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    Toscana Wine Region

    Dec 07,2023 | Magnum Opus Wines

    Toscana

    The region's top wines are officially recognised and protected by a raft of 41 DOC and 11 DOCG titles. There are 6 more flexible IGP/IGT designations, with the pan-regional Toscana IGP representing nearly a quarter of total output.

    With vineyards that stretch across rolling hills and ancient wineries nestled amidst stunning landscapes, these regions offer an unparalleled wine experience. The wine estates near Florence blend centuries-old winemaking techniques with the charm of Tuscan hospitality, presenting not just remarkable wines but also a journey into Italy's rich cultural heritage.

    Tuscany wine region stretches picturesquely along the Ligurian coast in Italy and is one of the most prestigious wine-growing regions in the world.

    Owing to optimal geological and climatic conditions, the wineries of the region produce high-quality Tuscan wines with a unique touch. On the barren limestone soils of Tuscany vineyards, the vines are spoiled with plenty of sun and rain.

    Internationally popular wines such as Brunello di MontalcinoChianti or Vino Nobile from Montepulciano and Super Tuscans thrive here and they are on the list of every wine collector.

    Surrounding the city of Florence, the heart of Tuscany, lie the distinguished wine regions of Chianti Colli Fiorentini and Chianti Rufina. These areas, steeped in a rich winemaking tradition, produce some of the most appreciated wines in the world.

    Sangiovese

    The queen of Tuscan grape varieties is undoubtedly Sangiovese: with more than 100,000 hectares, it occupies more than 10% of the Italian vineyards. Sangiovese which forms the majority of the Chianti blend is a thin-skinned grape, so it makes translucent Tuscan wines. Chianti Classico wine can vary from light-bodied to full-bodied according to the producer and the terroir where it is produced. It is a robust yet fruity wine that displays among other things an aroma of sour cherries.

    Also, Canaiolo and Merlot are represented in the region and since the advent of the Super Tuscans also Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

    Typically, dry wines are produced in the Tuscany wine region, which appears rather light in the body. A freshly opened and not long-aged Tuscan wine reminds the nose of cherries, sometimes also sour cherries and red currants. On the palate, you can feel the racy acidity of young wines, which are reminiscent of red berries and have a more herbal character.

    More concentrated wines can be found among the more highly classified Tuscan wines such as from Chianti and among the best riservas from Brunello and Vino Nobile. These combine a richer, fuller aroma with balanced tannins.

    For white wines in this region, keep in mind that Trebbiano is Italy’s most produced white grape and Vermentino has quite a few taste similarities to Sauvignon Blanc. You will also find: Malvasia, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Moscato, Vernaccia… 

    Super Tuscans

    Tuscany is home to the Chianti region which is the most famous region for Sangiovese. When Sangiovese became the required major grape in Chianti during the 1970s, the other noble grapes (Cabernet and Merlot) ended up creating a new style of wine: Super Tuscan.

    One who knows Italian bureaucracy especially in viticulture and winemaking would guess that changing rules in Italy is not an easy task. However, In the 1970s several winemakers in Tuscany started a revolution in winemaking.

    The first step was the release of Sassicaia by Mario Incisa Della Rocchetta and later followed by famous Antinori with wines TignanelloSolaia, Ornellaia...

    Winemakers went against the regulations and traditions by using international grape varieties in these wines. And even though wines had superior quality, they were still classified as Table Wines. When the international press had to write about these unlawful wines, describing them as ‘Vini da Tavola', was not right at all. This is how the term “Super Tuscan” was born.

    The late 20th century saw a flurry of creativity and innovation in the Chianti zones as producers experimented with new grape varieties and introduced modern wine-making techniques such as the use of new oak barrels. The prices and wine ratings of some Super Tuscans would regularly eclipse those of DOC-sanctioned Chiantis. The success of the Super Tuscans encouraged government officials to reconsider the DOC regulations in order to bring some of these wines back into the fold labelled as Chianti.

    Tuscany area that has attracted the most serious attention so far this century is the Maremma on the western coast south of Livorno – particularly but not exclusively that around the little village of Bolgheri, itself now a DOC.

    In the late 1960s, a member of the extended Antinori family first showed at the San Guido estate that the area could produce world-class Cabernet Sauvignon in the form of Supertuscan Sassicaia, and Bolgheri Sassicaia is now, remarkably, a separate DOC.

    In the 1980s, a younger Antinori made his name with Ornellaia (mainly Cabernet) and Masseto (mainly Merlot), produced almost next door, and there are now ambitious plantings aplenty on the old Appian Way. Many of these are the hobby wineries of rich men, built with every modern appliance that money can buy and designed to produce wines of the stature and, for better or worse, style of the great wines of Bordeaux.

    Antinori has been expanding rapidly here and its Guado al Tasso was surely just the start of a major line of expansion. Gaja of Barbaresco has fashioned his Ca’Marcanda winery in an area already proven by the likes of Le Macchiole and Grattamacco.

    Although it is generally agreed that Bolgheri, along with the Médoc and Graves, Napa and Sonoma, Chile’s Maipo and the Margaret River in Western Australia provides one of the world’s most auspicious areas for ripening subtle, refined Cabernet Sauvignon, Michele Satta has proved that Sangiovese grown here can also be pretty smart.

    But perhaps the most exciting thing about this part of the world is that there is still so much land to explore. Tua Rita shows that Suvereto DOCG to the immediate south east of Bolgheri has real potential, and others such as Bellavista of Franciacorta in Lombardy and Foradori of Trentino are buying up suitable land at an extraordinary rate.

    We will be hearing more of regions such as Val di Cornia, Montecucco, Monteregio di Massa Marittima and, already an established winning combination of grape and place, Morellino di Scansano (Morellino being the local name for Sangiovese).

    Chianti Classico

    Among the best known and most important wines is the Chianti Classico. Originally served in its well-known straw-wrapped wine bottle, the fiasco, which had fallen out of favour but is now making a bit of a come-back. The grapes all come from the same region in Tuscany and are grown only in a strictly limited area between Siena and Florence. 

    There are two main soil types in the area: a weathered sandstone known as alberese and a bluish-gray chalky marlstone known as galestro. The soil in the north is richer and more fertile with more galestro, with the soil gradually becoming harder and stonier with more albarese in the south. In the north, the Arno River can have an influence on the climate, keeping the temperatures slightly cooler, an influence that diminishes further south in the warmer Classico territory towards Castelnuovo Berardenga.

    In 1995 it became legal to produce a Chianti with 100% Sangiovese. For a wine to retain the name of Chianti it must be produced with at least 80% Sangiovese grapes. Aged Chianti (24 months instead of 7 months) may be labelled as Riserva. Chianti that meets more stringent requirements (lower yield, higher alcohol content and dry extract) may be labelled as Chianti Superiore, although Chianti from the Classico sub-area is not allowed in any event to be labelled as Superiore.

    The original boundaries of Chianti where wines are made in smaller quantities and wines are of higher quality come from the DOCG Chianti Classico. These wines tend to age well. The best wines from Chianti Classico will be labelled as Riserva or Gran Selezione. The most serious examples of Chianti Classico come from a small group of villages from Siena in the south to the hills above Florence. The Classico region’s warm climate and clay-based soils, such as Galestro marl and Alberese sandstone, produce the boldest Chianti wines.

    Chianti Classico are premium Chianti wines that tend to be medium-bodied with firm tannins and medium-high to high acidity. Floral, cherry and light nutty notes are characteristic aromas with the wines expressing more notes on the mid-palate and finish than at the front of the mouth.

    Within the Chianti DOCG there are 8 defined sub-zones that are permitted to affix their name to the wine label. Wines that are labelled as simply Chianti are made either from a blend from these sub-zones or include grapes from peripheral areas not within the boundaries of a sub-zone.

    The sub-zones are (clockwise from the north):

    1) the Colli Fiorentini which is located south of the city of Florence (905 hectares);

    2) Chianti Rufina in the northeastern part of the zone located around the commune of Rufina (740 hectares);

    3) Classico in the centre of Chianti, across the provinces of Florence and Siena (7,140 hectares);

    4) Colli Aretini in the Arezzo province to the east (649 hectares);

    5) Colli Senesi south of Chianti Classico in the Siena hills, which is the largest of the sub-zones and includes the Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano areas (3,550 hectares);

    6) Colline Pisane, the westernmost sub-zone in the province of Pisa (150 hectares);

    7) Montespertoli located within the Colli Fiorentini around the commune of Montespertoli (57 hectares);

    8) Montalbano in the north-west part of the zone which includes the Carmignano DOCG (318 hectares).

    and an additional 10,324 hectares in the peripheral areas that do not fall within one of the sub-zone classifications. Wines produced from these vineyards are labelled simply "Chianti".

    Brunello di Montalcino

    • Brunello di Montalcino (Brunello, meaning "the little brown one“) is a wine made with 100% Sangiovesewith Italy’s highest DOCG classification.Thus, the wine must ripen for at least 24 months in the wood barrel and another 2 years in bottle, it cannot be released until the beginning of the 5th year after the harvest. It is not surprising that Brunello is the most expensive "classic" Tuscan wine.
    • The highest expression of Sangiovese is perhaps to be found in the southern Brunello di Montalcino zone around the town of Montalcino near Siena. Brunello is a local strain of Sangiovese, referred to as Brunelloor Sangiovese Grosso. Some also call it Prugnolo Gentile.
    • Super-concentrated by the warmer climate here, that is solely responsible for this, potentially one of Italy’s greatest wines. South of Chianti and with usefully poor, infertile soils, the almost square Montalcino 3,600 hectares vineyards have no trouble ripening the vines’ relatively low charge of grapes in its much milder climate. This produces a sort of essence of Sangiovese, capable of ageing for ever and a day, although there are far too many over-worked examples. Noted for having thicker-skinned berries, and because of this, Brunello produces wines with exceptionally bold fruit flavors, high tannin, and high acidity.
    • The fruit is a contributes to the enduring popularity of Brunello di Montalcino. Still, it’s the tannins and acidity that extend the life of this wine, so it reaches perfection a decade or more later. It’s worth the wait. In fact Brunello di Montalcino is not released before it is four years old and rarely drunk for pleasure in its first decade.
    • Annual production is around 35 million bottles.

    Young Brunello

    Imagine a smart – somewhat cocky– exuberant, young brunette. This is a young Brunello.

    Wines packed with fruit and flower flavors, including cherries, dried cranberry, wild strawberry, blackberry, violets, potpourri, and licorice. Wow.

    When you taste it, Brunello di Montalcino exudes earthy notes of espresso and tilled soil along with mouth-gripping tannins.

    It’s a bold wine, but because of the high acidity, it ends on a tart, astringent note that will have you licking the insides of your mouth. This astringency is why most reviews suggest a drink-by window several years after its release date.

    Old Brunello

    Now that the wine is aged and softened by time, our Brunello is more ravishing than ever.

    With 10+ years of age, Brunello di Montalcino drops the fresh fruit flavors to reveal sweeter notes of dried figs, candied cherries, hazelnuts, and sun-baked leather. The tannins turn chocolatey and the acidity is succulent.

    I haven’t met anyone drinking perfectly aged Brunello that doesn’t think it’s fantastic.


    Traditional Method: Producers use large, well-used Slavonian oak barrels (called botte from northeastern Croatia) that impart very little oak lactones into the wine and are used simply as vessels to encourage tertiary flavor development through oxygen exposure. Wines develop more dried fruit, leather and flower flavors and have a long aging potential.

    Modern Method: Borrowing innovations from France in Bordeaux, some producers use more new, smaller French barrels (called barriques) that impart more oak lactones into the wine and encourage the development of black fruit, chocolate, brown sugar, and vanilla flavors. Because oxygen exposure increases due to oak-to-wine surface area, you can expect modern method Montalcino wines will often be ready to drink sooner than traditional method wines.

    Rosso di Montalcino

    Montepulciano also produces a dry red wine made in a more modern style, slightly lighter and earlier-maturing wine, with fewer tradition-bound constraints called Rosso di Montepulciano, about 550 hectares and 2.5 million bottles produced annually.

    But perhaps Montepulciano’s real gift to the wine drinkers of the world is the superlative quality of its Vin Santo made typically from Malvasia Bianca, Grechetto Bianco and the ubiquitous Trebbiano Toscano.

    Vin Santo is the typical dessert wine of Tuscany wine region. It is made from the white grape varieties Trebbiano and Malvasia. The grapes are hung on roof beams and dried. After pressing, the wine matures for at least 3 years in small oak barrels. Typically they give you almond biscuits called Cantucci to dip into the wine and taste it like this.

    Carmignano DOCG is a small but interesting zone near Pisa which has embraced Cabernet Sauvignon for years and has therefore been a particularly easy wine for non-Italians to understand. The Capezzana estate dominates production.

    The most interesting Tuscan dry white wine is Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG, made from the powerfully flavoured Vernaccia grape around the be-towered hilltop village of San Gimignano. The wines can vary from innocuous through firmly fruity to positively oily. Some benefit from oak ageing; others are overwhelmed by it.

    Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

    Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is a red wine with a DOCG status produced in the 1,300 hectares vineyards surrounding the town of Montepulciano, Italy.

    Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is one of Italy's classic red wines produced from Sangiovese and has unquestionably helped Tuscany retain its privileged place on the world wine map.

    7 million bottles of wine are made primarily from the Sangiovese grape varietal (known locally as Prugnolo gentile) minimum 70%, blended with Canaiolo Nero (10%–20%) and small amounts of other local varieties such as Mammolo.

    The wine should not be confused with Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, a red wine made from the Montepulciano grape in the Abruzzo region.

    Montepulciano, a picturesque hill town 40 kilometers southeast of Siena, area is made up of slopes reaching 250 to 600 meters in altitude, located between 2 rivers: the Ocria and the Chiana.

    The aging period for any Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is a minimum of 24 months (36 months for the riserva wines), of which at least 12 months must be spent in oak barrels. Oak barrels are traditionally used here not so much for their flavor as for the slow, controlled maturation they provide.

    Local winemakers long used large Italian botti (oak vessels with considerably greater capacity than a barrique and thus with less surface area in relation to volume), rather than the smaller French barrels, to avoid undesirable oak characters (vanilla, toast) in the wine.

    Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is usually maroon-red in color and takes on a subtle brick-orange tint over time. It is characterized by its dark cherry and rich plum aromas, ripe strawberry and cherry fruit flavors, and a gently tannic "tea-leaf" finish.

    It is also known for its medium body, firm tannins, and for the acidity that makes it a particularly age worthy wine (well-made examples improve gracefully over one or two decades). Some have described the wine as having the perfume of Chianti Classico with the richness of Brunello di Montalcino.

    We sincerely hope that you found this wine blog interesting, and if you are looking for good Italian wines, please head over here: https://www.magnumopuswines.com/collections/italy

    Cin Cin!

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