Photo collage of scenes from Chianti Classico wine country. ©Kevin Day/Opening a Bottle

Study Guide: Chianti Classico for a New Era

Everything You Need to Know For Our September 24, 2022 Virtual Tasting

6 min read

On September 24, 2022, subscribers will have access to our first Virtual Tasting Seminar of the fall, focused on the wines of Chianti Classico.

Below you will find everything you need as a paying subscriber to access the event: a description of the class, the wines you will want to acquire if you plan to taste with us, and your Zoom credentials to access the event.

Zoom Credentials

Topic: Deep Dive Wine Class: Chianti Classico for a New Era
Time: September 24, 2022 8:30pm Eastern Time / 5:30pm Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 815 2347 3756
Passcode: OAB_924

Class Description

Chianti Classico is simultaneously Italy’s most recognizable wine and also its hardest to understand. That’s because it is a wine bound to ancient tradition that has somehow managed to adapt with the times throughout its history. Because of this, questions persist on what a true Chianti Classico ought to taste like. For instance, should it be a blend or a varietal Sangiovese? Should it be fresh and playful or serious and age-worthy?

The answer is, of course, that it is all of these things!

This year, I traveled to Chianti Classico to try and figure it all out. What I came away with was a firm grasp of Chianti Classico’s potential, what makes it special, who is making extraordinary wines now, and where it is all headed. Exciting things are happening in Chianti Classico, and I am eager to share the latest with you so you can better understand the diversity this place offers.

I will be presenting maps, photos, videos with winemakers, and insights on the wines as we taste up to three different Chianti Classico wines: an annata (labeled as just Chianti Classico), a Chianti Classico Riserva and a Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. Guests are responsible for buying their own wines. And tasting is optional. You can still learn everything from this class without tasting all three wines, and furthermore, you can also rest assured that these wines will stay fresh once opened for about a week in the refrigerator. You can have a few sips and savor the wines into the following week.

Also, I should note that there is a two-wine option for this class: a comparison taste of Chianti Classico vs. Chianti Classico Riserva. See below.

Wines We Will Be Tasting

There are three categories of wine within the Chianti Classico DOCG, and they each correspond roughly to a continuum of aging and seriousness. I have broken down these differences in the First-Taste Guide to Chianti Classico.

There are a few things to know about this region when you are shopping:

  • Chianti is not the same as Chianti Classico – For this class, you will want wines with the word “Classico” on the label. This indicates that it comes from the original zone of production for Chianti wines, a hilly and somewhat-mountainous region stretching from Florence to Siena. “Chianti” by itself or when appended to several subzones (e.g. Chianti Rufina and Chianti Colli Senesi) indicates a Sangiovese-based red wine from other zones in Tuscany. Those wines can be great, but for this class, we are focused on the wines of the Chianti Classico zone. Don’t worry: you have plenty of options.
  • Look for the Gallo Nero – The emblem of Chianti Classico is a black rooster, and all of the DOCG’s wines have this feature displayed on the label as a mark of authenticity.
  • Producers are at liberty to make wines within any of the categories – As I discussed at length in the First-Taste Guide as well as my article on the pursuit of terroir-specific wines in Chianti Classico, the region’s regulations are fairly open-ended, allowing producers to make individual decisions on which wines they want to make. Varietal and blended wines are allowed throughout, and oak aging is not mandated (only time in bottle is). The upshot is that some wineries make a wine for all three categories, and some limit their production to the first two categories. Some producers are steadfast that the Gran Selezione category isn’t for them (or they just don’t qualify for it). If you have a hard time finding a Gran Selezione, don’t sweat it. Oftentimes, the differences in the glass between a Gran Selezione and a Riserva are minimal.

I will be tasting one example from each of the following categories during the presentation (feel free to join in), and pausing for discussion and note-sharing with you all.

Chianti Classico

The freshest and easiest wine to drink is labeled as Chianti Classico and is referred to off-label as the annata wine, or annual wine. (Your local wine shop might not even know what you’re talking about if you say you want a Chianti Classico annata, so “entry-level” works for parlance as well).

These wines cost between $11–$30 depending on the producer, and they can represent some of the best values in all of Italy. It can even be the best wine at an estate — fresher, more precise and more enjoyable than the structured efforts at the Riserva and Gran Selezione level. But not always. Much of this comes down to personal preference.

For my top Chianti Classico picks from recent vintages, please refer to this subscriber-only Tasting Report to Chianti Classico.

Solid producers to seek out at this (and any) level of category include:

  • Poggerino
  • Badia a Coltibuono (also look for their brand Coltisboni)
  • Villa Calcinaia
  • Fattoria Rodáno
  • Istine
  • Cigliano di Sopra
  • Tenuta di Lilliano
  • Monteraponi
  • Felsina
  • Volpaia
  • Castell’in Villa
  • Caparsa
  • Ricasoli 1141
  • Villa di Geggiano
  • Riecine
  • Castellare di Castellina
  • Montesecondo
  • Castagnoli

Chianti Classico Riserva

Not long ago, this category was the “peak of the pyramid” in Chianti Classico, until producers banded together to create the Gran Selezione. The decision caused a bit of a stylistic divide, and refinements continue to be made to the product mix (I’ll go over all of this in the class).

Wines at the Riserva level cost between $25–$45 depending on the producer. These wines are more structured and can benefit from decanting (1 hour before the class, ideally). I think it is a mistake to refer to the Riserva wines as a “middle category.” In fact, my favorite Chianti Classico wines are all Riserva, not Gran Selezione.

For my top picks from recent vintages, please refer to this subscriber-only Tasting Report to Chianti Classico Riserva.

Many of the producers I would recommend are listed above.

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione

Lastly, we come to the Gran Selezione category, where you can expect to pay $55–$85 depending on the producer. Is it worth it? That’s for you to decide ultimately, but I will tell you these three things about Gran Selezione to help inform whether you want to try them:

  • Some of Chianti Classico’s top wines really are Gran Selezione – Frequently, this is where single-vineyard wines are showcased, so they are automatically more scarce and the handling of the fruit is more deliberate.
  • They are sometimes more oaky – But not always! Oak is the big wildcard in Chianti Classico wines (heck, it is the big wildcard with anything Sangiovese). Oak aging is not mandated by a term, the time in bottle is. I have found that since this category was introduced, the region has toned down the oaky tones a bit.
  • They are more Sangiovese-focused – The blending formula increases the mandatory amount for Sangiovese to 90%. In practice, most are 100% Sangiovese.

For my top picks from recent vintages, please refer to this subscriber-only Tasting Report to Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. Of the producers listed above, only the following make a Gran Selezione:

  • Villa Calcinaia
  • Ricasoli 1141
  • Tenuta di Lilliano
  • Felsina
  • Volpaia
  • Riecine

Other noteworthy producers who have introduced a Gran Selezione include:

  • Fontodi
  • Isole e Olena
  • Castello di Ama
  • Castello di Radda


As always, if you are planning to attend but have any questions, contact me directly at [email protected] and I will try to answer your query in a timely manner.

The wines of Badia a Coltibuono. ©Kevin Day/Opening a Bottle
Bottles of Chianti Classico on display. ©Kevin Day/Opening a Bottle
The winery at Fèlsina in Castelnuovo Berardenga, Chianti Classico. ©Kevin Day/Opening a Bottle
The vineyards at Poggerino. ©Kevin Day/Opening a Bottle
Castello di Brolio in the rain. ©Kevin Day/Opening a Bottle

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