Tuscany is without a doubt Italy’s most known wine region all over the world. For many years, it’s reputation was compromised by mass produced cheap Chianti in the straw flask bottles that unfortunately created a deep branding in the minds of American wine shoppers. Over the years, the consortium that protects the Chianti wine region has given its name a huge make-over with many strides in the direction of tradition and quality over quantity namesake.
Before you take a wine tour in Tuscany, it is crucial that you know a few basics:
IGT, DOC and DOCG wine regions. What? Okay 1st you should know what these acronyms stand for.
IGT: Indicazione geografica tipica. Protected Geographical territory for wine, this indicates a wine is guaranteed from the territory in which it comes from and usually applies to table wines and strangely to some Super Tuscan-styled wines, albeit being one of the highest quality of wines in the whole country.
DOC: Denominazione di origine controllata. Controlled designation of origin. This means this area produces wine from a specified region with specific production methods traditional to the wine’s recipe and history. For instance, a DOC wine simply guarantees the recipe and where it comes from. A Bolgheri DOC has to follow a formula, method and come from the Bolgheri region in order to be given DOC status. Italian wines have a huge placed importance on terroir, place of origin. The place is sometimes more valued than the grape itself.
DOCG:Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita. Controlled and guaranteed designation of origin. DOCG wines are considered to be the highest quality wines on the Italian market. Not only are they controlled for the recipe and location, they are controlled for quality and go through rigorous screening by government officials before being given DOCG status. The land is surveyed, the vineyards are checked even for how many bunches grow on each vine according to the original production method of the wine in question and most importantly the wines have to have consistent olfactory and gustatory characteristics that the wine is traditionally characterized by. If a wine maker submits their wine to these officials and it does not taste or smell like a chianti classico according to the set standards, it will be refused a DOCG stamp. This serves to protect the wine’s reputation, history, territory and well- quality. The most popular DOCG wine regions of Tuscany are Chianti Classico and Montalcino.
Now that you have an idea of the Italian quality designation system, now you can be more confident about choosing which wine regions to tour in Tuscany. Here are some of the wine regions to consider in your research:
Super Tuscan wines from Bolgheri (IGT)- Bolgheri has some of the world’s best, most exclusive, and most expensive wines. The coastal location, away from the tourist centers of Florence and the rest of inland Tuscany, offer you a chance to explore an unspoilt area most tourists will never see. Bolgheri was first praised by its native son and Nobel Laureate poet, Giosuè Carducci (1835-1907). Nowadays it is primarily known as the home of Super Tuscan wines, most notably Sassicaia and Ornellaia. Thanks to inventive and experimental local wine makers, Bolgheri now ranks among the most prestigious wine regions in the entire world, and has a reputation for taking the lead in new wine making techniques to produce outstanding, cutting edge wines.
Vernaccia from San Gimignano (DOCG): Set half-way between Florence and Siena, this is a popular white wine considered the ambassador of Tuscan whites. The name of the grape variety, Vernaccia, almost certainly derives from the Latin vernaculus meaning of the house, home, place, or town, suggesting that the grape is indeed indigenous to the area. In 1966, Vernaccia di San Gimignano was the first wine in Italy to be granted the prestigious DOC recognition. In 1990 it gained further importance by being assigned the DOCG recognition. In recent years the area has also shown an interesting potential for great red wines as well.
Montepulciano (Red Wine)- (DOCG) As a region on the UNESCO World Heritage List, Vino Nobile from Montepulciano is made from a Sangiovese clone that is locally known as Prugnolo Gentile. As early as the seventeenth century it was crowned by many as as “the king of Tuscan wines”, and because the nobility eagerly sought it out, it became known as ‘noble’ and ‘aristocratic’ wine, hence the name. The walled town of Montepulciano is perched atop one of Tuscany’s high peaks, at 605 metres, or 1,950 feet, above sea level. It contains many incredible art treasures, as well as Etruscan and Roman wine cellars, some dating back to the time before Christ.
Brunello wines from Montalcino– (DOCG) Brunello was developed by Ferruccio Biondi Santi a little more than a century ago, and almost immediately drew the attention of connoisseurs for its excellence. Brunello is produced exclusively within the Montalcino territory, and only from Sangioveto Grosso grapes, a Sangiovese clone perfectly suited to local conditions. Before release, Brunello must be aged for four years, at least two of which must be in wooden casks. It is the most prized wine region in Tuscany as it takes so long to make and refine. For red wine lovers and those with a wine cellar, this is a region not to be missed.
Chianti Classico Wine Region – (DOCG) Chianti Classico is truly the heart of Tuscany and its primary wine zone. The region’s fame was confirmed in 1716 when Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici issued an ordinance to regulate the wine trade after some unscrupulous merchants labeled as “Chianti” a consignment of wines from dubious sources. Thus Tuscany became the first European state to safeguard an appellation of origin (label to distinguish wines). Today the Chianti Classico is one of Tuscany’s most prestigious DOCG areas. The symbol of the Chianti Classico consortium is the gallo nero or black rooster, which you will see adorning road signs and wine bottles throughout the region.