations for wine tourism with many having tastings and their own agri-turismo facilities.

Consorzio Vini Chianti

Click For Large ViewProduction and the designation of Chianti wines is protected and controlled by the Chianti Wine Consortium formed in 1927 by a group of producers in the Provinces of Florence, Siena, Arezzo and Pistoia. Subsequently, it included the whole production area when it received the DOC status in 1967 and later when it received DOCG status in 1984 (the last decree for this appellation was issued in June 2009). However in September 2013 it was bestowed the status of Erga Omnes through a government Decree a year earlier.

This means the consortium has been appointed as decision maker and coordinator of all policies for the promotion, enhancement and protection of appellations of origin spread over almost the whole area of Tuscany. The Consortium inspects the entire chain of production, including grape selection, vinification, verification of the chemical, physical and organoleptic characteristics and bottling operations, to ensure compliance with the requirements.

It has 3,600 producers as members, cultivating over 15,500 hectares of vineyards (almost 4 times that of India), and producing 105 million bottles (almost 9 million cases) in various zones and typologies.

Chianti wine may be produced throughout the Chianti zone divided into 7 sub zones-Colli Aretini (Hills of Arezzo), Colli Fiorentini, Colli Senesi, Colli Pisane, Montalbano, Rufina and Montespertoli.

Sangiovese is the back bone of Chianti wines and a minimum of 70% must be used. The balance 30% may contain a maximum of 10% white approved grapes and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, or the other approved local grapes. Maximum yield of 11 tons is allowed for the generic Chianti. Colli Fiorentini and Chianti Senesi are the strictest in terms of yields with only 9 tons/hA allowed. Rest of the regions are capped at 9.5 tons/hA. Chianti Superiore may be produced in the whole of Chianti region.

Anteprima de Toscana

After the success of last year as a maiden edition, Chianti Lovers was back on February 14 at the Ex Manifattura Tabacchi (old and abandoned cigarette factory) in Florence for the Anteprima 2016 where 115 Chianti producers and their wines of 2015 vintage were the protagonists, along with a small percentage of 2013 as Riserva.

Just like last year the producers had set up small stands in long rows on both side of the hall; the main hall was divided into two portions. Unknown at least to the international Press, there are further sub divisions of the Consorzio- Consorzio Chianti Colli Fiorentini, Consorzio Colli Senesi and Consorzio Rufina were present to reinforce the efforts of their members. It is to their credit that many people, including perhaps the hordes of local enthusiasts seemed to be thoroughly enjoying this annual event. Wines were pleasant but it was the general bonhomie and the social side of wine that won the accolades. Nobody was over-drunk or seen misbehaving.

Click For Large ViewTasting for Journalists

A totally separate area was assigned to the journalists with individual sommelier service. One had the option of tasting blind over 160 wines from all the constituents besides the generic Chianti docg 2015. There were also docg Riserva from 2013 and even Chianti Superiore 2014. Chianti Colli Fiorentini, Montespertoli and Rufina also showcased the Click For Large Viewregular wines from their 2014 stables.

It was interesting to taste wines from Marchesi di Frescobaldi imported in India by Brindco. Ruffina which is imported by Sula had an Click For Large Viewinteresting, though slightly shocking straw flask shaped bottle. The girl explained that this was on an experimental basis as there was some demand for such packaging. Of course, straw is banned now and so they have devised a recyclable paper-based coil around the bottle. With the real negative image of this bottle overseas, the wine has been introduced in limited quantity for the domestic market, possibly on a trial basis.

Poggiotondo is another winery that has always impressed me. Run by Alberto Antonini, it is a well established winery that makes high quality Chianti docg and Riserva wines. A week spent with in Hong Kong where he was a fellow judge at the HKIWSC, and I was impressed by his winemaking and tasting skills and passion for good wine and I tasted it in the bottles last year and this year again.

Helped by the excellent 2015 vintage, Chianti producers are sure to make a mark and those dedicated to high quality may make headway. The event will certainly draw more journalists next year due to the quality and organization of the event this year.

Subhash Arora

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Tags: Chianti, Consorzio Vini Chianti, Tuscany, Chianti Lovers, Arezzo, Florence, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato, Siena, Chianti wines, Chianti Wine Consortium, DOC, DOCG , Erga Omnes, Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colli Senesi, Colli Pisane, Montalbano, Rufina, Montespertoli, Chianti Superiore, Florence, Anteprima 2016, Chianti docg 2015, Chianti Superiore 2014, Rufina, Marchesi di Frescobaldi, Brindco, Poggiotondo, Alberto Antonini


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