I am always puzzled when I hear "wine experts" say that the newly created quality classification of Chianti Classico, the "Gran Selezione" can only confuse wine lovers.
"Gran Selezione" means exactly what it means: "best selection", the "cream of the crop", the best of the best, the top. I doubt one needs a university degree in rocket science to understand that...
To use the term on the label, a producer must meet these specific criterias:
1- the grapes used for the wine must be the best a producers can grow
2- they must be the producer's own grapes and can not come from any purchases outside his/her estate
3- the final wine is subject to a rigorous technical analysis that includes:
a) chemical test in a lab;
b) physical test in a lab;
c) organoleptic tasting made by a tasting panel.
only if the wine is approved by this panel that it can receive its official label and can be released as a "Gran Selezione".
Frankly, I think it is the "experts" who are confused. Each time the above is specified, they invariably ask the next clever question which is: what is the difference between this and the "Riserva" which "used to be the best of the best"?
That is a valid question, but not one that considers another important change that the consortium, responsible for the rules of the appellation, introduced at the same time as the new quality level. They reorganised entirely how the other 2 levels of quality are also recognized. In fact, they worked very hard with a team of experts and the best oenologists of the region to determine 3 sets of very specific criterias for each level of quality: generic Classico, Riserva, and Gran Selezione". Each of these levels, which was not the case in the past, now have their own sets of tests and organoleptic tastings. Therefore, each quality level has its minimum standards to acheive in order to be admitted within its classification.
This is important because in the past the criterias of each quality levels were mainly based on ageing, not on chemical, physical, and organoleptic standards.
Going forward, the consortium is working to further sub-divide the entire region of Chianti Classico in order to further specify the area in 8 sub-regions. This will add an extra level of criterias in order to further assure the wine lovers of its specificity and its quality level.
For the skeptics, I heard from well placed sources inside the consortium that the system is working. All of the 50+ estates that are participating to the classification have declared that they have completely sold out of their Gran Selezione wines, only 1 year after it was introduced. Not only it helped at the high of the scale, but it also helped those at the lower end. Most producers have seen a rise in the average price of their wines as buyers in general feel that the new regulations truly guarantee not only quality but also origin.
Indeed, another big change in the regulations is now to submit any bulk wine to the consortium for testing and certification before it can be transfered to anyone else as Chianti Classico wine. This procedures so tightened the requirements that now the going proce of bulk wine in Chianti Classico has doubled since the enactment of the rule.
Gran Selezione is the very best of Chianti Classico. No confusion about that!
Here is a neat video outlining the main points of the classification...