An interview with Sergio Zingarelli, Chianti Classico

Thursday, 22. December 2016 - 12:15

A lot of new changes have been going on in Chianti Classico. Can you briefly explain them?

In Chianti Classico there are 600 companies. Of them, 350 make all the production from bottling to sales, while the others produce grapes or bulk wine. And we have a lot of different wineries. But I think it is a point of strength because we have a very large wineries, very small wineries, and very good wineries with a large production, so we have a good balance. At the same time, it’s difficult to explain Chianti Classico in a single way. Now we move the Gallo Nero from the excise stamps, and producers can put it in one of two positions: on the neck or on the back label. If it’s got a Gallo Nero, it’s a Chianti Classico.

There has been a legal issue with using Gallo Nero, because of the wine company Gallo in the US. How has that been resolved?

We can use the symbol of the black rooster, but cannot use the name Gallo outside Italy.  I believe a lot in this black rooster, which is probably why they make me president of the Consorzio. I know it’s just a symbol, but it’s a symbol for the consumer, in a situation where there’s a lot of confusion.

In 2014, another category was added – the Gran Selezione. Can you explain it?

We are the first Consorzio in Italy that decided to add a new category that’s in the high part of the pyramid quality. Usually people add in the basic category.

We decided to establish this new category of Gran Selezione. The rule is that the ageing time is six months more than the Riserva and it’s important that the wine has to come 100% from your own vineyard.  You can’t buy grapes or bulk wine from other wineries. You have to have the grapes certified. There is also a commission. If they judge the wine to be good, they give you the certification. With the new law, we have to declare in what kind of category you want to bottle the wine.

The new Gran Selezione law came on 29th January 2014 and in February we organised the first world presentation in Florence. At the time, there were only 24 or 25 wineries that presented the Gran Selezione and now there are more than 100. This represents 4% or 5% of the sales of Chianti Classico. At the same time, sales of Riserva are also growing.

We have invested a lot in Sangiovese. In the past, people didn’t think about the clones and they had different ripening periods and it was difficult to take a decision of when to harvest. Also, the density was different. Now, we have doubled the density but have less from the vine and the ripening happens at the same time.

Sangiovese is a grape that is difficult to plant everywhere, but it gives you completely different result. Autochthonous grapes and Sangiovese give you more personality. As we replant in the future, we expect producers to plant more autochthonous grapes, not Merlot and Cabernet.

We need two or three years to put Gran Selezione on the market and explain it. I believe a lot in this new category.

Now we are working towards a new step – to put more of the indication of the area of Chianti Classico on the label.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed. It was conducted in September, 2016. To read more about Chianti Classico, see Wojciech Bonkowski's article.