An Introduction to Tuscan Wine
Italian wines are some of the most famous in the world, and Tuscan wines include some of the best wines in Italy. The aim of this article is to provide a simple guide to Tuscan wines. I would like to provide readers with an outline of the different wines available in Tuscany, the grape varieties indigenous to Tuscany, and the ‘wine roads’ (Strade del Vino) around the many Tuscan vineyards.
Not just Chianti
Most of the wine produced in Tuscany is red wine, made above all from the Sangiovese grape. The best-known name is undoubtedly Chianti, but this is only one of the many types of wine produced in the region of Tuscany and there are actually 8 different areas of Chianti itself. But Tuscan wine is not about Chianti alone. Far from it. Below you can consult a list of the most popular and well-known Tuscan wines, including the few whites that the region produces using mainly the Trebbiano grape (except for Vernaccia). Vin Santo ('holy wine'), made from dried grapes, is also widely produced. It can be dry or sweet and is drunk as a dessert wine with special almond biscuits (cantuccini).
What do DOC and DOCG mean?
The letters DOC or DOCG on an Italian wine label mean Denominazione di Origine Controllata, and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, the latter superior to the first. They refer to government guarantees of the wines’ origins. About 300 wine growing regions in Italy have the DOC designation, while only 21 have a DOCG label. The DOCG wines conform to DOC laws and in addition are quality tested by government-appointed inspectors. However, this doesn’t mean that non-DOC wines are bad. On the contrary, some wine makers have broken away from the DOC restrictions to experiment with blends of grape varieties. These ‘new’and often very expensive wines in Tuscany have become known as “Super-Tuscans” even though they only bear a Vino da Tavola (table wine) label. Some of these Super-Tuscans are being produced in the Livorno Province, particularly in Bolgheri (municipality of Castagneto Carducci).
Another denomination, IGT, means that a wine is guaranteed to come from a specific wine-producing area.
Some of Tuscany’s Red wines:
Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
Chianti Classico DOCG
Colline Lucchesi DOC
Monteregio di Massa Marittima DOC
Morellino di Scansano DOC
Rosso di Montalcino DOC
Rosso di Montepulciano DOC
Sassicaia produced by Tenuta San Guido
Solaia and Tignanello, produced by Antinori
Val di Cornia DOC
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG
Grape varieties indigenous to Tuscany
Aleatico (mainly on Elba for dessert wines) - some think may originate from Greece
Canaiolo Nero – until 1970 formed the basis, with Sangiovese, of Chianti Classico and other Chianti-type wines, as well as Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Ciliegiolo - seems to have arrived in Tuscany from Spain in 1870. Has been ‘re-discovered’ since 1990s in new wines with good results.
Colorino - remote origin, widely grown in Tuscany. Gives a good colour to wine and is often used with other grape varieties.
Malvasia Bianca lunga - widely grown on Chianti hills from where it is thought to originate. Limited use today, especially since white grapes are no longer allowed to be used in Chianti Classico Docg. A fundamental element of Vin Santo, also made with Trebbiano Toscano.
Prugnolo Gentile (Sangiovese grosso) -indigenous to the commune of Montepulciano and is important in this area.
Sangiovese (Sangiovese piccolo) - the kind of Sangiovese usually used for Chianti wines. The name is thought to come from sanguis jovis, or the blood of Jove (Jupiter). One of the most ancient grape varieties in Italy and most widely grown, also offers best quality wines. Originated in Tuscany.
Trebbiano Toscano - of Etruscan origins, one of most commonly grown varieties in Italy, mainly in Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio. Used to be blended into Chianti Classico wines, now goes into simpler Chiantis, light white wines, and Vin Santo.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano - imported either from Liguria, from Spain or Greece, has become popular again in the last few decades. Grown only in the San Gimignano area.
Other Grape Varieties: also being used in Tuscany is the Cabernet Sauvignon together with Sangiovese, often producing some excellent results.
For full information about the Tuscan wine roads, click here