Chianti Classico: The Unità Geografiche Aggiuntive

There has long been discussion about strengthening the perception of Chianti Classico’s connection with its terroirs by reference to sub-areas within the DOCG. Giovanni Manetti, president of the Consorzio Chianti Classico and a long-time promoter of zoning in Chianti Classico is in no doubt about the importance of stressing the sense of place.

‘Unlike a grape variety or a winemaking style, the thing that cannot be reproduced elsewhere is a terroir, which makes it the only possible element of added value […to a denomination],’ he declares.

The Origins

Historically, adding that value with sub-area labels was hampered by a lack of consensus among producers, and for many years the idea of zoning Chianti Classico lay dormant. Interest in the issue was revived by a seminal mapping project which began around 2010, and it gained impetus with the launch of the super-premium Gran Selezione in 2014.

The Gran Selezione was an important step forward for Chianti Classico in its own right, but it also figured in longer-term plans to create the equivalent of Chianti Classico ’cru’.

A framework for this was provided by the EU wine laws of 2013, which regulated the Unità Geografiche Aggiuntive, UGA for short. Literally translated as ‘additional geographic units’, a UGA is a place of origin within a DOC/G which can be added to the name of a wine.

The Chianti Classico Consorzio embraced the formula and after lengthy consultation, in June 2021 a proposal to adopt UGAs was presented to its members, and approved with an overwhelming majority.

Chianti Classico

The origins of the name Chianti are uncertain, but a hilly area in the heart of Tuscany, between the cities of Florence and Siena, with natural boundaries very similar to those recognised today, has been known as Chianti since at least the mid-13th century.

The use of the geographical name for wines probably became established with the growth of trade in the Middle Ages, the earliest surviving reference to which is a bill of sale for a Chianti wine in 1398.

The expansion of trade also led to the generic use of the name Chianti, however, and prompted Europe’s first example of a denomination of origin, Cosimo III’s edict of 1716, which sought to regulate wine production (for tax purposes it has to be said) on a geographical basis.

The area it decreed for the production of Chianti began north of the town of Greve, and stretched through the villages of Panzano, Radda, Gaiole and Castellina to the Grand Duchy’s southern confines with Siena.

Almost identical boundaries were established by the Italian wine law of 1932, which first introduced the denomination Chianti Classico for wines from the historic growing area. The suffix Classico has been used in legislation ever since to recognise the indissoluble link between the wine and its place of origin.

What is a UGA ?

A UGA may be defined as an administrative area, for example a village, or an area with specific geographical features. Manetti explains that, because of the extreme complexity of the geology of the Chianti Classico hills, the consorzio discarded an approach to zoning based on soils and topography. Instead, they followed a more humanistic route, identifying traditional areas of production with a strong terroir connection and sense of identity.

A UGA may comprise an entire administrative area (in Italian a ‘comune’) a part of one, or a smaller locality (a ’frazione’) within the commune. There are 11 ‘unità in all. Eight will come into effect immediately, another three in three years’ time.

Initially the UGAs will only apply to Gran Selezione wines, but Manetti stresses that the project is work in progress and the door is open for the future inclusion of Riserva and annata wines, and also for the addition of other sub-areas.

A Tour of the UGAs

Chianti Classico is about hill-top villages, ridges and valleys, vineyards, olive groves and dense woodlands. On a tour of the UGAs its infinitely varied…

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