It is the inconsistent quality of this supermarket friendly Chianti that undermines the brand, according to some critics. Even the ‘fiaschi’ – the wicker straw baskets of 1970s Italian restaurants – have returned to UK retailers’ shelves.
Has Chianti’s identity been subsumed beneath questions of geography and viticulture?
Chianti covers an array of additional local classifications, including Colli Senesi, Rufina, Colline Pisane, Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Montalbano and Montespertoli.
See also: A day at the new Chianti Classico wine school in Tuscany
International grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are also allowed – albeit in small
So, does Chianti have a problem? Read the arguments below and tell us what you reckon.
‘Chianti has lost some of the vibrancy that made it a fantastic wine in the 1980s,’ said Sergio de Luca, buyer for Italy at wine distributor Enotria. ‘The off-trade range is always very small and often connected with bottlers at entry-level.
These are average wines, perhaps excellent value for money, but this is a very narrow view of what the province can offer.’
Hamish Anderson, wine and drinks buyer for Tate Galleries, agrees: ‘Many consumers view Chianti as safe, dependable and simple-drinking,’ he says.
In the on-trade, Chianti is ‘less noticeable than ever previous to,’ says de Luca: ‘Very small has been done to promote and grow the category at the top end, and I believe that customers see them as very expensive.’
Tuscany-based global winemaking consultant Alberto Antonini suggests a misplaced accent on
‘It takes more than cheap and terribly made wines to tarnish the excellent name of a classic province,’ says
Alex Hunt MW, purchasing director at Berkmann Wine Cellars.
‘After all, reckon of the amount of dross made in Bordeaux and Champagne… What Chianti needs – and already has to an extent – is an aspirational element that highlights the better quality wine, to act as a counter-balance to the potentially commoditising look of the basic stuff.’
For Andrea Briccarello, head sommelier at Galvin La Chapelle, Chianti has ‘won the hard battle after many years’, despite the problem of overturning well loved stereotypes.
Liberty Wines’ MD, David Gleave MW, reports that premium Chianti ‘has never sold better’.
On-trade consultant Martin Lam concedes that the initiation of the gran selezione tier at the tip
But, it may also drag some of the poorer wines upwards. ‘In the UK, we need better understanding of the Chianti sub-regions, and more knowledge of its producers too,’ he said.
See also: Chianti Classico Gran Selezione – top tier or just another layer?
Edited by Chris Mercer
A longer version of this article first appeared in the August issue of Decanter magazine. Subscribe here to read more expert opinion on Chianti and wine recommendations.
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