Sunday, October 2, 2016

Chianti, Part 2 -The Fork in the Road

The previous post discussed the gradual evolution of Chianti from being a light, dry red for mass market consumption to being a more modern and sophisticated dinner wine.  Knowing what they were capable of producing, the winemakers of Tuscany drove industry improvements for the past thirty years to the point where the new and improved Chianti could properly reflect its Tuscan calling.

Yet in Lettie Teague's February 17th WSJ article, "Chianti's Struggle To Shed Its Dusty, Banal Image", the claim is made that there is now trouble in paradise.  Part of the problem may be seen as generational as we alluded to in the previous post.  But part of the problem may be due to the dilution of quality by over-expanding the Chianti appellation with accompanying lackluster quality standards for this seriously mass-marketed product.  If the truth be known, the Chianti situation may be emblematic of the contemporary wine industry as a whole.

So the fork in the road would seem to be whether to further define Chianti as one of the finer wines of Tuscany or whether to revert to its historical past as a blue collar food wine.  Actually the situation is and always has been a both/and reality.  Chianti has always included the pedigreed sub-regions.  Today they are named Classico, Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colline Pisane, Montalbano, Colli Senesi, Rufina, and Montespertoli.  In fact, Classico is the original Chianti, the single oldest recognized wine region in the world.  But Chianti has also included as much surrounding vineyard land as needed to provide for everyone's dinner needs.  Today, Chianti can basically be sourced from anywhere in Tuscany.

According to Teague, those invested in the Classico region want to subdivide that prime area into generally acknowledged sub-districts differentiated by soils and terroirs and she has no problem with that.  The consumer of higher quality Chianti would then know what style of wine they would be getting.  As for the mass marketers of the rest of Chianti, there is but one solution - advertise!  After all, we're talking about the best all-purpose red dinner wine there is!  Sell it!

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