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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Neil Beckett

The Chianti consorzio intends to step up generic promotion in key markets such as the UK, Germany, Belgium and Japan, according to its president Luca Giannozzi, speaking at a press conference in London on 6 November. As well as holding seminars and tastings, the consorzio will be promoting viniturismo in Tuscany itself, where there are already three vie del Chianti. The initiatives will supplement those already being undertaken by the Chianti subzones themselves. Two, Rufina and Colli Fiorentini, already have PR divisions, and a third, Colli Senesi, will open one soon. Answering questions on two of the defining issues at the interface of antiquity, identity and modernity in the region - permitted grape varieties (see last week's Harpers) and the use of new wood - Giannozzi admitted that it would be difficult to legislate against excessive toast and vanilla now that barriques are permitted and used for riserva wines. But he claimed that of the wines declined DOCG status each year (on average 3% of those submitted), half are refused because their tipicit is swamped by too much new wood. Asked why only 3% of wines are refused, when by his own candid admission up to 15% of Chianti DOCG is substandard, Giannozzi emphasised the difficulty of enforcing the regulations in an area that covers half of Tuscany and produces over 100 million bottles a year. Unfortunately, there is still a small proportion of Chianti - 10%, maximum 15% - which is still at very low prices. And the quality is as low as the prices.' He asserted that the problems were worst in the UK and Germany (which takes 25% of production), but stressed that downstream quality control (the random sampling of bottles already on the market) was being increased, with 1,000 tested last year. Two large-scale frauds have been detected in Germany and three producers in Italy are being prosecuted for other offences, thanks to greater traceability. Efforts to raise standards more widely are focused on new Sangiovese clones (being created at the University of Milan) and stricter control of yields.