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Italy: Chianti

Strangely, a lot of ‘atypical’ wines came in this year, but those that picked up medals were all classic Chiantis in style

Chianti has developed into a nice, solid category in the Sommelier Wine Awards, with good numbers and a laudable spread of wines sent in across the price points, from sub-£5 to comfortably over £20. So the sommeliers had plenty to choose from.

Given how definitive a style Chianti is, and how proud of it the locals are, it was surprising that, in the early stages of tasting, our teams should have been complaining about a lack of typicity. It was as though they’d ordered a pizza and been delivered a croque monsieur, with too much new French oak and extraction.

Once these ‘French wines masquerading as Italians’ had been sent packing, our tasters were able to get down to what tasting Chianti is all about: wrestling with spiky tannins and acidity, with several shell-shocked judges caught wandering around with thousand-yard stares repeating over and over ‘needs food… needs food…’

A look at the medals, though, shows how strong a category this was, with good wines from ‘pub pour’ level up to white tablecloth. Normally a price increase of 25% would spell death for a wine, but in the case of the 14° Secolo, since it was from £3.60 (Bronze) last year to £4.50 this year (and Bronze again) it’s unlikely to do it much harm.

Best of all, though, was the selection of wines that made it onto our Gold List. In the past, this has often started around the £11 mark, so our tasters were delighted to find not one, but two really good examples around the £8 mark.

‘The Tenuta San Jacopo and Agricola San Felice had lovely typicity,’ said consultant Caspar Auchterlonie, ‘a touch of astringency, but also morello cherry and chocolate.’

Meanwhile, from the dizzy heights of £14.53, the Carpineto gazed down from its elegant Castillo, polishing its second Gold List placing in three years.

‘I loved its perfume,’ said Terroirs’ Emilie Courtois. ‘It was fresh and elegant, full bodied but with great acidity. It just cried out for a plate of veal.’

‘In the mid-range price-points we struggled with wines that were trying too hard and with not enough typicity.’ Peter McCombie MW, consultant