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Home Winners > Winners 2013 > ITALY: Chianti

Winner Details

Italy: Chianti

A region in stylistic transition put in something of a chequered performance this year, with only one Gold and lots of confused tasters

Chianti is a good, solid category in the Sommelier Wine Awards, and its haul of eight medals this year was pretty much bang-on average for the last few years. This was, though, the smallest number of wines to make the Gold List since 2007, and the feedback was decidedly mixed.

In the early stages, the tasters were generally not unimpressed with what they found. ‘I was rather dreading this flight, to be honest,’ said one taster, ‘but it was a pleasant surprise.’ Interestingly, one or two even cited the region’s decent value for money – though such things seem to be increasingly relative in Italy, and the number of sub-£10 medal winners is shrinking every year, like a Greek civil servant’s pension.

Obviously, part of Chianti’s appeal is its ‘treat me rough with your chunky tannins’ personality (Fifty Shades of Grape perhaps?) But the tasters were sensitive about throwing out wines where a bit of light palate bondage crossed the line into full-on physical assault.

‘Some of these wines are just so austere – so many firm tannins,’ said Laurent Chaniac of The Cinnamon Club, possibly massaging his gums with baby oil. ‘At the other end of the spectrum there are some that are over-ripe with a lack of typicity.’

All in all, it was a bit of a mess, with varying styles – too many of them unsuccessful – and not enough typicity of any description, let alone the kind of typicity our tasters actively wanted on a list. And the increasing rarity of wines under £10 ex-VAT is a real concern.

‘There are still too many wines made in the way that Granpappy did it,’ said Hakkasan Group’s Christine Parkinson, with the acidity of, well… a particularly under-ripe Chianti. ‘I’m not aware of any law that says that Chianti can’t be made in a clean, modern fashion…’

Pick the bones out of that one…

Fortunately, the Castello Vicchiomaggio shone throughout. ‘It is nearly £15, but it’s superb, and you could sell that at any price,’ said Jeremie Guibert of Lords of the Manor, while tasters in the final round described it as ‘worth every penny’.

‘From Chianti I look for red fruit, black fruit, undergrowth and leafy notes, but nothing too green. They’re extracting too many tannins and not enough fruit.’ Laurent Chaniac, The Cinnamon Club