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Choice of Wine Touring Regions in Tuscany

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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.

Please contact us if you would like additional resources or assistance in choosing a wine tour in the wonderful eno-gastronomic region of Tuscany.

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Definition of Super Tuscan wines

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What is a Super Tuscan wine?

by Filippo Bartolotta

I am very often asked what is a Super Tuscan.

Some people imagine a muscular bottle with a Super hero Cloak flying over restaurant tables to save the day!

In fact Super Tuscans can be quite muscular, but let’s try to describe this style.

It is the oenological revolution of the 20th century. There isn’t a brief definition, so here is a list of elements that usually are found always together in a Super Tuscan.

Key elements for a Super Tuscan

1) Very slick Bordeaux varietal -mainly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot- wines. Today the variety isn’t important anymore as there is plenty of Super Tuscan made with other non-bordeaux ones like Pinot, Syrah, etc.

2) The wines are aged in new french small oak barrel (225l) then some bottle aging

3) The wine and then released in the market at quite a price.

4) The wine is made within the geographical region of Tuscany. Although any wine made with these characteristic, anywhere in Italy, or even abroad, is sometimes described as Super Tuscan Style wine!

…and last but most important

5) The wine doesn’t adhere to any DOC or/and Docgs, either because the owner doesn’t want to stick to the rules or because the wine doesn’t belong to a specific Appellation area such as Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, etc

The first and most famous of all was, and still is Sassicaia, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc made in south west Tuscany, in Bolgheri on the coastal area.

sassicaia.jpgThe wine estate is called Tenuta San Guido and the Marchese Incisa della Rocchetta started making this wine in 1940 for his own personal consumption.

The first famous vine was Castiglioncello 400 meters above sea level.

Then after further planting the first market release was in 1968. In the same year also Vigorello from San Felice was put in the market

Later on Sassicaia was scoring amazing points vs the greatest Grand Cru Classe in Bordeaux to the point that it started to become a cult wine.

The myth become stronger and stronger, not only for its true value, but also because it was  a Vino da Tavola, a table wine, the lowest of Italian Appellation.

Some wine critics, difficult to say who and when exactly, not knowing how to place the wine and how to communicate the fact that that Table Wine was one of the best wines in the world, invented the word Super Tuscan.

Today Tenuta San Guido is style out there always releasing one of the finest wines of Italy. Many have followed this path to the point that now almost any wine estate in Tuscany and averywhere else would have in its product portfolio the following:

a) Basic wine appellation, i.e. Chianti Classico

b) Riseva Appellation wine, i.e. Chianti Classico Riserva

c) Super Tuscan

Usually, followoing this scheme, the Super Tuscan is the most expensive and the least typical of the area. In terms of quality is difficult to recommend what’s best among those categories. I tend to see that far too often Super Tuscan Style wines are overdone with oak, far too expensive and also quite neutral in character.

On the other end it’s quite remarkable how some Super Tuscan style wines can show today an amazing Tuscan terroir drive style which is way more expressive then some DOCG ones.

Like always very few things are simple in Italy, wine isn’t definitely one of those!

So keep up with your tastings and reading and have fun with it!

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Whats so super about the super Tuscans

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“I have had enough of this nonsense about Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon not making typical Italian wines. In my opinion, the best of these wines have a distinctive character that is international in style but still thoroughly Italian.” wrote James Suckling in the April 30th issue of “Wine Spectator”.
As this is the opinion of a really great wine expert what better place to start talking to you about the Super Tuscan wines, which are produced in a small piece of land on the Tuscan coast around Bolgheri.

It was here, more than 40 years ago, that two great winemakers Mario Incisa della Rochetta and the Antinori brothers, along with the now world famous enologist Giacomo Tachis, started planting Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc. Thanks to the unique combination of the area’s climate and soil they began to produce wonderful wines such as Sassicaia and Ornellaia. However, as this area didn’t have a Denomination for these wines (DOC and DOCG), they were simply called “Vino da Tavola” (Table Wines). Foreign journalists tasting these superb wines exclaimed “But these are not just simple table wines, these are Super Tuscan wines!”. This expression became a way to define wines made with international grapes, often in a blend with the main Tuscan grape, Sangiovese. By this time other forward-looking winemakers understood the importance of experimenting with new grapes including Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah, aged in French oak barriques to create new interesting modern wines.

Super Tuscans are very powerful wines with a great balance of alcohol, acidity and soft tannins, best matched with rich meats or very mature cheeses.
In the last two years “Ornellaia” 1998 and “Solaia” 1997, have been named Wine Spectator’s “Wines of the Year”. I could say more, but you really should try them to understand what is so “Super” about the Super Tuscans.

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