Opening Chianti Classico... and Pandora's Box
Pinpointing the region's terroir expression may be more complicated than you think.
In an effort to plot out the terroir variations in a region often regarded as homogenous, Jeff Porter, wine director of NYC's Del Posto and one of the speakers at last week's Journey Around Chianti Classico seminar, mused that along with the 8 bottles we tasted, he may have opened something else: Pandora's Box. Fortunately, no misery or sadness will come from opening this box, just questions, discussion, and some delicious wine.
Chainti Classico spans over 170,000 acres, sweeping from Florence down to Siena. Encompassing 9 municipalities, the landscape transitions from alpine in Greve and Radda to rolling golden hills in the southernmost area of Castelnuovo Berardenga. With soil varying from galestro (a schist-based soil) to alberese (a clay-limestone mix) to tufa (a low-vigor calcareous rock), deep in some areas, shallow in others, and altitudes ranging from 800-2,000 feet, the terroir is anything but consistent.
From producer to producer, differences were evident. But with the varying aging vessels used - French oak barrels, large Slovenian casks, or concret vats - length of maturation, and blending of different grapes with the traditional Sangiovese, pinpointing the differences in terroir amidst the stylistically dissimilar wines began to get fuzzy. No doubt, there is something special about this region that is imprinted onto its wines, but how do we continue the discussion and eventually answer the question surrounding its enigmatic terroir? That was obvious: drink more Chianti Classico.