Italian Wine Regions - Quattrocalici
Table of Contents for the Tuscany Region
The Tuscany Wine Region
Main Article Contents
- 1 Tuscany and Wine
- 2 The history of wine in Tuscany
- 3 Tuscany as a wine country
- 4 The Grape Varieties of Tuscany
- 5 The wine production areas in Tuscany
- 6 The Appellations of Origin of Tuscany
- 7 The regional cuisine of Tuscany
Tuscany and Wine
Tuscany is best known for its famous red wines, as Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano which have made Tuscany one of the symbols for Italian wine. Tuscany, however, also produces red wines from “international” grapes , such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir. An example of this is the area of Bolgheri and the so calles “Supertuscans“, an example of desk designed products based on know-how and environmental heritage of the first order. Some Tuscan white wines, such as Vernaccia di San Gimignano, belong to the excellences of the region. The Vin Santo is one of the most interesting products in Italy both from the organoleptic point of view and from that of vinification and maturation.
The history of wine in Tuscany
The origins of viticulture in Tuscany date back to the time of the Etruscans, although the first written historical records date to the Middle Ages, when the wine became an essential product for the market. The first record about Chianti wine dates to the year 1300 , when the “Lega del Chianti” was founded, under the jurisdiction of Florence, and the famous “Gallo Nero” emblem, still a symbol of the Chianti Classico wine, was created. In 1700 this wine was mainly produced with Canaiolo Nero grapes, to which a small amount of Sangiovese, Mammolo and Marzemino were added. In 1872 the Baron Bettino Ricasoli formulated his famous recipe, still being used by many producers. The Ricasoli recipe mainly uses the Sangiovese grape, to give the Chianti vigor and perfumes, adding some Canaiolo Nero to soften the acidity and tannicity of Sangiovese. The addition of Malvasia was recommended only for the wines to be consumed young. The Trebbiano Toscano did not belong to the original “recipe” of the Baron. Towards the years 1960 some manufacturers as the Marquis Incisa della Rocchetta decided to give impetus to Tuscan wine, creating full-bodied, barrique-matured products from international grape varieties. The particular vinification technique, the structure and the cost of those wines, made them to be almost immediately nicknamed “Super Tuscans“. At the time, these wines were totally unrelated to the local wine traditions, so they did not find place in any protected appellation of origin and were therefore classified as “table wines“. Currently assemblies of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, in some cases with the addition of Sangiovese are quite common in Tuscany.
Tuscany as a wine country
Tuscany, along with Piedmont, is one of the Italian regions famous fo its high quality wines. Toscany is a big region in every meaning, first of all as a geographical extension (23,000 sq km of which 67% hilly , 25% mountainous and the 8% on plains, including the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago). The production wine concerns the whole of Tuscany, and the hillsides are everywhere dotted with vineyards. The vineyard area of Tuscany is almost 60,000 hectares, with a production of more than 2 million hectoliters of wine. The vineyards in Tuscany are mostly located in hilly areas, in which the vine finds its ideal environment, allowing to obtain high quality both white and red wines, with great structure.
The Grape Varieties of Tuscany
In Tuscany mainly red wines are produced (about 70% of production), including the Sangiovese (and its variants), the Canaiolo nero, the Ciliegiolo. The most common white grape in Tuscany is the Trebbiano Toscano, followed by Malvasia Bianca Lunga, Vernaccia di San Gimignano and the Ansonica. Even Chardonnay, with white wines often matured in Barrique, is largely diffused. The reputation of Supertuscans introduced in Tuscany other international grapes with black berries as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Even for Chianti, in addition to Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are quite often used. As a system of training for the vines, being the traditional ‘Alberata‘ has now disappeared, the most widespread are the espaliers, such as the spurred cordon and Guyot.
The wine production areas in Tuscany
Brunello di Montalcino
Brunello di Montalcino is perhaps the most famous Tuscan wine. Brunello is the name used in Montalcino for the Sangiovese Grosso grapes with which the wine is produced, initially thanks to the efforts of Ferruccio Biondi Santi, which may in effect be considered the creator of this wine. Brunello, today recognized as a DOCG appellation, is produced with Sangiovese grosso in purity and can be sold on the market only after 5 years from the harvest (6 for the riserva), with a minimum period of maturation in wooden barrels of two years.
Chianti Classico and Chianti
There are different types of Chianti, seven of which are coming from specific subzones within the Chianti DOCG. The Chianti Classico wine is produced in the oldest and most traditional area, from which originate the most famous wines. The seven sub-zones of Chianti DOCG are Colli Aretini, Colli Senesi, Colli Fiorentini, Colline Pisane, Rufina, Montalbano and Montespertoli. Chianti is produced mainly with Sangiovese and Canaiolo Nero grapes, with a small addition of Malvasia Bianca and Trebbiano Toscano, in addition to other grapes permitted by the disciplinare, generally Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Despite the presence of “international” grapes in the Chianti is increasingly common, there are still many producers who prefer the use of only traditional grapes from the area.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is one of the six DOCG of Tuscany. The wine is produced with the grape Prugnolo Gentile (so in Montepulciano the Sangiovese Grosso is named), to which Canaiolo Nero and, optionally, to a lesser extent Mammolo and Colorino can be adden, as well as other grapes permitted by the regulations. The Nobile di Montepulciano was known since year 1500 for its quality, and was also widely praised by Sante Lancerio, the “bottler” of Pope Paul III (1534-1559). In the 1960s the Nobile was finally rediscovered, stasrting its recovery process which reached its completion in 1980, when the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was recognized as DOCG.
Other wine regions of Tuscany
The Carmignano DOCG is another wine region with a long tradition. It is located in the province of Prato and only produces red wines from Sangiovese, Canaiolo Nero, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes. The Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG is a fine white wine produced with the homonymous grapes. The Morellino is mainly produced with Sangiovese, locally named Morellino grapes. The Vin Santo, whose tradition is shared with other regions of Italy, is recognized as DOC wine with Vin Santo del Chianti, Vin Santo del Chianti Classico and Vin Santo di Montepulciano appellations. The Vin Santo Toscano is produced from grapes Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia Bianca, but there is also a red version from grapes Sangiovese, named Occhio di Pernice (Partridge eye). The Supertuscans are robust and complex wines produced mainly with international “grapes” such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir, sometimes with the addition of Sangiovese. The Supertuscans, once “table wine”, generally belong nowadays to the category IGT (PGI), with a notable exception.
The Appellations of Origin of Tuscany
Toscana is also big because of the number of DOCG and DOC appellations (11 the first and 40 the second, in addition to 6 IGT). The area of Chianti includes two DOCGs, the Chianti Classico DOCG, ie the traditional area between Florence and Siena, and the Chianti DOCG which embraces a wide area between all the Tuscan provinces with exclusion of Massa-Carrara, Grosseto and Livorno. Chianti DOCG includes seven subzones, namely Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colli Senesi, Colline Pisane, Montalbano, Montespertoli and Rufina. The “recipe” of the original Chianti was created by Baron Bettino Ricasoli in 1835. It included up to a maximum of 90% Sangiovese, 5-10% of Canaiolo nero and 2-5% of white grapes, mainly Malvasia and Trebbiano. Within the Siena province the important Montalcino area (Brunello DOCG) whose wines are based on Sangiovese represent the top quality of the Italian production, the Carmignano DOCG wines (min 50% Sangiovese, max 20% Canaiolo, 10-20% Merlot and Cabernet), the Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG (Vernaccia grape) and further on down the Val di Chiana DOC and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG (Sangiovese). In this area there are also 15 DOCs, including the three Vin Santo DOCs (Vin Santo del Chianti DOC, Vin Santo del Chianti Classico DOC, Vin Santo di Montepulciano DOC). On the border with Liguria region the DOC Colli di Luni DOC, characterized by the presence of Vermentino grape. Further down along the Alps the Candia area (Candia dei Colli Apuani DOC) with white wines made with Vermentino and red wines with Sangiovese and Merlot. The Vermentino nero is a red wine made from the namesake grape. In the area of Lucca the Colline Lucchesi DOC and Montecarlo DOC, with both red and white wines made using grape varieties of French origin (Syrah for red wines, Semillon, Sauvignon and Roussanne for white wines). We also mention Bolgheri for the above mentioned Supertuscans (Bolgheri DOC and Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC) and the recent Suvereto DOCG, former sub-zone of Val di Cornia DOC, which has been promoted to DOCG (Rosso della Val di Cornia DOCG). The Elba island (Elba DOC) is characterized by the grape varieties Aleatico (red), Ansonica and Trebbiano, here known as Procanico (white). Finally, in the Grosseto area there are further 8 DOCs among which the Ansonica Costa dell’Argentario DOC. In the region there are also 10 DOP and 8 IGP 8 agrifood appellations. Worth of a special mention are the extra virgin olive oils, the San Gimignano PDO Saffron and the Lardo di Colonnata IGP.
The regional cuisine of Tuscany
The traditional cuisine in Tuscany is mostly represented by traditional dishes whose preparation is carried out according to local tradition since many years.
The bread without salt (named ‘pane sciocco‘) is an almost unique tradition, only shared with the nearby Umbria region. This seems to date back to the twelfth century when the rivalry between Pisa and Florence caused the price of salt gave to rise to disproportionate levels. In Tuscany the sacredness of bread is confirmed by the habit not to throw away its leftovers, but to use them in a variety of traditional recipes, such as the ribollita soup, the acquacotta, the pappa al pomodoro (tomato soup), vegetable soups, porridge, the black cabbage soup .
Among the meat dishes the famous Fiorentina steak, the beef meatloaf and the beef stew. A distinctive feature of the Tuscany cuisine is the use of white meat like chicken and turkey but also geese, guinea fowl and pigeons. Diffused are also dishes based on venison such as hare and boar, pheasant and porcupines. From pork meat cold cuts as Tuscan salami, the finocchiona, the ham with salt, the lard, and sausages are made. The biroldo is flavored pig blood, seasoned and cut into cubes. The fish food recipes are common along the coast, as eel, mullets and stockfish Livornese. Few but typical are the cheeses such as pecorino toscano, in particular the ones of Pienza and Maremma, the cottage cheese and the raveggiolo as soft cheeses. Among the desserts the gingerbread, the Ricciarelli and the cavallucci cookies, the zuppa del duca and the cecco cakes, the migliacci and the Cantuccini di Prato cookies.