Tuscany

Editor
A look at the Tuscan wine region

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

One of the most romantic, historically rich, and fantasized-about regions in Europe, Tuscany, on Italy's north-central western coast, also produces some of the best and most famous red wines in the world, notably chianti, brunello di Montalcino, and the so-called super-Tuscans. The predominant red-wine grape is sangiovese, which exists under different names and in some clonal variety around the region, but cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, and other varieties are also grown, as are lesser-known traditional grapes such as canaiolo, mammolo, and malvasia nera. The main white-wine grape is trebbiano, but others include malvasia, vermentino, and vernaccia (the last of these responsible for the well-regarded wines of San Gimignano). "Super-Tuscans," an unofficial name with no official standing, have gained cult status around the world; these are wines made in the region but with unorthodox blends of grapes, often combining sangiovese with cabernet sauvignon or merlot, or avoiding the sangiovese altogether. The pioneer in this area was Piero Antinori, who produced a wine called Tignanello, a blend of sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon with a touch of malvasia (a white grape), in 1971. By the 1975 vintage, all traces of white grapes had disappeared. Antinori's uncle, the Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, released his own bordeaux-style Sassicaia, from the 1968 vintage, in 1971. Soon many other producers were following suit and super-Tuscans gained worldwide popularity. The wines of the Chianti region are medium-rich and elegant, with a bouquet variously described as suggesting violets or cherries. Brunello di Montalcino is a dark, rich, extracted red that benefits from aging; rosso di Montalcino may be made from younger vines or simply not aged as long, but is less expensive and brighter in flavor. The winemakers of the Carmignano region had been blending cabernet sauvignon with sangiovese long before the advent of the super-Tuscans, and produce a firm, attractively fruity wine. Vino nobile di Montepulciano is rich and smooth. Morellino di Scansano is aromatic and well-rounded. The Maremma region, in southern coastal Tuscany, has become increasingly important for its super-Tuscans, and produces pleasant white wines from a variety of grapes, including chardonnay, trebbiano, and grechetto. Vin santo (holy wine) is a Tuscan dessert wine made primarily from trebbiano and malvasia, with the grapes concentrated in flavor and sweetness by being hung from racks or dried on straw palettes. It is considered the ideal accompaniment to biscotti.

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