Chianti: Reviving a classic

It’s the same story at Berry Bros, but Zyw would add Japan to that list too. “For Italian wine the fastest growing markets are the US and China, but also increasingly Japan. Japan has a huge affiliation with and respect for Italian cuisine and culture – for 90% of the guys we work with in Italy, Japan is their fastest growing market outside of the US.”

Frescobaldi has a keen eye on China and is putting in a lot of effort in on the ground there. “We have a resident area manager in China, as the personal relationships are of paramount importance there. Wine tastings and wine education remain strong tools to create awareness in China too,” says Pariani.

The presence of Super-Tuscans in the marketplace can be a blessing but also a distraction for Chianti as, while they help promote quality Tuscan wines and add weight to the canon of well-known wines from the region (often made primarily from the Sangiovese grape), then can also muddy the message that Chianti, and in particular Chianti Classico, is trying to convey.


David Gleave believes Super-Tuscans sharpen the category as a whole and can encourage sales of quality Tuscan wine across the board. “I think they are vitally important in the way they complement the message of Chianti,” he says. “There are still some consumers who regard Chianti as ‘mass market’ but who are willing to spend two or three times the price on a wine from Chianti that doesn’t have the name Chianti on the label.”

Watson is on the same page. “Many of the best Chianti producers make a Super-Tuscan – or were the first to spearhead that category as a result of prohibitive rules,” she says. “Look at Cepparello or Fontodi. Both could legitimately be labelled Chianti Classico now but they choose not to be.”

As far as sales of Super-Tuscans go, there’s positivity all round. “From the top producers demand now outstrips supply,” says Gleave. “The category continues to perform very well with more customers investing in the wines on release. The second wines from the likes of Sassicaia and Ornellaia are also hugely popular among our private and trade customers alike,” adds Watson.

Looking to the future for Chianti, if the quality continues to shine through and nobody takes their eye off the ball, there’s real optimism that growth will continue and start to chip away at other flagship Old World regions such as Bordeaux, whose importance and popularity has waned in recent years.

“Chianti has a bright future,” says Zyw. “Within the range there’s something for everyone, and quality is only getting better.”


What’s the difference between Chianti and Chianti Classico?

Chianti and Chianti Classico are two separate and distinct DOCGs with different rules of production and different geographical boundaries.

Chianti Classico refers to wine grown and made in the historic heartland of the region – the longest-established viticultural area. Classico can be made in one of a number of sub-regions and must be made from a minimum of 80% Sangiovese with other red grapes, such as Canaiolo, Colorino, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, also permitted. Since the 1920s bottles of Classico have been marked by the DOCG’s black cockerel symbol.

Chianti comes from a much larger zone – spanning a huge area of vineyards between Florence and Siena – and must be made from a minimum of 70% Sangiovese, with other local and international red and white grapes permitted too.