PURE LUXURY: CHIANTI CLASSICO AND IGT FROM A SINGLE TERROIR
Sometimes you have to look back in history to understand the luxury of co-existence between Chianti Classico and the IGTs.
“The start of Chianti as defined today was around 150 years ago”, - this is how Steffen Maus describes it in the second edition of his highly-regarded book “Italy’s worlds of wine”, published in 2013. “At that time the local wine was mainly pressed from the Sangiovese grape.” Baron Bettino Ricasoli, who was subsequently to become Tuscany’s President, experimented with grape varieties at his Castello di Brioli south of Gaiole until in 1872 he came to the conclusion that from that time onwards Chianti ought to consist four fifths of the “Blood of Jupiter”. This was the name given by the ancient Romans to the Sangiovese grape.
This rule at first suited most wine-growers. Nevertheless, not all of them stuck to it, and some did good business with questionable mixes of grapes under the “brand” name Chianti. At the start of the 20th century, this began increasingly to bother honest winemakers in the region. Thus it was that on 14.5.1924 a group of Chianti wine-growers met in Radda and formed a consortium designed to protect their own production from the competition. Ultimately the chosen logo was a black cockerel – the Gallo Nero.
Even then the Gallo Nero was the stuff of legend: in the 13th century, the cities of Florence and Siena were again fighting one of their many border disputes. On a specified day, each city agreed to despatch a rider at the first cock’s crow. The point at which they met was to mark the new border point. The Florentines managed to stress out their cockerel by depriving it of sleep, food and water. It awoke extremely early and started crowing hysterically at an unearthly hour of the night. By setting off at this early hour, the Florentine rider naturally made a huge land gain.
Today’s battle between the almost “pure varietal” Chianti Classicos and the Super Tuscans with their Merlot and Cabernet characteristics is something we have all experienced. Wines from international varieties made at great expense in the vineyard and with even more winery technology have taken the possibility of complexity and international uniformity of flavour to the highest levels.
But the wind is changing. The elegance and depth of Chianti Classico has been back in demand for a few years now. The Super Tuscans have been filed as the latest “episode”, something to tick off the list. We have come back to character and the smooth aroma of terroir. We pause for a moment to enjoy and savour deeply what once was and what again endures today and is being consistently further developed. Uncompromisingly at Borgo la Stella, for instance.
The quarrelsome black cocks belong to yesterday. Today we recognise that various different styles of the highest quality from one terroir can and should exist alongside one another. The character of Sangiovese between Castellina and Radda is setting the pace again. Even if, as a Chianti Classico, it accepts a 10% contribution from other grape varieties.
And at Borgo la Stella we have in the meantime learned to greatly appreciate a touch of structuring Cabernet Sauvignon with a little soft Merlot in the IGTs.
In fact, our IGTs simply underline our conviction: our aim is to caress the Sangiovese with finesse and elegance – but not to try and manipulate it.