Sorting the sheep from the goats with the help of the black rooster. Buyer Sebastian Payne MW & News editor Jo Goodman visit the Chianti Classico Consorzio for a final mammoth tasting.
As though not enough wine had been tasted on our five regions in five days Giro d'Italia, Sebastian had planned a final stop off on our way to Siena airport. Not this time at a romantic rural fattoria, but on to a rather unprepossessing building on an industrial estate alongside the motorway. We could almost have been back in Stevenage!
The home of the gallo nero
We were at the home of the gallo nero – the trade body that is responsible for the promotion of Chianti Classico and maintaining quality control. Its famous black rooster which adorns all Chianti Classico bottles will be more than familiar to most wine lovers. And this being Italy, the rather prosaic-looking exterior of the building had wonderful cool-looking design flourishes on the interior with open-plan offices, neat tasting rooms and the iconic black cockerel emblazoned artistically on the walls. We could get a few style tips for our offices!
The black rooster - the emblem of Chianti Classico is omnipresent!
The gallo nero is the sign of quality on Chianti Classico bottles
We are met by Silvia Fiorentini and her colleague Caterina who have pre-selected an enormous range of wines for Sebastian to taste. Sebastian says that he has known Silvia for many years and that she is extremely useful and helpful, and has always gone out of her way to support us. Knowing Sebastian's tastes, and with her in-depth knowledge of all the producers the consorzio represents, she is well placed to pick out some estates, both known and new to us, which may be of interest.
A vast line up of Chianti Classicos from across the board
In the line up there are many 2014s – a vintage that I was starting to get a taste for, despite it not be a blockbuster of a year, plus older vintages of straight Chianti Classicos, Riservas and Gran Selezione wines too.
Just when I thought I was getting my head around what to look for in the wines of Chianti Classico, this selection highlighted the incredible diversity of styles. Perhaps that was why I appreciated the 2014s – made from a vintage without such incredible heat as has been seen in recent years, the wines reminded me of those that I would have tasted half a century ago when sitting for wine exams.
Sebastian explained that because 2014 was a lighter year, many producers would not have made a Riserva wine, putting their better quality grapes into the straight Chianti Classico. In a sense too, the 2014s have the advantage of being ready to drink and for me, they all seem to have really attractive bouquets (well, the good ones do).
Sebastian Payne MW concentrating on the last flight of wines at the consorzio with the black rooster looking on
Fresh focaccia thoughtfully supplied by the Consorzio to soak up the Chianti!
Peeking over Sebastian's shoulder, I didn't get the impression he was particularly taken with any of the wines, though Castello di Volpaia, an estate we have followed in the past did come in for some favourable comments. But as an exercise, this was invaluable Sebastian explained, 'It is important to get to taste as widely as possible just to make sure that you are confident that the producers we have chosen to work with are as good as we think they are and we simply don't have the time to visit all of these properties.' Indeed time was something we were running out with and we would have to hightail it to the airport to make our way home.
We thanked Sylvia and Caterina for all their hard work (and for supplying some much needed sustenance in the form of fresh focaccia to soak up the wine!) and hit the motorway.
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