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What is up with Tuscany?

Tuscan wine (Italian Toscana) is Italian wine from the Tuscany region. Situated in central Italy, located in central Italy along the Tyrrhenian coast.  Tuscany’s neighbors are Liguria and Emilia-Romagna to the north, Umbria and Marche to the east and Lazio to the south.Tuscany is home to some of the world’s most notable wine regions. 

The majority of Tuscany’s DOCGs are comprised of wines made of Sangiovese. Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are primarily made with Sangiovese grape. The Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG produces a white wine called Vernaccia. This has long been considered one of the oldest and most noble wines in Italy. Other white grapes planted in Tuscany are Trebbiano, Malvasia and Vermentino.

Tuscany is also known for the dessert wine Vin Santo, made from a variety of the region’s grapes. Tuscany has forty-one Denominazioni di origine controllata (DOC) and eleven Denominazioni di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG).

In the 1970s a new class of wines known in the trade as “Super Tuscans” emerged. These wines were made outside DOC/DOCG regulations but were considered of high quality and commanded high prices. Many of these wines became cult wines. In the reformation of the Italian classification system, many of the original Super Tuscans now qualify as DOC or DOCG wines (such as the new Bolgheri label). Some producers still prefer the declassified rankings or to use the Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) classification of Toscana. Tuscany has six sub-categories of IGT wines today.

Climate is a vital factor in this region’s success as a wine region. Warm, temperate coastal areas are contrasted by inland areas (particularly those in the rolling hills for which the region is so famous), where increased diurnal(day) temperature variation helps to maintain the grapes’ balance of sugars, acidity and aromatics. One variety that particularly thrives on these hillside vineyards is Tuscany’s signature red grape, Sangiovese.

Arguably the most important of all Italian wine grapes, Sangiovese accounts for around two thirds of all plantings and 85 percent of red wine volume in the region. It is the mainstay variety in almost all of Tuscany’s top reds. Its long history and broad regional distribution means that it has acquired various names.

In Montalcino it goes by the name Brunello, whence Brunello di Montalcino. In Montepulciano, it is known as Prugnolo Gentile. Under the name Morellino it is the grape used to make Morellino di Scansano. Sangiovese also features in Chianti, in which it is joined by small amounts of Canaiolo and Colorino, as well as increasing quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

With the rise of the Super Tuscans, the most famous of which come from Bolgheri, Cabernet Sauvignon became a much more prominent variety in Tuscany. Merlot and the other Bordeaux varieties also feature, as does Syrah (most notably in Cortona). Stick around for our next post: Super Tuscans!

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