Category Archives: Decanter

From Decanter Magazine: Chianti Rùfina ups its game with Terraelectae

The wines from Chianti Rùfina, a unique, high-quality sub-region of the greater Chianti area, are overshadowed by those of its larger brother, Chianti Classico. Now, Rùfina producers are striving to change that with Terraelectae, a category of wines that will sit at the pinnacle of the Chianti Rùfina quality pyramid.

Each producer – there are only about 20 of them in all of Chianti Rùfina – will be able to designate a single-vineyard wine made entirely from Sangiovese as ‘Terraelectae’ and will label it with that moniker in addition to the name of the vineyard.

This contrasts with Chianti Classico’s Gran Selezione, a category created about a decade ago to highlight the DOCG’s top wines. Gran Selezione must come from a producer’s own vineyards but are not required to be made exclusively from Sangiovese, nor come from a single vineyard.

Terraelectae regulations

Terraelectae wines must be Riserva, have a maximum yield of 70 quintals/ha, contain at least 12.5% alcohol, and be aged for at least 30 months, at least 18 of which must be in oak barrels and at least six months in bottle. The concept is unusual because producers themselves, not a governmental body, are setting the regulations and overseeing the quality and character of the wines (the producers of Buttafuoco Storico in Oltrepò rely on a similar concept of self-regulation).

The wines from Chianti Rùfina are distinct from those of Chianti Classico thanks to its higher elevation and more rugged topography, both which contribute to its cooler climate. Gerardo Gondi of Tenuta Bossi, one of the region’s leading estates, describes them as ‘mountain Chianti’.

Chianti Rùfina, despite producing enticingly savoury wines, always fights for a place at the table. Chianti Classico produces at least ten times as much wine from 15 times as many producers. Habitually confused with Chianti producer, Ruffino, the Rùfina consorzio placed an accent on the ‘u’ in the 1970s to try to convince even the Italians how to pronounce it.

Eventually, Chianti Rùfina producers hope that the Terraelectae wines will combat their underrated status and propel them into the top echelons of Tuscan DOCGs, such as Brunello di Montalcino.

For the initiation of this project, nine producers designated a 2018 Chianti Rùfina as Terraelectae. The wines first were certified as DOCG Chianti Rùfina by Italian wine regulators. Next, the candidate wines were tasted by an outside consultant, Gabriele Gorelli, Italy’s first and only Master of Wine. Then, a group of Chianti Rùfina producers themselves tasted the wines to assert that they conform to a standard character and quality. Only then were the wines allowed to sport Terraelectae on the label.

It was clear from my discussions that some producers who submitted wines were asked to wait a year or two, presumably to refine quality, before being allowed to use the Terraelectae designation. Three additional producers are set to declare a wine as Terraelectae for the 2019 vintage.

The key to success of the Terraelectae project will be whether, as a group, the wines continue to remain top-notch and continue to display a common theme. Whether the self-policing by producers will work in the long term to ensure that this occurs remains to be seen.

What is the new Bourgogne Côte d’Or ‘appellation’?


Why does the Bourgogne Côte d’Or appellation exist?

It is technically a new geographical denomination within the regional ‘Bourgogne’ appellation.

Its aim is to highlight the greater potential of the Côte d’Or, in the heart of Burgundy, to produce unique wines.

Therefore, regulations require the exclusive use of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grown there.

Since it’s designed to be a cut above the regional Bourgogne appellation, the yields must be lower compared to wines labelled simply Bourgogne, which may contain grapes grown anywhere in the wider Burgundy area.

Anyone who has been disappointed by a thin Bourgogne Rouge, which turned out to be made entirely from grapes grown in the less prestigious parts of Burgundy, will appreciate the new appellation.

Where does it sit in the Burgundy hierarchy?

It is one of the 14 geographical denominations that sit within the regional Bourgogne appellation.

It sits above regional Bourgogne appellation wines and just below village-level wines, a spokesperson for Burgundy’s wine council, the BIVB, told Decanter in 2017.

The area covered includes Côte d’Or vineyards spread across 40 villages along a 65km stretch from Dijon to Maranges, spanning the Côte de Beaune in the south and Côte de Nuits in the north.

Who is using Bourgogne Côte d’Or on wine labels?

Some critics and producers have questioned whether a new appellation could confuse consumers, given the already-complex nature of Burgundy’s climats.

Yet, several winemakers and merchant houses have embraced the Burgundy Côte d’Or tag.

Around 1.6m bottles of Bourgogne Côte d’Or red wines were produced from the 2018 vintage, up by 20% on the inaugural 2017 crop, according to the BIVB.

Around 920,000 bottles of white wine were made from the 2018 harvest, up by 55% on 2017, it said.

Much of this volume comes from top négociants.

Maison Latour is now making both a red and white Bourgogne Côte d’Or, while Louis Jadot is making a red.

Bichot has changed the label of its Secret de Famille from Bourgogne Rouge to Bourgogne Côte d’Or, since the grapes traditionally have come from that part of Burgundy.

Some top growers are also on board. Pommard’s Domaine Parent has started using the new appellation for its Cuvée Pomone, and Meursault-based Michel Bouzereau has begun labelling its Clos du Moulin as Bourgogne Côte d’Or.

These wines were formerly labelled Bourgogne Rouge and Bourgogne Blanc respectively, but have always met the requirements of the new appellation.

Jean-Nicolas Méo, of Méo-Camuzet, has taken the concept a step further by bottling three different wines under the new appellation: Hémisphère Sud, using grapes from Côte de Beaune; Hémisphère Nord, using grapes from the Côte de Nuits; and Cuvée Etienne Camuzet, using grapes exclusively from the estate.

Will prices rise for Bourgogne Côte d’Or wines?

It’s still early days, but there has been an assumption that ‘Côte d’Or’ wines would generally cost more than those labelled simply as Bourgogne.

One trade figure told Decanter in 2017 that prices could be around 20% higher on average.

However, many factors affect price, from policies of individual growers and harvest size to currency swings and also international trading conditions; witness the recent 25% import tariffs placed on certain European still wines entering the US.

Additional copy by Chris Mercer

March 14, 2020

Decanter Magazine – Understanding Alcohol Units

Joyce Jones, Birmingham, asks: Is an alcohol unit the same in the UK as it is in the US or Europe, and what is the difference between a unit of wine and a unit of spirits? Am I better off having a shot of vodka, for example, than a glass of wine?

Michael Apstein MD replies:

The British government introduced the concept of a ‘unit of alcohol’ in 1987 as a way for individuals to measure the amount they consume because wine, spirits and beer vary in the amount of alcohol they contain.


One unit of alcohol equals 10ml

  • 175ml of wine at 12% ABV – 2.1 units
  • 175ml of wine at 15% ABV – 2.6 units
  • 250ml of wine at 12% ABV – 3 units
  • 250ml of wine at 15% ABV – 3.75 units
  • 25ml shot of 40% ABV Vodka – 1 unit
  • Pint (568ml) of 4.8% ABV lager – 2.7 units

A 250ml glass of 13% white wine has more alcohol units than three 25ml vodka shots

One unit of alcohol equals 10ml, or 8g, of pure alcohol whether it comes from wine, spirits or beer.

It’s a way of standardizing the playing field because a ‘glass of wine’ or ‘a shot’ is an imprecise measurement.

For example, a standard glass (175ml) of Chablis (12% alcohol by volume) contains about two units (175ml x 0.12 = 21ml of pure alcohol or 2.1 units), whereas a bigger glass (250ml) – but still ‘a glass’ – of 15% abv Australian Shiraz contains almost twice as much (3.75 units).

Similarly for spirits, it depends on the size of the shot. In England and Wales, one shot is 25ml, whereas, in Scotland and Northern Ireland a standard shot is 35ml. Hence, a shot of vodka (40%abv) in London has one unit of alcohol, but in Edinburgh it has almost 1.5.

So if by ‘better off’, you mean what is potentially less harmful between a glass of wine or a shot of vodka, then it depends on the size of the glass or shot, what you mix the vodka with, over what period of time you drink them, whether you eat or not, and, of course, your overall health.

UK government guidance on drinking introduced in January 2016 said that no one should exceed 14 units per week.


The USA have health guidelines in based on the Standard Drink measure which can be used to benchmark alcoholic drinks in the same way as the UK. In the US, the measurement changes with one unit of alcohol being 14g of pure alcohol or 5 fl. oz. It is used as a guideline for how many drinks a day you can consume, as well as for other alcohol related health measures.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans