That was part of the headline of a program I recently attended.
The program was hosted by the Consorzio del Vino Chianti. This group was founded in 1927 and has now grown to close to 3,000 wineries covering about 15,500 hectares of vineyards. Let us not forget that this covers these cites that would certainly be a great places to visit and taste the wines and enjoy the culture of: Florence, Siena, Arezzo, Pisa, Pistoia and Prato.
These wineries are located in the Chianti DOCG, Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita. This includes seven subregions. All wines require a minimum of 70% Sangiovese and can have up to 10% white grapes Malvasia and or Trebbiano. Also some native reds and some popular international varieties reds can be used. Note that the Chianti DOCG is different than the Chianti Classico DOCG.
Before we enjoyed the tasting, we enjoyed the master class led by Tanya Morning Star and Luca Alves, Chianti Wine Ambassador. I have highlighted just a few items. Wine has been in Tuscany for some 3,000 years and the origin of winemaking goes back to Etruscan Civilization during the 8th Century BC. Then the Romans cultivated wine and other agriculture. Then we had an extended period of complex history taking us through the middle ages and into the renaissance. I will not cover the details since there is so much to cover. Here is a brief recap. Also you can look at the many classes offered by Tanya at Cellarmuse.
Here are a couple final notes on key history dates that should be noted. In 1716 the Grand Duke Cosimo III de’Medici demarcated the first Chianti wine zone. Many claim this was the first wine region delineated anywhere. In 1872 Baron Bettino Ricasoli, owner of ‘Castello di Brolio’ and second prime minister of the recently united Italy, prescribed that Chianti wine should be made as a blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Malvasia grapes. The rest is history as they say.
We sampled wines from the seven wine regions in the Chianti DOCG and they all had 75% to 100% of Sangiovese. One has to, of course, ask which was my favorite. For me it was Chianti Colli Fiorentini DOCG Riserva 2011 which had 75% Sangiovese, and the rest was Merlot and Syrah. This unique blend brought soft tannins with fresh red plum and very rich taste. If one is uncertain which region, they like the best maybe it would be best to sample from all seven regions.
We would like to briefly list climate trends observed over the 70 years. Much of this data can be found here. The data below focuses on the Tuscany region.
It should come to no surprise that the warming trends are significant – with summer average (mean) temperatures from 21.3 C (70.3 F) in 1971 to 23 C (73.4F) in 2020. If this trend continues and or accelerates, it would be a concern to the main grapes crop, Sangiovese. Many put the optimal upper limit of average temperatures 19 C (66 F) during the growing season defined as April through the end of October. Right now that average temperature for the growing season is close to 18 C (64.4 F) and has been raising. Another trend is warmer nights for much of the recent period and in some cases lower diurnal swings between high and low temperatures. The certainty here is this could lead to lower acid structure in the grape.
How about the winter? January average mean temperatures for the most recent decade of 2011 to 2020 average temperatures increased to 0.84 C (1.5 F). How about frost? Yearly frost days went from 38 days in 1950 to 28 days in 2020. One of the concerns is that some recent seasons have seen warm spring temperatures in March or early April which exposes the crop if we subsequently get a hard freeze.
Finally, rainfall has slightly been declining by 1 mm every 10 years.
With the warming climate, there are concerns that some wine varieties will struggle to grow and as rainfall decreases that will further stress the crops. Solutions? Many regions are introducing new rootstocks that are heat and drought resistant. Then (unheard of in the Bordeaux region) six new grape varieties are now approved to use by France’s national appellation body.
How about Tuscany? One winery is looking at experiments with Georgian grapes to fight climate change.
Some good news is that varieties like Sangiovese and Nebbiolo are late ripening and can cope better with rising temperatures. With the warming temperatures, some other varieties are seeing a much earlier harvest. In some parts of Europe the harvest is 13 days sooner than 1988. This earlier harvest reduces the ripening period and can reduce the acidity and freshness. However, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo can hang longer thus increase the acidity and freshness. Also, to try to lower temperatures in the vineyards, some vineyard managers are incorporating other methods. One is shading the vines with nets and others spraying the leaves with clay.
What is the crystal ball forecast for the future? The wine industry has adjusted through the millennia to produce great Chianti and that should continue.