The Wines of Tuscany

The wines of Tuscany are some of the most famous in the world.  The three best known reds are Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Super Tuscans, the most popular white is Vernaccia di San Gimignano.  The wines from this region are bold and flavorful, therefor they have developed a cult following over the years.  

The reason behind the bold flavors is the specific terroir of the region.  It is a warm mediterranean climate, with hilly terrain and poor soil.  Most of the vineyards are planted at higher elevations to temper the hot summers, the temperature variations due to the elevation help balance the sugar and acidity in the grapes as well as their aromatic qualities.  The soil type produces low yielding crops which intensifies the  flavors in the grapes.

Vernaccia di San Gimignano is a bold flavorful white that is quite different, my favorite is from the producer Fontaleoni.  This estate bottled wine has a pale yellow-green color. Medium intensity, with youthful, floral, lemon, melon and almond notes on the nose. It is medium to full bodied and dry, with medium-high acidity. There is moderate intensity, a medium finish with notes of citrus fruits, lemon, and minerality.  It pairs well with fish and is a delightful summertime wine.  

Chiantis are probably the best known wines from Tuscany, they hail from the sub-region of Chianti.  There are three classifications, Chianti, Chianti Classico and Chianti Superiore, these classifications depend on where the vineyard is located.  Chianti must contain a minimum of 70% Sangiovese, Chianti Classico and Chianti Superiore must contain a minimum of 80% Sangiovese with the wines being rounded out with a blend of Canaiolo and other indigenous grapes.  There is also Chianti Riserva which must be aged for at least twenty seven months, some of the aging done in oak and a minimum 12.5% alcohol content.  

My favorite Chianti Colli Fiorentini is from Lucignano.  This wine is a medium intensity ruby red. The nose on this wine is intense, overflowing with fruity aromas of black cherry and violets. Soft and medium bodied on the palate it balances rather pleasant tannins with moderate acidity. An ideal wine for pasta dishes and medium aged cheese.

The most heralded wines from Tuscany are Brunello di Montalcino’s.  These award winning wines come from the vineyards surrounding the village of Montalcino in the south of the Chianti Classico region.  Brunellos must be aged for four years before being released and reservas for five years.  These wines are very tight and tannic and need ten plus years in the bottle before they can truly be appreciated.  They are a perfect wine to cellar so they can be enjoyed in the future.  The 2010 vintage is widely thought of as one of the best.  My favorite is from the producer Mocali.  

Super Tuscans are an unofficial category from Tuscany, therefor the producers do not have to follow any laws to bottle their wines under this label.  This gives the producers more leeway to blend whatever grapes they choose to make a great wine.  Most producers use mainly Sangiovese and tend to add whatever grapes grew well that year to make a good wine.  One of the best is from the producer Campomaggio.  This wine is a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Syrah.  This wine opens with cedar and sandalwood on the nose. It moves to cherry and a toasty oak on the palate, and finishes with a dry, extremely elegant and polished finish.

This introduction to the great wines of Tuscany should help you choose which best suits your palate.  Ask your local wine professional if you have any questions, and as always feel free to send me any questions to  Happy Drinking.  

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