Anyone who considers themselves a wine connoisseur knows that some of the world‚Äôs greatest wines come from the Tuscany region of Italy. Tuscany‚Äôs history of wine making stretches back to the 8th century BC when the Etruscans began producing fine wines, with references to the quality of Tuscan wine appearing in 3rd century BC Greek literature.
Tuscany‚Äôs climate and geography make it one of the world‚Äôs best locations for growing superior wines. The Tyrrhenian Sea to the west provides a warm Mediterranean climate, while the foothills of the Apennine Mountains help temper the summertime heat of the region. Many Tuscan vineyards are located at higher elevations along the hillsides where the region‚Äôs popular Sangiovese grapes get the direct sunlight they need for the best results. The temperature control provided by the hillsides also allows the grapes to maintain a good balance of sugars and acidity.
The most popular Tuscan wines include the following:
- Brunello di Montalcino
- Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
- Vernaccia di San Gimignano
- Vin Santo del Chianti
- Super Tuscans (i.e.Sassicaia, Solaia, Tignanello, Vigorello)
- Morellino di Scansano
Chianti is perhaps the most well known Tuscan wine. Chianti wines are red Italian wines produced in a region of Tuscany known originally as the Chianti province. Chianti wines must contain a blend of 75 to 100% Sangiovese grapes, up to 10% Canaiolo grapes, and no more than 20% of other approved red grape varieties. Most Chianti‚Äôs are medium-bodied with medium to high acidity. Other characteristics include firm tannins, floral and light nutty notes, with a mid-palate finish dominating the taste. Among the many different Chianti, is Chianti Classico, which is the oldest and most historical one. It is also the most reliable source to make sure you get a really elegant Chianti.
Another important wine falls under the Chianti umbrella, the dessert wine Vin Santo del Chianti: a unique dessert wine made with local white varieties of Malvasia and Trebbiano. If red varieties are used, like Sangiovese and Cannaiolo, the the Vin Santo becomes “Occhio di Pernice”, the eye of the partridge.
Brunello di Montalcino wine has a reputation for being the most expensive Tuscan wine. Brunello wines are made from 100% Sangiovese grapes and are often put through an extensive maceration period during which color and flavor are extracted from the skins. Brunello wines feature a fleshy texture and a fruit driven character that often includes aromas and flavors such as blackberry, black cherry, and chocolate.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wines are produced primarily using Sangiovese grapes, with a minimum of 70% required. Blends including upwards of 20% Canaiolo Nero grapes are permitted, as is the addition of small amounts of other grapes like Mammolo. These combinations result in a wine with ruby red coloring, intense earthy aromas, and a dry flavor with a hint of oak.
While the above wines are perhaps the most famous from the Tuscany region, they are not the only brands that are worth of attention. When visiting Tuscany, consider visiting vineyards and tasting the following wines:
- Vernaccia di San Gimignano: Produced in the town of San Gimignano, this white wine is made with Vernaccia grapes which results in a dry wine with crisp acidity and a bitter finish.
- Morellino di Scansano: A red wine made predominantly from Sangiovese grapes (minimum 85%), this wine is often very fragrant and dry tasting.
Although not officially designated as one of Italy‚Äôs premier wines, Super Tuscan varieties have become immensely popular around the world. Super Tuscans are the result of restrictive Chianti production methods that required no more than 70% Sangiovese grapes. Sassicaia, Tignanello and Vigorello -ruby red bold wines with complex aromas of tobacco, curry powder, and blackberry, are some of the first Super Tuscans to hit shelves between the late sixties and the seventies. ¬†Many of these featured either a combination of Sangiovese grapes and non-native ‚ÄúBordeaux-blend‚ÄĚ grapes, or pure Bordeaux varietals.