Chianti Classico Under the Radar: Battle of the Black Rooster

Famed winemaker Giacomo Tachis describes Sangiovese as “a genius of difficult and bizarre character,” a feature related to its susceptible nature that makes it very sensitive to soil and weather variations. Sangiovese is a difficult grape to tame warns enologist Vittorio Fiore, mainly because of its high level of polyphenols. Even when seemingly ripe, it may appear hard and impenetrable. On the other hand, in the right environment, which the hilly region of Chianti Classico amply provides, and if properly handled, Sangiovese can offer wines of great power and exceptional quality.

Sangiovese also has a great ability to blend well with other varieties, whether in majority or minority proportions, which partly explains why Chianti Classico is by tradition a blended wine. As Master of Wine Nicola Belfrage puts it, “the history of Chianti is the history of the various attempts to deal with Sangiovese’s high polyphenols, inclined as they are to be deficient in colouring matter and sometimes overabundant tannins.” The DOCG appellation regulating Chianti Classico allows for up to a 20% use of complementary grapes – French or Italian – and only a minority of producers are edging towards pure Sangiovese based Chianti Classico.

Belfrage uses Morello cherry and dried tea-leaf to define Sangiovese’s aromatic spectrum. Yet, rose petal and red berry fragrances supported by scents of leather, wood smoke, tar and herbs are not uncommon in Chianti Classico, often indicating the addition of other varieties (mostly cabernet sauvignon and merlot) to the blend.

There are two types of Chianti Classico: a simple one destined for early drinking – unofficially referred to as Normale – and a more ambitious one called Riserva adapted for aging. The former receives relatively little oak and is available a year after harvest, while the latter is only released after two years of wood-aging (barrique or cask) and three months in bottle.

 The Black Rooster, the symbol of the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico, that regroups most of Chianti Classico producers, now acts as a strong marketing tool to promote the brand worldwide. Even though the Gallo Nero is not an unequivocal seal of quality for all 600 producers of the region, proof of the Consorzio’s respectability stands in the recent reintegration of the legendary brand Marchesi Antinori – one of the region’s leading producers – within the Consorzio.

The recent visit to Canada of important Chianti Classico producers such as Francesco Mazzei (Castello Fonterutoli) and Marco Pallanti (Castello di Ama), president of the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico, has enabled us to take part in comparative blind tastings involving several Chianti Classico and Sangiovese based blends from Tuscany.

Let’s find out which Chianti (Classico) reigns supreme in the battle of the Black Rooster.

 

Battle of the Black Rooster:  Chianti Classico and Sangiovese Based Reds

Score

Wine 

Vintage

Price


93

Castello di Ama  Vigneto Bellavista  Chianti Classico DOCG

2004

$119.50

 

92

Marchesi Mazzei  Castello Fonterutoli  Chianti Classico DOCG

2007

$45.25

 

92

Castello di Ama  Vigneto La Casuccia Chianti Classico DOCG

2004

$141.50

 

91

Antinori  Marchesi Antinori  Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG

2007

$28.95

 

90

Castello di Ama  Castello di Ama  Chianti Classico DOCG

2007

$39.75

 

90

Marchesi Mazzei  Fonterutoli  Chianti Classico DOCG

2009

$24.95

 

89

Castello di Ama  Castello di Ama  Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG

2008

$39.75

 

89

Marchesi Mazzei  Fonterutoli  Chianti Classico DOCG

2008

$24.95

 

88

Rocca delle Macie  Chianti Classico Riserva  DOCG

2006

$24.20

 

88

Casa Girelli  Villa Cafaggio  Chianti Classico DOCG

2008

$24.40

 

88

Castello di Ama  Il Chiuso (Pinot Nero/Sangiovese)  Toscana IGT

2010

$25.50

 

87

Antinori  Villa Antinori  Toscana IGT

2007

$23.95

 

87

San Felice  Chianti Classico DOCG

2008

$20.55

 

87

Castello di Gabbiano  Chianti Classico Riserva  DOCG

2008

$23.05

 

87

Antinori  Peppoli  Chianti Classico DOCG

2009

$23.60

 

87

San Felice  Riserva Il Grigio  Chianti Classico DOCG

2009

$26.30

 

87

Ruffino  Ducale Riserva  Chianti Classico DOCG

2007

$24.95

 

87

Santa Margherita  Chianti Classico DOCG

2007

$19.95

 

86

Carpineto  Chianti Classico DOCG

2009

$20.25

 

86

Rocca Guicciarda  Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG

2008

$27.25

 

86

Marchesi Mazzei  Poggio alla Badiola   Toscana IGT

2010

$17.45

 

86

Barone Ricasoli  Brolio Chianti Classico DOCG

2009

$24.75

 

85

Marchesi Mazzei  Poggio alla Badiola  Toscana IGT

2009

$17.45

 

84

Ruffino   Il Ducale  Toscana IGT

2009

$18.95

 

83

Barone Ricasoli  Campo Ceni  Toscana IGT

2010

$15.55

 

83

Rocca delle Macie  Sasyr  Toscana IGT

2009

$17.50

 

82

Antinori  Santa Cristina  Chianti Superiore DOCG

2009

$16.95

 

82

Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi  Pater Sangiovese  Toscana IGT

2009

$15.45

 

82

Carpineto  Dogajolo  Toscana IGT

2010

$15.10

 

81

Casa Vinicola Luigi Cecchi & Figli  Cecchi  Toscana IGT

2010

$12.00

 

Scoring system :

Sublime (95-100) Excellent (90-94) Very good (85-89) Good (80-84) Ordinary (75-79)

written by Gabriel Riel-Salvatore