The SOMM Journal

February / March 2016

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26 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } FEBRUARY/MARCH 2016 { steven spurrier's letter from london } SINCE HIGHLY-PRICING THE 2009 futures and over-pricing the 2010s, Bordeaux has been somewhat out of fashion. Recent vintages have not been inspiring: 2011 and 2013 only average, 2012 quite good for the medium term and being re-assessed now, 2014 very attractive and 2015 apparently superb. While this vintage is already being compared to the "great 5s" of the past three decades, the Bordelais know that they can - not over-price it; but with the futures market now a busted flush, while everyone is going to talk about it, will anyone actually buy it? Of course they will, but now there are many alternatives and one of the strongest ones is Chianti Classico. In 2013 the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico approved a new classification that added another layer at the top of the DOCG quality pyramid: Gran Selezione. Such wines must be from a single vineyard or from estates' best grapes, undergo mini - mum ageing for 30 months, aimed to ensue "great structure and potential." Two years ago I was underwhelmed by the samples shown, most being Riservas with another six months in the cellar, but a wide tasting in November has made me change my mind. Tuscany in general has no vineyard clas - sification in the "cru" format so present in Bordeaux with its château-brands, in Burgundy with its terroir and in Barolo with a mix of the two. There are talks of "zoning" the DOCG Brunello di Montalcino, which I am in favour of, which will no doubt lead to a hierarchy, while Chianti Classico is already separated into communes, producing wines markedly different in style, and has now added the Gran Selezione classifica - tion deemed to be "primus inter pares." This is v ery timely, for Cosimo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, officially delimited the Chianti production zone between the cities of Florence and Siena in 1716, so this year sees the 300th anniversary, giving oppor - tunities for flag-waving and drum-beating reminiscent of the Palio di Siena. Then there is Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, perhaps a cousin to Brunello and Chianti Classico, but with the same bloodline in the Sangiovese grape. Chianti may or may not be the new Bordeaux, but Sangiovese is certainly the new Cabernet Sauvignon. There were 33 producers at the London tasting, not all of them showing a Gran Selezione. Indeed, many producers do not intend to take advantage of the third pyramid of quality, one of my favourite producers, Nittardi, being amongst these. But over the past three decades the clonal selection in Chianti's vineyards has been transformed, density of planting increased, yields reduced, better extraction and over - all less new oak in the cellars to provide wines that express their or igins in a con- vincingly exciting manner. The wines were presented under their comm unes, roughly from south of Florence to north of Siena. Below are the Gran Seleziones I ranked 90/100 or above. San Casciano in Val di Pesa: Lamole 2011 Castelli Grevepesa from vineyards at 550 metres, a good grippy wine; Ottantuno 2011 Luiano with 15% Merlot, polished and complex; Badia a Passignano 2010 Marchese Antinori, good rich fruit, spice and length; Don Tommaso 2012 Villa Le Corti with 20% Merlot and 70% new oak, but still totally Tuscan. Greve in Chianti: Vigneto Querciolina 2011 Castello di Verrazzano 100% Sangiovese, fine single-vineyard fruit; La Prima 2011 Catello Vicchiomaggio, where 10% Merlot softens the very classy fruit; Le Masse di Greve 2011 Lanciola, very well- expressed depth and firmness; Riserva di Monna Lisa 2012 Vignamaggio with 8% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, still young and good future; Vigna Bastignana 2012 Villa Calcinaia, fine and polished with good potential. Panzano in Chianti: Vigna del Sorbo 2012 Fontodi, all depth, purity and great vineyard expression, the raison d'être of Gran Selezione; Il Margone 2011 Il Molino di Grace, quite rich and broad, good future. Castellina in Chianti: Vigna del Capannino 2011 Bibbiano, on the rich side but good length; Castello Fonterutoli 2011 Castello di Fonterutoli with 8% Malvasia Nera and Colorino, good mod - Is Chianti the New Bordeaux? by Steven Spurrier

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