Tuscan wine (Italian Toscana) is Italian wine from the Tuscany region. Located in
central Italy along the Tyrrhenian coast, Tuscany is home to some of the world's most
notable wine regions.
Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are primarily
made with Sangiovese grape whereas the Vernaccia grape is the basis of the white
Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
Tuscany is also known for the dessert wine Vin Santo, made from a variety of the region's grapes. Tuscany has thirty-three Denominazioni di origine controllata (DOC) and eleven Denominazioni di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG).
In the 1970s a new class of wines known in the trade as "Super Tuscans" emerged. These wines were made outside DOC/DOCG regulations but were considered of high quality and commanded high prices. Many of these wines became cult wines. In the reformation of the Italian classification system many of the original Super Tuscans now qualify as DOC or DOCG wines (such as the new Bolgheri label) but some producers still prefer the declassified rankings or to use the Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) classification of Toscana. Tuscany has five sub-categories of IGT wines today.
Tuscany's 42 DOC and 11 DOCG are spread out across the region's ten provinces.
Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
Brunello is the name of the local Sangiovese variety that is grown around the village of Montalcino. Located south of the Chianti Classico zone, the Montalcino range is drier and warmer than Chianti. Monte Amiata shields the area from the winds coming from the southeast. Many of the area's vineyards are located on the hillsides leading up towards the mountain to elevations of around 1,640 ft (500 m) though some vineyards can be found in lower-lying areas.
The wines of northern and eastern regions tend to ripen more slowly and produce more perfumed and lighter wines. The southern and western regions are warmer, and the resulting wines tend to be richer and more intense.
The Brunello variety of Sangiovese seems to flourish in this terroir, ripening easily and consistently producing wines of deep color, extract, richness with full bodies and good balance of tannins. In the mid-19th century, a local farmer named Clemente Santi is believed to have isolated the Brunello clone and planted it in this region. His grandson Ferruccio Biondi-Santi helped to popularize Brunello di Montalcino in the later half of the 19th century. In the 1980s, it was the first wine to earn the DOCG classification.
Today there are about two hundred growers in the Montalcino region producing about 333,000 cases of Brunello di Montalcino a year.
Brunello di Montalcino wines are required to be aged for at least four years prior to being released, with riserva wines needing five years. Brunellos tend to be very tight and tannic in their youth, needing at least a decade or two before they start to soften with wines from excellent vintages having the potential to do well past 50 years.
In 1984, the Montalcino region was granted the DOC designation of Rosso di Montalcino. Often called "Baby Brunellos", these wines are typically made from the same grapes, vineyards and style as the regular Brunello di Montalcino but are not aged as long. While similar to Brunellos in flavor and aromas, these wines are often lighter in body and more approachable in their youth.
Carmignano was the first Tuscan DOCG to sanction the use of blending Cabernet Sauvignon with Sangiovese.
The Carmignano region was one of the first Tuscan regions to be permitted to use Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc in their DOC wines since those varieties had a long history of being grown in the region.
Noted for the quality of its wines since the Middle Ages, Carmignano was identified by Cosimo III de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany as one of the superior wine producing areas of Tuscany and granted special legal protections in 1716. In the 18th century, the producers of the Carmignano region developed a tradition of blending Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon, long before the practice became popularized by the "Super Tuscan" of the late 20th century.
In 1975, the region was awarded Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) status and subsequently promoted to Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) status in 1990 retroactive to the 1988 vintage. Today Carmignano has approximately 270 acres (110 ha) planted, producing nearly 71,500 US gallons (271,000 L) of DOCG designated wine a year.
Located in the central region of Tuscany, the Chianti zone is Tuscany's largest classified wine region and produces over eight million cases a year. In addition to producing the well known red Chianti wine, the Chianti zone also produces white, other Rosso reds and Vin Santo. The region is split into two DOCG- Chianti and Chianti Classico. The Chianti Classico zone covers the area between Florence and Siena, which is the original Chianti region, and where some of the best expressions of Chianti wine are produced. The larger Chianti DOCG zone is further divided in six DOC sub-zones and areas in the western part of the province of Pisa, the Florentine hills north of Chianti Classico in the province of Florence, the Siena hills south of the city in the province of Siena, the province of Arezzo and the area around the communes of Rufina and Pistoia.
Since 1996, Chianti is permitted to include as little as 75% Sangiovese, a maximum of 10% Canaiolo, up to 10% of the white wine grapes Malvasia and Trebbiano and up to 15% of any other red wine grape grown in the region, such as Cabernet Sauvignon. This variety of grapes and usage is one reason why Chianti can vary widely from producer to producer. The use of white grapes in the blend could alter the style of Chianti by softening the wines with a higher percentage of white grapes, typically indicating that the wine is meant to be drunk younger and not aged for long. In general, Chianti Classicos are described as medium-bodied wines with firm, dry tannins.
The characteristic aroma is cherry but it can also carry nutty and floral notes as well.
In 2006, the use of white grapes Trebbiano and Malvasia was prohibited (except in Chianti Colli Senesi until the 2015 vintage). Local laws also require wines to have a minimum of 70% Sangiovese (and 80% for the more prestigious Chianti Classico DOCG). The native varieties Canaiolo and Colorino are also permitted, as are the classics Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to a limited degree.
The Chianti Classico region covers approximately 100 square miles (260 km2) and includes the communes of Castellina, Gaiole, Greve and Radda as well as parts of five other neighboring communes. The terroir of the Classico zone varies throughout the region depending on the vineyards' altitude, soil type and distance from the Arno River.
The soils of the northern communes, such as Greve, are richer in clay deposits while those in the southern communes, like Gaiole, are harder and stonier. Riserva Chianti is aged for at least 27 months, some of it in oak, and must have a minimum alcohol content of 12.5%. Wines from the Chianti DOCG can carry the name of one of the six sub-zones or just the Chianti designation. The Chianti Superiore designation refers to wines produced in the provinces of Florence and Siena but not in the Classico zone.
The Super Tuscan wine Sassicaia from the Bolgheri region.
The DOC Bolgheri region of the Livorno province is home to one of the original Super Tuscan wines Sassicaia, first made in 1944 produced by the marchesi Incisa della Rochetta, cousin of the Antinori family. The DOC Bolgheri region is also home to the Super Tuscan wine Ornellaia which was featured in the film Mondovino.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano
Vernaccia di San Gimignano is a white wine made from the Vernaccia grape in the areas around San Gimignano. In 1966, it was the first wine to receive a DOC designation.
This wine style has been made in the area for over seven centuries and is considered Tuscany's best and most characterful white wine. The wine is dry and full-bodied with earthy notes of honey and minerals. In some styles it can be made to emphasize the fruit more and some producers have experimented with aging or fermenting the wine in oak barrels in order to give the wine a sense of creaminess or toastiness.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG
The Vino Nobile di Montepulciano received its DOCG status shortly after Brunello di Montalcino, in 1980. The DOCG covers the red wine of the Montepulciano area. The wine received its name in the 17th century, when it was the favorite wine of the Tuscan nobility. Located in the southeastern region of Tuscany, the climate of the region is strongly influenced by the sea.
The variety of Sangiovese in Montepulciano is known as Prugnolo Gentile and is required to account for at least 80% of the wine. Traditionally Canaiolo and Mammolo make up the remaining part of the blend but some producers have begun to experiment with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
The wines are required to age two years prior to release, with an additional year if it is to be a riserva. The recent use of French oak barrels has increased the body and intensity of the wines which are noted for their plummy fruit, almond notes and smooth tannins.
Other Tuscan wines.
The Pomino region near Ruffina has been historically known for the prevalence of the French wine grape varieties, making wines from both Cabernets as well as Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot blanc, Pinot grigio in addition to the local Italian varieties. The Frescobaldi family is one of the area's most prominent wine producers.
In southern Tuscany, towards the region of Latium, is the area of Maremma which has its own IGT designation Maremma Toscana. Maremma is also home to Tuscany's newest DOCG, Morellino di Scansano, which makes a fragrant, dry Sangiovese based wine. The province of Grosseto is one of Tuscany's emerging wine regions with eight DOC designations, half of which were created in the late 1990s. It includes the Monteregio di Massa Marittima region which has been recently the recipient of foreign investment in the area's wine, especially by "flying winemakers". The Parrina region is known for its white wine blend of Trebbiano and Ansonica.
The wine Bianco di Pitigliano is known for its eclectic mix of white wine grapes in the blend including Chardonnay, the Greco sub variety of Trebbiano, Grechetto, Malvasia, Pinot blanc, Verdello and Welschriesling.
In Maremma, a hidden gem with many wineries, is Poggio Argentiera winery which makes Morellino di Scansano and other wines.
The wines of Montecarlo region include several varieties that are not commonly found in Tuscan wines including Sémillon and Roussanne. The minor Chianti grape Ciliegiolo is also popular here. The island of Elba has one of the longest winemaking histories in Tuscany and is home to its own DOC. Some of the wines produced here include a sparkling Trebbiano wine, a sweet Ansonica passito, and a semi-sweet dessert wine from Aleatico.