Consorzio Collio 2024 (175x100)

Chianti Classico, Consortium celebrates 100 years and a future between Unesco and sustainability

A prestigious anniversary was celebrated at Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, but also talked about the upcoming challenges with the “elite” of the sector

One of the most iconic and renowned territories in the world, synonymous with blazon and prestige, but also in terms of numbers and image, between Florence, the “cradle” of the Renaissance, and Siena, the medieval city par excellence, and which, for many, is also the most beautiful, so much so that it is a candidate for UNESCO (with the “System of Farm Villas in Chianti Classico”), with a charm capable of penetrating, cyclically, new generations of wine lovers also because it is able to identify with a region, Tuscany, that boasts few equals in terms of landscape, culture and, of course, in the production of great red wines. This is Chianti Classico, 6,800 beautiful hectares planted with vines, 486 producers, 345 of whom make the entire supply chain, 35-38 million bottles a year that end up in 160 countries around the world, the U.S., Italy and Canada in the lead, for a district economic value that, with wine as a pivot, can be estimated at around 1 billion euros. A growing appeal, as evidenced also by the 7 wines of the territory included in the “Top 100” 2023 by “Wine Spectator”, and with an increasingly high positioning in the markets, the effect of an average price increased by 7% in 2023 over 2022, and 13% over 2021, also thanks to the driving effect of the “Gran Selezione”, the top of the quality pyramid of Chianti Classico (composed of Riserva and Annata) and the essence of the essence of the territory (which, in 2024, celebrates 10 years since its arrival on the market) to which, with the 2023 vintage, the 11 Additional Geographical Units on the label have been added (created by wine cartographer Alessandro Masnaghetti with Enogea, ed.) confirming a territory, that of the Black Rooster, which looks to the future with confidence and the serenity of numbers, despite the fact that, globally, the market seems no longer to smile as before at red wines. But history always carries its own weight, and that of the Chianti Classico Consortium began 100 years ago, that is, on May 14, 1924, thanks to 33 far-sighted winemakers who decided to invest in aggregation because that was the only way to manage a production that could speak “of” and “to” an entire territory. The origins of the “myth”, however, start much further back, from the proclamation of the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo III de’ Medici who pioneeringly delimited the Chianti Classico production area in 1716, continuing with the invention of the “perfect formula” of Chianti Classico by the “Iron Baron” Bettino Ricasoli in the Castle of Brolio in 1872. And here we are today, with the “secular” celebration since the founding of the oldest Consortium in Italy: that of Chianti Classico, which has traced the past and looked to the future from the Salone dei Cinquecento in Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, where it is depicted, with its symbol, the Black Rooster, by the great painter Giorgio Vasari in the ceiling among the allegories of the Medici domains.
A centenary that the Chianti Classico Consortium wanted to celebrate by opening up to discussion on the issues of the future and in particular that of sustainability: this, in fact, will be the requirement on which to continue writing pages of history with the path indicated by a special “Manifesto” presented for the occasion. A day between the past and the future (“Back to the Future”, the title of the event) that started with a discussion on “sustainability and territorial identity” with speeches by representatives of some of the world’s most illustrious appellations and great wines: Champagne (with Maxime Toubart and David Chatillon, co-Presidents of the Comitaté Champagne), Port (with Gilberto Igrejas, President Port and Douro Wines Institute), Oregon (Morgen McLaughlin, Director Williamette Valley Wineries Association & Wine Foundation Oregon was present), Barolo (Matteo Ascheri, outgoing president of the Barolo Barbaresco Alba Langhe Dogliani Consortium, spoke), Burgundy (Thiébault Huber, President of the Confédération des Appellations et des Vignerons de Bourgogne). Ascheri focused on the concept of sustainability understood, first and foremost, as respect for the environment and people, illustrating what has been done in recent years by the appellation he led. “From this perspective, projects have been developed in relation to environmental protection, such as the Ecolog sustainable logistics project, which plans to reduce Co2 consumption in the hills of the Langhe by decreasing and optimizing the transport of goods to and from the wineries at both trade and consumer levels. On the other hand, we have initiated several tables with local and regional authorities to address the problem of labor exploitation in the vineyard, a hot topic in all agricultural (and other) sectors in Italy. As far as the Langhe is concerned, the problem is still fortunately underdeveloped, but action is still needed to zero in on the problems that have arisen and anticipate others. The Vineyard Academy is one of the solutions that we wanted to support in this regard to train and encourage the placement of personnel directly within the companies”.
Gilberto Igrejas, president Port and Douro Wines Institute, explained that “our region covers 41% of total wine exports and 60% of Portuguese PDO wines. In Portugal, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, the United States, and Belgium we find the key markets for Port and Douro. In 2023 the turnover of the sector was 18 million euros and the market can double these figures. Our region faces some risks, in terms of health and safety, economic sustainability, but also related to ecosystems. We have launched important initiatives to protect biodiversity and products that are very important to address climate change, which is very intense and strong around the world. We continue to work on plants, soils, but also on continuity. Our work is based on four pillars: life, production, nutrition and environment. Together with global development, these are the key points of the overall strategy of the Douro, of our region that was recognized in 2001 as a UNESCO heritage site. So we want to reduce the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, so we are in line with biodiversity protection goals, and the impact of carbon emissions, and for our farmers and producers to improve raw materials, but also to be guardians of biodiversity. For example, we have IoT sensors that have been spread throughout the region to measure humidity and air temperature in real time”.
Morgen McLaughlin, executive director Willamette Valley Wineries Association (Oregon), recalled that “when Oregon’s pioneering winemakers envisioned planting grapes and making wine in the fertile Willamette Valley, they had a vision that went beyond Pinot Noir production. They saw something few others had seen, one of the last great places where the land had not been ruined by chemicals, pesticides and other harmful agricultural practices. They saw a modern "Garden of Eden" where agriculture in general, and viticulture in particular, could flourish in harmony with the land and the people who inhabited it. Oregon represented not only an ideal place for viticulture, but the final frontier where winemakers could ply their trade in a biologically diverse and ecologically balanced environment. And they made a promise to themselves and to future generations: they would produce wine of the highest possible quality, and they would do so in complete synergy with nature. In wine, terroir is the key ingredient. Each bottle expresses an authentic characteristic of the region’s soil, climate and temperature, as well as the uniqueness of local growers and winemakers. In 2009, the Willamette Valley Wineries Association joined the Declaration to Protect the Place and Origin of Wine, and in 2021 it was formally recognized by the European Union through the approval of Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status: it was the culmination of nearly a decade of work. Among U.S. wine regions, only the Napa Valley and Willamette Valley boast this distinction. And more than half of Oregon’s vineyard acreage is certified as sustainably farmed”.
From the U.S. to France, home of great reds, but also the queen of bubbles thanks to Champagne, Maxime Toubart, co-president Comité Champagne, recalled that “we were in 2003 the first wine industry in the world to calculate its carbon footprint. Co2 emissions per single bottle have already been reduced by 20%; the goal is to reach Net-Zero by 2050. Champagne is also the first wine-growing area in France to have implemented “sexual confusion” resulting in the almost total elimination of insecticide treatments. Today, 69% of the appellation’s areas have environmental certification, and the chain aims to achieve 100% by 2030”. The other co-chair of Comité Champagne, David Chatillon, added that “with more than 6 billion euros in turnover, Champagne is the world’s leading appellation of origin by value. Champagne occupies 0.5% of the world’s vineyard area and accounts for 10% by volume and 28% by value of the world consumption of sparkling wines. The creation of value is closely linked to an idea of corporate responsibility that the chain pursues not only in the environmental but also in the social field. In this context, the inscription of the “Coteaux, Maisons et Caves de Champagne” in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites also becomes a tool to protect and enhance a collective heritage whose “Outstanding Universal Value” has been recognized”.
For Thiébault Huber, president of Confédération des Appellations et des Vignerons de Bourgogne,a terroir whose famous “climats”, the plots that make up the wine-growing territory, have been a Unesco heritage site since 2015, but also with a tradition that is 2,000 years old, “climate change, droughts, periods of frost, excess water, very high temperatures, are factors that have made us think about the layout of our vineyards, we have to preserve these typical characteristics, these uniquenesses. The vineyards and winemakers of Burgundy wanted to continue to do as they did in the postwar period. We have several types of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (the two iconic vineyards of the region, ed.), but now we have decided to create a kind of “identity card” for each vineyard in order to better understand the specific and most important characteristics related to climate change, because we want to preserve the typical characteristics of our wines. For this reason, we plan to carry out micro-interventions and launched a very ambitious and collective project that we are carrying out together with the Champagne, Beaujolais and Jura regions through the construction of a 4,000-square-meter greenhouse to protect the environmental conditions of our plants during cloning. Several sectors, one for each region, will be built in this greenhouse. Work will be completed at the end of June, and the first plant will be placed there in early 2025, so that by 2027 they will all be available. Sustainability involves transmission, technical challenges, quality and phytosanitary conditions. We have to protect our region if we want to leave it to the next generation: this is the goal of anyone working in the vineyards”.
Also bringing institutional greetings was the Minister of Agriculture, Francesco Lollobrigida, who described Chianti Classico as a “unique combination of the land, its wonderful fruits and the tireless work of the winemakers that has shaped the territory making it one of the most beautiful and iconic landscapes in the world”. The novelty of the day was represented by the launch of the “Sustainability Manifesto”, and thus the vision of a sustainable Chianti Classico both as a business system and as a means of safeguarding the territory so that it can be returned intact to future generations.
“We have waited until now to address, as a Consortium, the so topical issue of sustainability, in order to be able to give it a characterization, a specific identity that would be able to highlight and enhance the distinctive features of our denomination and its production territory”, explained Giovanni Manetti, president of the Chianti Classico Consortium, and at the helm of Fontodi, “a “Manifesto” that we are sure our winemakers will embrace and make alive and active, until it becomes a true commitment to the sustainability of our territory and its productions”. The “Sustainability Manifesto” of Chianti Classico proposes, in fact, a full-bodied set of rules with the intention of reducing the environmental impact, through a management of the land, production areas and forests, aimed at preserving their characteristics, potential, landscape and biodiversity, and to enhance the growth and affirmation of the social and cultural resources of this unique territory in the world. The guiding rules, the Consortium points out, are numerous, ambitious and distinctive of the appellation and its territory. The Consortium’s work includes innovative elements inspired by the study of the Chianti Classico cultural landscape launched in 2018 by the Chianti Classico Territory Protection Foundation for the Unesco candidacy, which has helped to highlight the many enriching faces of this territory that accompany the production of Chianti Classico wine and have always engaged wineries beyond viticulture. Among them, Black Rooster winemakers, who have already come a long way in the direction of sustainability, will be able to choose those that best suit their specific characteristics, their identity, and their programs. “An ambitious project that places the cultural heritage of the territory as its exceptional identity factor accompanying Chianti Classico wine, increasing more and more its typicality and territoriality, but also inclusive to grow, all together, territorial sustainability according to a timetable that will allow the winegrowers to interpret over time the path that the Consortium wants to trace”, added Carlotta Gori, Director of the Chianti Classico Consortium.
Among the speeches in the panel discussion, led by deputy editor and signature of the “Corriere della Sera”, Luciano Ferraro, those of a true “legend” of the area, Piero Antinori, honorary president Marchesi Antinori, the most admired Italian wine brand in the world, a reference figure who made the history of international oenology, and Monica Larner, signature for Italy of one of the most authoritative voices of world criticism, namely that of “The Wine Advocate - Robert Parker”. Marquis Antinori spoke of a “revolution”, referring to sustainability since, it was 1967, when he started working in the company and dealing personally with Chianti Classico. “Sustainability”, said Piero Antinori, "was almost unknown at the time, today we talk about it perhaps too much, we abuse the term, but sustainability is a completely different thing and fortunately, I dare say. As far as Chianti Classico is concerned, the wineries are almost all family-run and by definition are very sensitive to sustainability. Because they are always attentive to the future, to the next generations, and they always try, by nature, by definition, to maintain and create the conditions so that the next generations will be able, in the future, to make wines that are as good as the ones we make, or even better than these. This is also due to the fact that consumers are aware of this and demand sustainability, but winemakers have also long understood its importance”. Sustainability that has also guided Marchesi Antinori’s investments, as evidenced by the Antinori winery in Chianti Classico, voted, in the past, as the “Most Beautiful Winery in the World”. “Absolutely”, Piero Antinori confirms, “it has been imprinted on this aspect. A sustainability from different points of view, first of all in terms of landscape, because I believe that the Tuscan one, as we have often said, is unique, it is wonderful and this is an incredible added value for our product. And nature has provided us, has given us, this landscape, but which is also the result of human intervention that has modified it with different works over the years, as in the case of churches, castles and also agriculture. Whoever has worked in Chianti Classico has done so with a focus on the landscape, and then farming has changed. New techniques have been introduced and the landscape has also changed, but I think it has improved. That’s why I think that as Chianti Classico operators, we have a responsibility to try to maintain this beauty: we have to protect this beautiful landscape because it is based on harmony, on integration. There is nothing that is out of tune with it or that harms it, we have tried to follow tradition. And I think that consumers and visitors also appreciate this principle that we wanted to respect”.
Monica Larner focused on the environmental issue and the interest it generates among wine-loving readers. “We have a target audience of senior readers, mainly men. And their purchasing power is very high, they spend over $2,000 a month on wines, but we found that sustainable ones are not a priority right now. We identified 16 points, such as rating, friends’ suggestion, reputation of a specific production area, grape variety: organic wines ranked only No. 13. But we did the same with our younger readers and their dynamic is totally different, so we can say that we are facing a generation gap regarding this topic. However, we at “The Wine Advocate” have also focused on how we can help change this situation. Therefore, we created our “manifesto” and established guidelines because it is not possible for us to examine and give an opinion on all the wines in the world, but we must consider quality first. This “manifesto” includes the relationship with sustainable wineries, and we have also established a way to reward these wines. In other words, we want to talk about wines that have a soul, in which quality plays a key role and is closely linked to environmental protection. First of all, we created a filter in our database, where every wine certified as organic or biodynamic is flagged so that our reader can search for it. But we have also created an award called the “Green Emblem Award”, which is given to wineries based on three pillars: the importance of winemaking and viticulture, so soil conservation, promotion of biodiversity, minimizing the use of chemicals; then there is business management, which must have a holistic approach; and, finally, we have to identify wineries that are also ambassadors to consumers of the culture of their communities”.
And also the theater-symbol of Florence, the Italian-style theater par excellence, a national monument, where the greatest musicians and actors have performed and continue to plough the stage, led by the most famous directors, where the stages, melodrama and even the telephone were born, and which, as of today, will also be remembered for being the stage for the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the Chianti Classico Consortium, the oldest in Italy, in a mutual tribute between Florence, its territory and its great wines, namely the Teatro della Pergola, served as the backdrop for the celebrations. Which, now, continue the initiatives for the Centenary of the “Black Rooster”, starting with those of historical imprint, such as the exhibition “Chianti Classico Century”, which traces these first 100 years of the Consortium through the thoughts of its 19 presidents. A choral storytelling opportunity that is also joined by the voices of 170 producers, who are featured in short reels on Black Rooster social media throughout 2024, to give a face and personal story to each label. Enriching the narrative will also be the participation of leading figures from the world of wine with the “100 voices for Chianti Classico” project, aimed mainly at foreign markets, whose main players will take the floor to share an anecdote, one of their memories of our wine and its territory. An anniversary celebrated, among other projects, also through the memory of the journey made, reconstructed in the book “Sulle tracce del Gallo Nero” written by Daniele Cernilli in collaboration with Paolo De Cristofaro. In addition, the Consortium’s image has been embellished by a new logo designed for the occasion, which distinguishes all initiatives and materials, and an advertising campaign that collects the shots of nearly 200 members. “A century later”, Manetti concludes, “the members of the Consortium have grown to 486, but the goals that unite us are the same as they were in 1924. To protect the wine that comes from a highly vocated territory of rare beauty and to accompany winemakers in facing markets around the world under the common banner of the Black Rooster”.

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