Wines (and some other drinks) of Giro d’Italia 2016 – Stage 9: Chianti Classico. Wine stage of the year!

Giro_2016_00-09Giro d’Italia has begun to take its tolls, even before we (or rather the riders) have hit the real mountains. Marcel Kittel has abandoned. And three riders missed the time cut:  Elia Viviani (Sky), Iuri Filosi (Nippo-Vini Fantini), and Boy Van Poppel (Trek-Segafredo). They finished together 55:26 down on stage winner Gianluca Brambilla.

Stage 9 is a 40,5 km time trial in Chianti Classico. Some years ago, Jens Voigt called these indiviual time trials a “semi rest day”. The general classification contenders may win or loose valuable time on these time trials, so for them it is a critical stage. And there are some time trial specialists who will try to win the stage. But for the rest of the riders, the goal is to get within the time limit, without using too much energy. Their job is to support ther captain, but in an individual time trial, there is no to support. But teams that want to win the best team classification may send at least three riders to get as good result as possible. So some riders may be a bit disapponted when having to go harder on the time trial than they would have liked to, as Jens Voigt had to do when he for that reason missed his semi-rest.


Chianti_ClassicoThis is the wine stage of the year. It is said that Chianti is the heart and soul of Tuscan wine. Chianti is based on Sangiovese, sometimes blended with a bit of other varieties.

Chianti was “invented” by baron Bettino Riascoli in the mid 1800s. He made a formula which said that it should be Sangiovese with some added Canaiolo to soften the wine. The formula has changed many times since then.

The producer in the original production area did not like that many other producers sold their wines as Chianti. In 1924, they established the first wine producer’s association in Italy, Gallo Nero, The Black Rooster. 95% of the Chinati Classico producers are now member of Gallo Nero. Gallo Nero is now the logo of Chianti Classico.

Chianti was, as so many other wines, in decline until the 1970s. The production was too high, and the quality too low. They blended it with too much white/green grapes, up to 30%, and they blended the wine with wine of lower quality from southern Italy.

Chianti_bastflaskeFor a long time Chianti was more known for the squat bottle enclosed in a straw basket, called a fiasco (“flask”; pl. fiaschi), more than for the content in these bottles. At a certain point in time, it was probably good for marketing. People did not know much about Italian wines, and maybe it was not very much to know if we go some decades back in time. But they knew the Chianti bottle, and for many people, this was the Italian wine. Things have changed. Serious producers want their wine to be regarded as a quality wine, not a cheap tourist wine in strange bottles. Only a few producers still use the straw basket fiasco.

I visited Italy for the first time in the mid 1970s. I had a good time. I remember the Chianti bottles, but not the wine in itself. I was travlling by train on Inter Rail. When the trains stopped at the stations, there were going alongside the treains with trolleys, selling refreshments and shouting: “Birra! Chianti vino!” But for my travel budget in these days, it was more important that the wine was cheap than that it was good.

I said in the introduction to this series that “Classico” usually designates the orignal area, as the classified production area has been expanded. Chianti got DOCG status in 1984, and Chianti Classico got its own DOCG in 1996.

Gambero Rosso Italian Wines use glasses as a grading symbol, and they award three glasses (Tre Bicchieri) for excellent wines in their respective category. When a producer has won ten Tre Bicchieri, they are awarded a star. Another ten, and they get another star. To be awarded a star, you must have consistent excellent quality. Gaja in Piedmont is topping the list, with five stars. This year, 19 Chinati Classico producers were awarded Tre Bicchieri. I am not going to list them all. The Chianti Classico producers that have been awarded stars, are:

  • Marchesi Antinori **
  • Barone Ricasoli **
  • Brancaia *
  • Castellare di Castellina *
  • Castello di Ama **
  • Castello di Fonterutoli ***
  • Fattoria di Felsina **
  • Tenute Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari *
  • Fontodi **
  • Isole e Olena **
  • Ruffino (not to be confused with the area Rufina) *
  • San Felice *

Being a top producers does not necessarliy mean that all their wines are top wines. Large producers produce a wide variety of wines. To get the details, buy the book Gambero Rosso Italian Wines 2016.

During today’s stage, the riders will pass close to these Chianti Classico producers..

  • Collelungo
  • Castellare
  • Isole e Olena
  • La Ripa
  • Le Filigare
  • Buondonno
  • Fontodi
  • Cassalose
  • Querciabella

If I should recomend something, it would be a Chianti Classico from the two stared procuder that we will be passing close by: Isole e Olena.

Tomorrow is another rest day. Get yourself some extra bottles of good Chianti for this monday. See you on Tuesday.

I know only two books in English on Tuscan wine, both written by Nicolas Belfrage and published in 2009. But they are both out of print. It is time for some new books on this region!

Italian Wines 2016

1890142174Italian Wines is published yearly by Gambero Rosso. This is a detailed guide to Italian Wines. 22 000 wines from 2 400 producers are listed in the book. If you want to fine the best wines from the various regions of Italy, this is your guide. This is a type of book I usually use when I am visiting producers, to find the producers to visit.

The book is available in a paper edition and a Kindle edition. One year, I bought the Kindle edition. But for this kind of book, I prefer the paper version. It is available from Amazon UK on paper and for Kindle. And from Amazon US in paperback and as Kindle edition.

Wines (and some other drinks) of Giro d'Italia 2016

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