Last June, Chianti Classico made headlines when the Consorzio’s members voted to approve 11 Unitá Geografiche Aggiuntive (UGA), or additional geographic units, which divide the classic Tuscan region into smaller, more terroir-specific production zones. The UGAs await approval by the Ministry of Agriculture—Giovanni Manetti, the president of Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico and the owner of Fontodi, notes that they hope this will come sometime this year, which would allow the 2020 vintage to carry UGA labeling—but already producers are preparing to use these new monikers on their Gran Selezione bottlings.
Breaking regions down into more specific subzones is becoming increasingly common, both in Italy and around the world, and while Chianti Classico is often considered to be a smaller, more specific region of the broader Chianti denomination, this traditional heart of the region is set apart with its own DOCG. Many of Chianti Classico’s producers believe that the UGAs will better communicate the wines’ specificities of origin to the consumer.
“Chianti Classico is a very large area [about 70,000 hectares] between Siena and Florence, so helping the consumer pinpoint better the location of the estates is an added value,” says Antonio Michael Zaccheo, Jr., the owner and operator of Carpineto. Manetti estimates that 80 to 90 percent of the region’s producers plan to label their wines with their corresponding UGAs.
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Some of the UGA names correspond to existing communes—such as Radda, which corresponds to Radda in Chianti—while others are smaller areas with more terroir specificity, and the Consorzio hasn’t ruled out the possibility of adding more UGAs in the future. When the UGAs are approved by the Ministry of Agriculture, producers will only be permitted to use them on Chianti Classico Gran Selezione wines (the region’s highest quality tier, which requires that wines are at least 90 percent Sangiovese and aged at least 30 months before release); Gran Selezione represents about five percent of Chianti Classico’s total production, according to Manetti.
“We think this represents only a first step, since it is only applied to the Gran Selezione category,” says Leonardo Bellaccini, the enologist for San Felice. “It will be even more important and significant when it will be applied to Riserva and vintage, too.” According to Manetti, the possibility of extending UGA labeling beyond Gran Selezione has been discussed, but no timeline is currently in the works.
While the approval and subsequent release of the first UGA-labeled Chianti Classicos will be the strongest indicator of these subzones’ individual characteristics, here’s what you need to know about Chianti Classico’s new UGAs:
Located in the northwestern corner of Chianti Classico, San Casciano is home to slightly lower elevations—and therefore warmer temperatures—than UGAs to the east. Most of its vineyards are planted on ancient alluvial soils, and the area is crossed with long, north-south valleys.
Greve is home to plenty of Chianti Classico’s clay-schist galestro soil, and many of the UGA’s vineyards are located on hilly slopes overlooking the Greve river, making them remarkably picturesque. Zaccheo notes that this area—particularly the area where Carpineto is located in Dudda, on the eastern slope of Greve in Chianti—has cooler average growing temperatures than the rest of Chianti Classico. “[This is] responsible for maintaining great freshness of flavors and good acidities in our wines—perfect for long aging,” he says.
The small Montefioralle UGA overlaps with Greve, tucked into its western edges, just north of Panzano; producers may either use the Montefioralle or Greve UGA for wines crafted here. Though it’s fairly uniform, covered in both pietraforte (sandstone) and alberese (clay-limestone) soils, there are geological variations from north to south and elevations can reach over 500 meters.
The smallest of Chianti Classico’s UGAs, Lamole also overlaps with Greve—specifically its southern reaches—and is often considered the easiest to characterize. Its vineyards are located on a single, mostly east-facing slope located at 500 meters in elevation and surrounded by woods, creating a cool microclimate. The soil, called macigno toscano or macigno del Chianti, is sandstone, which offers good drainage. “These characteristics allow the grapes to obtain optimum ripeness slowly and gradually and at the same time present elegance, freshness, and richness,” says Andrea Daldin, the winemaker of Lamole di Lamole.
San Donato in Poggio
San Donato in Poggio is located along the western side of Chianti Classico, south of San Casciano and the Pesa river. A larger area, San Donato in Poggio is variable throughout but tends to have stonier soils. This UGA is a combination of the Barberino Tavarnelle and Poggibonsi communes.
To the southwest of Greve and to the east of San Donato in Poggio, Panzano is home to two main slopes. The eastern slope has a cooler microclimate, giving a combination of fruit and structure to the wines, while the western slope tends to create wines that are earthier and less fruity.
South of Panzano and Lamole, Radda is centered upon a ridge and is home to some of Chianti Classico’s highest vineyards. The presence of two rivers—the Arbia, which flows to the south, and the Pesa, which flows to the north and is more like a stream here—moderates these high elevations, giving Radda’s wines a characteristic elegance yet subtle power. However, the UGA is far from homogenous, and wines can vary throughout.
The town of Castellina itself is located at a high altitude, with plenty of wind exposure, but the UGA as a whole is much more varied than that; it’s actually considered one of the warmest of Chianti Classico’s UGAs. Vineyards can vary by 300 meters in elevation, and more elevated areas tend to have rockier soils, while lower areas have deeper soil with higher concentrations of clay.
Located at the foot of the Monti del Chianti range, Gaiole is a milder area of Chianti Classico, with plenty of wild woodlands. Because it is so large and variable, many break Gaiole down into even smaller subregions. Generally, there is a high concentration of limestone here, especially on higher sites.
Southwest of Gaiole, Vagliagli is located in some of the most southerly reaches of Chianti Classico, where altitudes gradually decline but generally remain around 400 meters. This UGA is part of the larger Castelnuovo Berardenga commune.
The southernmost UGA of Chianti Classico, Castelnuovo Berardenga is located close to Siena. It is characterized by open valleys and plenty of alberese soil. “These elements give rise to wide and rich wines, suitable for long aging,” says San Felice’s Bellaccini.
Courtney Schiessl Magrini is a Brooklyn-based wine journalist, educator, and consultant who has held sommelier positions at some of New York’s top restaurants, including Marta, Dirty French, and Terroir. She is currently the executive editor for SevenFifty Daily, and her work has appeared in Wine Enthusiast, GuildSomm, Forbes.com, VinePair, EatingWell Magazine, and more. She holds the WSET Diploma in Wines and Spirits. Follow her on Instagram at @takeittocourt.