Gran Selezione: Pinnacle of the Chianti Classico Ladder? #ItalianFWT

Italian Food Wine & Travel Explores Tuscan Wines of Chianti and Its’ Neighbors
Our #ItalianFWT group travels (virtually!) around Italy, blogging on a monthly topic. This month, we’re exploring the wines of Tuscany, including all the versions of Chianti and its’ neighbors. Several in our group received samples of Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, and today we’ll dive into all the details Gran Selezione as well as enjoying it with our four cheese pasta dish.

Pieces of the Chianti Puzzle. Chianti region, named Chianti villages including the original Chianti Classico region. image courtesy of :Kattivik – My own work on Image:Provinces_of_Tuscany_map.png already present on Commons, CC BY 2.5,

Deciphering the Chianti Region Puzzle
The Chianti Region is reminscent of Matryoshka dolls, those nested Russian dolls. Complete with a Chianti DOCG zone, named villages within the zone, a Chianti Classico DOCG inside the greater Chianti zone, and quality levels within all those zones, one can have a hard time keeping track. Starting at the outside is the general Chianti wine region, granted DOC status in 1967, and DOCG in 1984. Within the region, there are seven named village subregions, which keep the Chianti classification, featuring the village name on the label. Chianti Classico was the historic Chianti region until the region was expanded in 1932 due to the popularity of the wine, so the original region was awarded the Classico designation and an official subzone inside Chianti. In 1996, Chianti Classico earned its’ own DOCG. The seven Chianti villages each have a trademark style and are worth exploring on their own, a task for another day!

Wikipedia has an excellent explanation of the Chianti Region as a whole, located here.

Highlights of the Chianti Classico pyramid courtesy of The Chianti Classico Consorzio web page

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione – What’s in a Name?
Drinkers of new world wines are accustomed to additional names added onto the label: reserve, winemakers’ reserve, special selection, etc… These additional names are inventions of the marketing department at the winery, with no real meaning.  The story is different in the old world. In Italy, additional names have specific meaning. DOC and DOCG wines come from a specific area with requirements on the grape varieties, the yield, aging requirements, etc.. Generally, a riserva wine will have additional aging requirements. Superiore will often mean a slightly higher alcohol level (bigger body), or perhaps indicate oak aging. The exact requirements are laid out in the DOCG requirements and are approved both regionally and nationally.

Gran Selezione, the New Kid on the Block
Gran Selezione is a recent addition, defining the pinnacle of the Chianti Classico pyramid. The new designation was introduced in 2013 with the goal of offering a higher standard of quality within Chianti Classico. To qualify, a wine must be made entirely from estate fruit, with higher alcohol and extract, and longer aging prior to release. This new addition was met with skepticism by some winemakers, critics and customers. Wineries were already designating their best wines as Riserva and often sourcing the grapes for those wines from single vineyards, more geographically specific than the requirments outlined for Gran Selezione, listed in the chart above. However, the new designation has proven popular, with higher prices earned for Gran Selezione wines compared to their Riserva kin.

Disclosure: I received the wine and olive oil as samples from Castello di Brolio.  No other compensation was involved, all opinions expressed are my own.

Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, a top of the pyramid wine.

Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015 (sample, $70 SRP or online here) 14% abv
The varieties in this wine include Sangiovese 90%, Cabernet Sauvignon 5%, Petit Verdot 5%
Eye: Clear, pale ruby
Nose: Clean, medium+ intensity. Aromas of bright, ripe cherries, strawberries, red plums, plus leather, light smoke (as near a campfire), and clean earth. Very rich.
Mouth: Dry, medium+ intensity flavors. Medium+ acidity, medium ripe velvety tannins. Medium+ body, high alcohol, plush creamy texture. Medium+ finish.

A very good quality wine which aptly demonstrates the intention of Gran Selezione possessing great intensity and richness. It is ready to drink now, and can only benefit from further aging of 5-10 years at a minimum.

Posts from Fellow Italian Food, Wine and Travel Lovers
Take a look below at all the great ideas for exploring Tuscany from the comfort of your own home. If you see this soon enough, please join our chat on Twitter at #ItalianFWT on Saturday, Nov. 2 at 10am CDT.

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione with Supercharged Macaroni and Cheese
I searched through one of my favorite Italian cookbooks for a dish suitable for our robust Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. Frances Mayes lists “Baked Pasta with Sausage and Four Cheeses” as a rich dish needing a big bold wine, perfect for our Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. The recipe is posted online here. If you try the recipe and like it, you should consider purchasing The Tuscan Sun Cookbook. It’s full of delicious and doable dishes. I confess, my version almost ended up as a three cheese dish. The little pearls of Mozzarella were so delicious  after they were folded into the sauce full of sausage, mushrooms and cheese that I nearly ate them all while cooking. Oops! I followed the recipe pretty closely, with the addition of 16 oz. of sauteed mushrooms.

The meat and cheese pasta dish was indeed rich enough to benefit from an equally bold wine with solid acidity and tannin structure. I served a salad alongside with cherry tomatoes roasted with the Castello di Brolio extra virgin olive oil and a bit of thyme from the garden. Perfect for a cool fall evening!

7 Responses to “Gran Selezione: Pinnacle of the Chianti Classico Ladder? #ItalianFWT”
  1. I’m loving the look and sound of the dish you chose to pair with the Ricasoli Jeff! Thanks for the Ricasoli hook-up!

  2. Nicole Ruiz Hudson says:

    A great look at the Gran Selezione category. This mac and cheese on steroids looks amazing as well.

  3. wendyklik says:

    So grateful that you were able to arrange for these samples. Your pasta sounds wonderful.

  4. Thanks for the heads-up on the Tuscan Sun cookbook. I’ll be on the lookout for it. Also appreciate the thorough characterization of the Gran Selezione as well as your descriptors of the wine.

  5. I agree, it can be confusing to consumers! Thanks for the clarifying info!

  6. I love that cookbook. I met Frances Mayes when she came to a book signing locally here. Great charts and overview of the wines. Thanks for organizing the samples. I really enjoy the wines of Castello di Brolio.

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