The challenge came almost 6 months in advance on one of the Wine & Spirits Education Trust newsletters, but the decision was easy. How could we, wine students, turn our back on an opportunity to visit Chianti Classico, guided by the Consorzio itself and organized by Filippo Magnani of Fufluns? Either than the precious wine knowledge harvested in person, how can anyone ever say no to a trip to Tuscany? No chance!
We booked a flight to Rome, which we are always eager to revisit, but there are also direct flights from Lisbon to Milan, after that the train is the best option to reach other parts of Italy.
The Chianti Classico DOCG is located between the provinces of Florence and Siena, and although it stretches for 70,000 ha it has only 7,000 planted to vines. The rest is unspoiled green forests that surely account for the wines freshness and their undergrowth, balsamic and mineral notes. This is the heart of the Chianti widest DOC and supposedly it represents the earliest lands where Sangiovese was planted and the Chianti wines "recipe" was born.
This is a fantastic hilly area with endless, beautiful green scenery, which, much like the Douro, is painful to travel by car! Its serpentine, winding roads can turn any 20km into an hour long trip, but when you reach your destinations the rewards await in the form of snapshot views, delicious foccacia and lovely crisp wines to taste.
On arrival we went to visit the new instalment of the Chianti Classico Consorzio, an old monastery that is being recuperated thanks to generous patronage bank donations. This space will be the nervous centre to every wine related activity of the zone including a wine shop and restaurant. Most importantly it will also house a WSET division certified to teach courses to Diploma level, so it will certainly become one of the top Italian venues to learn about wine in general with an obvious focus on Chianti Classico.
So back to the region at hand and the main goal of our trip. This DOCG is exclusive to red wine with strict rules providing for a minimum ratio of 80% for Sangiovese a native variety. Along with the Sangiovese, other red grapes of the area can be used in a maximum percentage of 20%, including natives like Canaiolo and Colorino as well as “international” varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Other important regulations in force regard a minimum alcohol level of 12 degrees for young wines, the "annata" and 12.5 degrees for the Riserva and also for the latter a minimum maturation period of 21 months in oak barrels and three months in bottle.
The climate is typical continental with the altitude of the hills accounting for lower temperatures than the towns on the valleys. Altitudes range from 250 to 600 meters and go over 800 meters in the Chianti Mountains. Winters are cold with average temperature of 4 to 5Cº and summers are dry with temperatures rising up to 35Cº. Rainfall is focused in the late autumn and spring with an annual average of about 700-800 millimetres.
During are tour we had the opportunity to visit several producers, from various communes and with diverse views on winemaking, which was found in practice by tasting their wines, in general form most recent vintages. Our first stop was ....