Chianti Classico caves in on subzones …

Chianti Classico subzones

… and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano follows, adding two new words.

After years of resistance, debate and pressure from producers and media (see my 2018 article Chianti Classico subzones vindicated), the Consorzio of Chianti Classico has finally conceded and announced the introduction of unità geografiche aggiuntive (UGAs), or official additional geographical units. This rather clinical-sounding name indicates 11 communes or subzones which now have become official and can appear on labels as a suffix to Chianti Classico. It differs from Barolo's and Barbaresco's MGA or menzione geografica aggiuntiva, which identifies a single vineyard, rather than commune or village.

The 11 subzones, named after the villages lying within each, are from north to south:

  • San Casciano
  • Montefioralle
  • Greve
  • Panzano
  • Lamole
  • San Donato in Poggio
  • Castellina
  • Radda
  • Gaiole
  • Vagliali
  • Castelnuovo Berardenga

With the exceptions of Montefioralle and Vagliali, all of these have historic significance, while the inclusion of Lamole was an intelligent decision considering this is Chianti Classico's highest vineyard area with several bush-vine-trained historic vineyards producing a distinctive style of wine.

At the moment using subzones on the labels is reserved solely for the Gran Selezione category, a decision that had been widely expected but still seems petty since this category includes some wines that are arguably the least expressive of Chianti Classico's traditional style. But in a sign that the UGA is meant to promote just that, wines labelled as such must consist of at least 90% Sangiovese, compared with 80% for the normale Chianti Classico, and the balance must be of indigenous varieties only. International varieties are expressly excluded from the blend. Gran Selezione represents only 6% of the total production.

In a parallel move, neighbouring Vino Nobile di Montepulciano has also decided to create their own UGAs, each here called a pieve, or parish. Andrea Rossi, the Consorzio's current president, mentioned in a Zoom presentation that 12 pievi (plural for pieve) have been identified on the basis of geological research, but which luckily also largely coincided with the historic boundaries of 12 parishes already registered in the 18th century. Micro-vinifications of wines from each subzone in 2018 and 2019 helped to adjust but not radically redraw the historic boundaries of several of the pievi.

The proposal, which has now been sent to Rome to be signed into law, also foresees that wines carrying the name of a pieve on the label must consist of at least 85% Sangiovese compared with 70% for the normale. The balance can only be indigenous varieties, something not mandatory for normal Vino Nobile, where the inclusion of international varieties is still the norm rather than the exception.

The first vintage of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano suffixed with the name of a pieve will be the 2020 vintage to be released in 2024. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano suffixed with a pieve will represent the pinnacle of the Vino Nobile quality pyramid, followed in descending order by Riserva, normale and Rosso di Montepulciano. The Consorzio has yet to publish the complete list of pievi.

Also new is the introduction of the word Toscana, which now may be added on the front label. It is an effort to end the confusion caused by the grape variety Montepulciano, cultivated in Abruzzo, and the name of the town Montepulciano, after which Vino Nobile is named.

See also Walter's brave classification of Chianti Classico producers and our recent reviews of current releases part 1 and part 2.