San Felice Chianti Classico 'Gran Selezione' 2010 vs 2011

First of all, what is 'Gran Selezione'? How it differs from 'Riserva'? Does it really manage to highlight the best of Chianti production? Does it really fail to highlight the different Chianti Terroirs?

Tons of pages have been written on this subject so I'm not going to repeat what has already been said. For a summary, you can read this article by Stephen Brook on Decanter 2014, or many others online.

I would just like to express my opinion on the Gran Selezione system.

What I see as Pros: This is a dynamic classification system. Contrary to the static systems of Burgundy -where a vineyard identified as Premier Cru or Grand Cru rarely changes its status-, or in Bordeaux - where a whole estate identified as second or first Growth rarely change its status, here in Chianti the 'Gran Selezione' status is assigned to a wine after careful evaluation year after year. A producer can get the GS status for one of his wines this year but may miss it next year. It is a more democratic, meritocratic and less aristocratic system. 

What I see as Cons: 1) The GS status is assigned by a panel composed of top winemakers. They may have their own personal tastes, preferences in style and personal criteria in selecting the best wines. Solution to this may be to extend the panel including a yearly-changing selection of producers. 2) GS can be assigned only to wines made from 100% estate-grown grapes: so why not to identify the best vineyards and imposing their names on the labels of the wines awarded with GS status? This will help to focus the attention on the best Terroirs. Some bottles may come from single vineyards, while other may be blends from vineyards in different villages. I'm not obsessed with single-vineyard releases and they are not belonging, after all, to the italian winemaking tradition (if you are gonna say something about Barolo, go and talk to Citrico Rinaldi about single vineyard releases and then come back). I just think it will be beneficial to have the name of the vineyard/vineyards on the label.
3) In this modern world, consumers trust more Vivino (or other peer reviewers-based apps/websites) than conventional wine critics or consortium panels. This must be taken into account. The GS panel may result just as an additional layer (or additional filter, or additional noise, depending on the points of view) between producers and consumers. This buffer layer may be perceived by some as warrant of quality, but by other as an unwanted intermediate judge. In a free (and well informed) society, the market (i.e the final consumers) should be the ultimate judge. The new consumers (read Millennials & Co) are much less sensitive (if not even less tolerant) to the influence of intermediate judges (read wine critics, panels & Co): they want to have a direct dialogue with the producers and the land/places where the wines come from, without additional noise introduced by a third voice. In this sense panels and wine critics are like the poor husband interpreted by Charles Aznavour in Et moi dans mon coin. Let consumers and producers make love without interfering :-)

To summarise, you may ask if the Gran Selezione system is working or not? Does it help the consumer to identify the best wines? My experience tells me to answer YES and NO. 
YES, if a producer releases a Gran Selezione label, this is usually better than his own normal Riserva.
NO, among different producers it's not true that a Grand Selezione from producer A is better than a Riserva from producer B.

After this long preamble, let's go to have a look at the Chianti Classico 'Gran Selezione'  2010 and 2011 from Agricola San Felice. 

Vineyards are not disclosed on the label, but you can find their details on the website: 80% Sangiovese come from Colti, Chiesamonti, Pianaccio vineyards and 20% indigenous varieties (Abrusco, Pugnitello, Malvasia Nera, Ciliegiolo, Mazzese) from the vineyards Montebello, Civettino, Le Rose, La Cappella, Camponovo, all located 350-400 metres above the sea level. The typical soil profile is medium-textured, predominantly calcareous marl breakdown of Alberese and Galestro strata, with abundant gravel-pebble mixture, resting on the Monte Morello formation or on Macigno sandstone. I cannot find details for the single vineyards.  
Grapes are harvested in mid October and vinified separately, in steel tanks, with a 22-day maceration period at 28-30°C. After malolactic fermentation, the wine is matured for 24 months in a mix of large Slavonian oak casks and French oak barriques.  The wine is released on the market after 8 months of bottle ageing. 

Tasting Notes:

(2010, 4.6/5). The wine appears deep ruby with good tears. On the nose offers a complex mix of dark fruits and violets, soil with mineral/flinty notes, leather/tobacco and spices. It's modern in style yet has a great sense of place.
On the palate it is dry, with an important structure defined by med+ tannins and med+ acidity, med+ alcohol, med+ body with consistent mid palate and  medium+ finish. Rich, yet fresh. 
Outstanding quality. Drink Now but will improve in the next 10+ years. 80% Sangiovese, 20% other indigenous varieties, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy.

(2011, 4.3/5). Similar profile, just a bit riper. It opens with a reductive sulphuric note that fades away after decanting. Wood will be better integrated in few years. Very good quality, although I prefer the more solid backbone of 2010.



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