Tuscany: New UGAs for an Individual Identity

The new site designations for Chianti Classico and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are drawing a lot of attention to the regions and filling a gap. Veronika Crecelius reports.

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New UGAs (Photo: Crecelius)
New UGAs (Photo: Crecelius)

 

  • 23 new site designations emphasize unique territoriality of wines.
  • Criteria for Gran Selezione in Chianti Classico tightened.
  • Pievi herald a new quality pyramid for Vino Nobile with only autochthonous grapes.

 

The two traditional DOCGs Chianti Classico and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano have introduced site designations that are called "Unità geografiche aggiuntive" in official Italian. They are abbreviated as UGA, which hardly sounds nicer.

"One of the main objectives for the introduction of the UGAs is to strengthen the link between wine and territory in our communication. We also want to increase the quality in terms of identity and territoriality and allow the consumer to know the origin of the grapes - and also to stimulate demand thanks to diversification," explains Giovanni Manetti, the president of the consortium.
 

Geological and morphological features

Chianti Classico designated eleven areas on 7,000 hectares of vineyards. Montepulciano made up twelve UGAs on the 1,210 hectares of Vino Nobile, which were christened Pievi (singular: Pieve). Pieve will be stated on the label in addition to the name of the vineyard; for the Gran Selezione, only the vineyard name will be used.

In both cases, these are partly municipalities and partly districts. They were determined on the basis of geological and morphological, but also historical and cultural characteristics as well as the ability to distinguish the wines.

Map of the UGA Chianti Classico
Map of the UGA Chianti Classico

Gran Selezione: More Territorial Identity

Chianti Classico so far only wants to adorn its top typology - Gran Selezione - with the UGAs. At its premiere in 2014, the industry had complained that despite striving for more structure and concentration, the typology had neither a limited territorial reference nor a higher Sangiovese content. Hence, last summer, the consortium made improvements and the UGAs were put on the table: the Sangiovese share was increased from 80 to 90%, and the Gran Selezione may no longer be blended with international varieties.

Castellina, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Gaiole, Greve, Lamole, Montefioralle, Panzano, Radda, San Casciano, San Donato in Poggio (including Barberino Tavarnelle and Poggibonsi) as well as Vagliagli are the eleven selected local and district vineyards. Lamole, Vagliagli and Monte-fioralle, however, are not allowed to use their UGAs until three years after the new rules come into force, because here the production share of Gran Selezione is still too low.

During the Chianti Classico Collection, the consortium organised a tasting with Gran Selezione coming from the different areas. However, the wines were from different vintages, which made it difficult to classify and recognise the UGAs. The tasting of Chianti Classico from old vintages, on the other hand, was thrilling. Especially fascinating was an acidic 1949 Castello di Brolio, which had survived very well.

Pievi in Montepulciano
Pievi in Montepulciano

Pievi: Tuscanisation of the Nobile - Quality Pyramid and New Typology

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is not only about a vineyard designation, but also about a new, forward-looking quality pyramid. With the Pievi site designations, a new typology was created at the same time, which is subject to a much stricter set of rules than the normal Nobile di Montepulciano including its Riserva.

Pievi should stand for quality, identity and origin. The discussion about this was driven internally by members and the board of the consortium during the lockdown. And it was high time. The normal Nobile needed a variant that facilitated territorial recognisability, a Tuscanisation so to speak.

Its minimum content of 70% Sangiovese may also be blended with Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, which gives it a stronger flavour than that of the climate. A Pieve, on the other hand, must have at least 85% Sangiovese, and only the autochthonous Tuscan varieties Mammolo, Ciliegiolo, Canaiolo and - due to its high tannin content - a maximum of 5% Colorino may be added.

Focus on Single-Varietal...

"Most winemakers who want to produce a Pieve make them purely from Sangiovese anyway. Historically, the Nobile has always been a blended set of Tuscan varieties. The Pievi go back to the site designations we made back in the 1990s and updated in the 2000s. They are almost congruent with the Leopoldino vineyard register from 1821. We therefore had a good basis so their allocation was logical and natural. The desire for Pievi came from the grassroots, the winegrowers also decided on them unanimously", explained Andrea Rossi, president of the consortium.

...and Yield Limitation

The Pieve maximum yield is 7 tonnes per hectare, as opposed to 8 tonnes which are permitted without a vineyard designation. In "favourable vintages", this may not be increased by 20% for Pieve as the DOC regulations would otherwise explicitly allow. The appropriate age of the vineyards was also taken into consideration; they must be at least 15 years old.

Sustainability

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was the first Italian origin to be certified according to Equalitas standards for sustainability. Equalitas audits the use of resources and environmental protection as well as ethical, economic and social sustainability criteria.

Pievi and Gran Selezione: Parallels and Differences

As with the Gran Selezione, the grapes of the Pievi must come from the producer's estate, and the minimum alcohol content of 13% and the minimum extract of 26 grams per litre are also identical.

The two diverge on the ageing period, the Gran Selezione must age for at least 30 months, of which only three are in the bottle. A Pieve stays in the cellar for 36 months, of which at least 12 months in wood, and a minimum of one year in the bottle.

The UGAs and the Pievi are on the same level regarding the procedure, as the region has already approved the consortia's applications. Now the Wine Commission in the Ministry of Agriculture has give its approval, which is expected this year.

Castello di Brolio, star at the Chianti Classico Conference (Photo: Crecelius)
Castello di Brolio, star at the Chianti Classico Conference (Photo: Crecelius)

Chianti Classico and Nobile di Montepulciano: Good results in 2021

Both Chianti Classico and Nobile di Montepulciano recovered well in 2021. Chianti Classico sales were up 21% compared to 2020 and 11% compared to the pre-pandemic 2019. Montepulciano achieved a 21.4% year-on-year increase from 2020 when it had suffered badly, but no increase compared to 2019.

Tuscany at a glance

Vineyard area 2021: 59,821 ha - thereof certified organic: 19,028 ha

Vineyard area DOC & DOCG (DOP): 57,684 ha (96.43%)
Red and rosé wines DOC & DOCG (DOP): 93%

Production 2021: 2.04 mill. hl

Sangiovese is by far the most planted grape variety with 36,017 ha, Merlot is in second place with 4,834 ha, Cabernet Sauvignon comes with 3,766 ha. In fourth place is Trebbiano Toscano with 2,344 ha, followed by Vermentino with 1,857 ha. The DOCG Chianti occupies 30.9% of the DOP vineyard area, followed by Chianti Classico with 20.8%, Maremma Toscana (7.3%), Brunello di Montalcino (6.1%), Morellino die Scansano (4.3%), Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (3.7%), Bolgheri (3.3%), Vernaccia di San Gimignano (2.2%) and Rosso di Montalcino (1.5%). All other PDOs occupy less than 1% of the vineyard area each. On the Tuscan territory, 41 DOCs, eleven DOCGs and six IGTs are registered.

Chianti Classico DOCG

  • Vineyard area: 6,800 ha (Chianti Classico claims less PDO area than it could).
  • Production 2021: 38 mill. bottles, of which 60% vintage wines (Annata), 35% Riserva, 5 % Gran Selezione
  • Export share: 80%
  • Main markets: USA (33%), Canada (10%), GB (8%), Germany (6%)

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG

  • Vineyard area: 1,210 ha
  • Production 2021: 6.9 mill. bottles 
  • Export share: 70%
  • Main markets: Germany (39%), USA (26%), Netherlands (8%), Belgium (5%)

Source: Tuscany Region, Ismea, Consorzio Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Consorzio Chianti Classico

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