Classico, DOCG, Riserva, Gran Selezione… What’s it all mean?

Sangiovese is one of my absolute favorite grapes. It’s got so much personality and is so identifiable, yet still versatile and complex. As you might know, not all Sangiovese is Chianti, but all Chianti includes primarily Sangiovese. Chianti labels can be somewhat confusing to dissect, so let’s talk about what you should look out for when choosing which bottle to enjoy and why there are the Chianti Classico, the Riserva and the Gran Selezione.

Chianti is a region in Tuscany that’s approximately 71 80 hectares and made up of multiple subzones. Sangiovese is the dominant grape grown in this region. Technically any wine grown and produced in the Chianti region can be labeled with Chianti DOCG. Most of these wines will end up being predominantly Sangiovese based. They are often blended with other grapes that grow in the region including Canaiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. When you buy a bottle of wine just labeled “Chianti” or “Chianti DOCG” you can be sure it’s from somewhere in that main region, but may be a blend of grapes from different subzones within the area.

Chianti Classico

To take things a step further, lets add in “Classico” to the mix. When we see a bottle says “Chianti Classico DOCG,” we automatically know a few more things about it. First, to have the Classico in the name, the grapes must be from a specific area within the larger Chianti region, which is approximately 100 square miles between Florence and Siena. Chianti Classico DOCG must be made of at least 80% Sangiovese and have the iconic black rooster seal on the bottle. It’s known for distinction as being premium wine from the region.

Chianti Classico Riserva

Chianti Classico has two additional quality levels on top of that, to make things even more specific! If you see “Riserva” on the label, you’ll know that the wine has been barrel aged for a minimum of two years. Plus, it has spent at least an additional three months in the bottle before being able to be sold.

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione

Last but certainly not least, the newest designation in this region is “Gran Selezione,” which is typically considered the best Chianti Classico that the producer makes. To earn this distinction, the wine is required to be made of grapes that are 100% estate grown, with at least 30 months of ageing in oak barrels, and minimum alcohol percentage is 13%. Gran Selezione wines must be approved by an Italian tasting board to confirm that the wine deserves the special distinction, making these bottles ideal for special occasions.

Carpineto’s Chianti Classico Gran Selezione is made up of 100% Sangiovese and is a great option to add to your cellar for further ageing. It’s a cru from Le Pievi vineyard, the most historic vineyard on the estate, which extends over 2 hectares. With notes of blackberry, cherry, currants and hints of leather, licorice and vanilla on the finish, this red is bursting with fruit and well balanced acidity. I recommend keeping this wine for a special celebration and pairing it with a truly spectacular meal like filet mignon or wild boar.