It hasn’t been easy for the territory’s producers, most of them grapegrowers working only a few hectares, to win over a broad-based public when, in the same province, there are wines such as Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico and Nobile di Montepulciano, all made with sangiovese grapes. At the same time, you can’t say that Colli Senesi is a repetitive denomination, since it takes in, at least in part, zones that are not included in other appellations. Its good fortune has been that it is a type of wine that the market increasingly seeks out right now: a glass that focuses on fresh aromas and straightforward drinkability, two qualities further enhanced by a price that offers good value for money.
The three principal production areas are San Gimignano, which extends to the comune of Castelnuovo Berardenga, Murlo, which stretches to Montalcino, and the territory which has Montepulciano at its center, reaching Trequanda in the north and Sarteano and Chiusi in the south.
“The first documentation that we have that establishes the founding of the Consorzio dei Colli Senesi is from 1942,” Cino Cinugi de’ Pazzi, president of the Consorzio, tells us. “We can find it mentioned again in a document unearthed in Siena’s Chamber of Commerce.” Later, the Consorzio was re-established in February, 1977, “But it didn’t really become operative,” Cinugi de’ Pazzi explains, “until 2001”.
It’s not only a question of promoting the wine, an objective stated in the regulations, but also of providing true technical assistance to Consorzio members, which is the secret of being successful in constantly and widely improving quality. “Denomination regulations permit a choice as to which varieties to blend with sangiovese,” he goes on to say, “and in recent years, members have opted for native grapes. In that way, they make the taste of the wine more characteristic of the zone, more territorial.” As with other Chianti labels, the use of white grapes is being phased out, and the most recent set of regulations establishes that the last use of white trebbiano and malvasia in the blend will be in the 2015 harvest. The objective is to achieve a balanced red, richly structured but not too opulent. One of the most important requirements to note in the new regulations regards the declaration of the grapes used for the Riserva version of the wine: it must be made at the time of the harvest. This will avoid the risk that a cask of wine that hasn’t been sold suddenly becomes a great age-worthy red!
The recent evolution of Chianti Colli Senesi resembles the path taken by Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Tuscany’s best known white. It’s not a coincidence that in various promotional events abroad, the two districts present themselves together, demonstrating that they naturally and historically complement each other. In the case of the first DOC approved in Italy, Vernaccia di San Gimignano (1966), there has been a great deal of work recently to select the clones best suited to the various micro-areas. Regulations permit the use of other types of grapes besides the principal variety, but the key to success has been finding the way to express the essential personality of Vernaccia and its terroir. Consumers have learned to appreciate Vernaccia’s own nature, and its producers avoided yielding to so-called international taste.
It was a long process, and it involved all the producers. The result is that, besides increased complexity of aromas, today, thanks to the work of small, devoted grapegrowers, Vernaccia has shown that it can age beautifully. Its richness of flavor has brought it a wide-ranging fan base. All of this is due to the policies of the Consorzio. In the last few years, the group has pursued a long-term goal of comparing Vernaccia to other denominations and trying to understand, other European territories through comparative tastings.
This opening to the world of international enology helped give producers a new perspective on their white, which up to then had counted too much on the magical towers of San Gimignano, one of the most beautiful places in Italy.