Besides being the land that gave birth to the Renaissance, Tuscany is the sixth largest wine-producing region in Italy, spoiling and making wine lovers fly in seventh heaven with some of the finest wines in the world produced right here. Spanning multiple climatic conditions, types of soil, expositions, and elevations, as it stretches from the Apennine Mountains to the Tyrrhenian coastline, it gifts the world with both international and indigenous varieties and globally recognised and awarded wines. Here are some interesting details about Italian wines very few people know!
The Main Wine-Growing Tuscany Areas
Tuscany is mostly a hilly region, with ¼ of it being mountainous and only 8% flat. Of it, almost 23,000 square kilometres are covered with vineyards, whose elevations vary and rise up to 550 metres above sea level. Apart from the Tuscany coast, where Cabernet Sauvignon flourishes, Montepulciano, Montalcino, and Chianti are also fundamental wine-growing areas in Tuscany, producing the best Sangiovese grape expressions.
If you are wondering what makes these wines so delicious, some people say it is the Tuscany soils, which range from dense sandstone and clay-limestone to crumbly, gravelly clay, and soft. Others focus on the Mediterranean climate, with the warm springs, dry, hot summers, mild winters, and fairly rainy autumns. The altitude variations could also play a role, as well as the daytime temps and exposition, which are believed to affect the aroma, acidity, and sugar content in the grapes, bringing a perfect balance between them. Irrespective of the real reason behind their stand-out quality and taste, nobody can deny that Tuscany’s wines are just a feast for the palate of even the most demanding sommeliers.
Tuscany Grape Varieties
The dominant grape variety in Tuscany is Sangiovese, with almost 75% of the vineyards being planted with this particular variety. Wines made from this grape variety have firm tannins, black cherry and sour flavours, and lively acidity and are medium- to full-bodied wines with an earthy character. However, if you are offered some of the best Sangiovese expressions, they will also give you smokey, toasty, spicy, and herbal notes to entertain your palate.
Other equally popular grape varieties are:
- Super Tuscan varieties – The Super Tuscan blends primarily feature Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot grape varieties. Taste-wise, they are elegant and smooth, with hints of blackberries, plum, and cherry, and slightly woody and nutty flavors. The ground zero for red Super Tuscan blends are the Maremma and Bolgheri.
- Vermentino – A late-ripening and particularly hearty grape variety that is gaining more and more attention in the past few years. Although not as popular in Tuscany as in other Italian regions, it thrills with its freshness, salty minerality, and notes of citrus, green apple, apricot, and yellow peach in absolute balance.
- Trebbiano – This specific grape variety yields white wines that are light and neutral. In the past, it was hugely blended with other varieties and was a component of several Tuscan wines. Nevertheless, Trebbiano remains a staple in Vin Santo and some white blends to date.
- Vernaccia – San Gimignano Vernaccia wine was the first to bear a DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata)* status in 1966. Less than 30 years later, it earned itself a DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) designation. It’s a fine, floral, and crisp wine with a nice and refreshing minerality.
- Additional varieties – A small portion of the Tuscan land is planted with other grape varieties, such as Chardonnay, Petit Verdot, Malvasia Bianca Lunga, Colorino, and Canaiolo Nero.
*DOG status indicates that a wine in Italy is of superior quality.
** DOCG status wines are the absolutely highest quality wines in Italy. To get this designation (the highest of three tiers of designations in Tuscany’s appellation system), a wine must pass strict panel testing and lab analysis to guarantee merit.
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The Classic Chianti Wines
Over 50% of the vineyards at Tuscany’s hillsides are dominated by Sangiovese grape vineyards producing the oldest appellation in the region, Chianti wine. Besides Chianti Classico and Chianti Rufina wines, which are the most distinctive wines produced in the Chianti area, there are several sub-appellations as well, such as Chianti Montespertoli, Chianti Pisane, and Chianti Aretini.
Although Chianti wines should be made primarily from Sangiovese grapes, winemakers may also use additional varieties in small amounts, such as native red grapes (i.e., Cabernet or Merlot) and white varieties (i.e., Trebbiano or Malvasia). However, this is becoming less and less common nowadays since the current trend shows a clear preference for local wines 100% produced from single vineyards.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano & Super Tuscans
This is yet another world-renowned Tuscany wine made in the Montepulciano area from Sangiovese vineyards, not particularly different from Chianti Riserva. If you prefer reds, then Brunello di Montalcino, another Sangiovese-based wine, will probably excite your taste buds a tad more, though.
Next, come the famed Super Tuscan wines that were developed in the 1970s and are high- to very high-quality wines sometimes released without the DOC denominations (the ones recognised as DOCs are Bolgheri Sassicaia and Bolgheri). Super Tuscans are either made of a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon or Sangiovese varieties with other grapes (i.e., Syrah or Merlot) or exclusively from one of the two primary varieties. Overall, taste-wise, Super Tuscans are a local take on the classic Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon (Bordeaux style blends).
As for white wine enthusiasts, Tuscany compensates with wines made from Vermentino, Vernaccia, and Trebbiano vineyards. Now, if you would love to taste a dessert wine, do not miss the opportunity to try Vin Santo, made strictly from local varieties (usually served with almond biscuits).
Enjoying a Glass of Chianti at Sunset!
Now that you have found out so much about the local wines, what is it going to be? A Classic Chianti? Super Tuscan? Vino Nobile? Red? White? Sweet? Whatever your choice might be for tonight, nothing compares to the heart-pleasing moments you can spend with your loved ones or partner just before the sun slips behind the picture-perfect Tuscan horizon.
Feel free to kiss the day goodbye as the magnificence of Mother Nature is showered with shades of orange and yellow from the comfort of your luxury villa with a glass of delicious Tuscan wine at hand! Undoubtedly, idyllic and unforgettable! That experience alone is worth scheduling a visit to Tuscany, don’t you think?