Flashcards in Tuscany Deck (141):
Vineyards planted at altitude on slopes, excellent sun exposure and wide diurnal temperature range: grapes keep high natural acidity and develops fruity aromas. Maritime sites ideal for Bordeaux varieties. Chianti Consorzio represents growers in all zones except Classico. Significant changes in 2002. Upper limit of international varieties in blend from 10 to 15% in Chianti and up to 20% in the sub zones, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot restricted to 10%. Classico zone limits raised to 20% with no limits on Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. White grapes are to be phased out of the blend. Emergency irrigation also given permission in classico.
Quality varies from basic through to super premium. Sangiovese the dominant variety in a blend, or on its own. Gives high acidity and tannins, medium body and sour cherry and earthy flavours. Other permitted varieties are Canaiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Oak ageing in large casks called botti or more recently in barriques. Riserva wines 3 years ageing. 7 sub zones, Chianti Rufina (small, cool zone north east of Florence) produces high quality, full bodied wines with high acidity.
Chianti Classico DOCG
Seperate DOCG from Chianti. Heartland of the Chianti region, between Florence and Siena. Hill sites varied soils, produces the finest most age worthy Chianti.
Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
Varietal Brunello (clone of Sangiovese), excellent quality and long lived, needs considerable bottle ageing. Produced near the town of Montalcino, south of Siena. Wine must be four years old before release, aged at least two years in cask before bottling.
Vino Noble di Montepulciano DOCG
First DOCG classified, must be made from Prugnolo (Clone of Sangiovese) from town of Montepulciano. Similar ageing laws to Chianti Riserva.
Rosso di Montepulciano and Rosso di Montalcino DOC
Same region and grape as Vino Nobile/ Brunello, wine must only be aged one year before release. Wine is lighter and fruiter. Use of these DOCs is similar to a top Bordeaux Chateau second label wine.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG
Only white wine DOCG in Tuscany. High altitude hill sites. Great diurnal temp range keeps flavours and extends ripening period. Neutral wine, medium bodied for early drinking.
Some well known producers are Sassicaia (which actually has its own DOC within Bolgheri) and Ornellaia. Their wines, known as 'Super Tuscans' initially could only be granted Vino da Tavola status, as did not comply with DOC regulations. Bolgheri given its own DOC in 1994 to give the wines the recognition they deserve. Principally Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot production. More temperate climate than most of Tuscany due to proximity to the sea.
Many producers started making prestigious wines outside the DOC regulations, such as varietal Cabernet Sauvignon. In 1992 IGT was introduced to accomodate wines that fell outside of the DOC regulations.
Carmignano DOCG and Pomino DOC
North of Florence. Serious reds made from Sangiovese and a percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Dessert wine produced from raisined grapes, then aged oxidatively in cask from many years.
important central Italian region known in English as tuscany.
The most important region in central italy (see map under italy), where it is known as Toscana. Today Tuscany is at the centre neither of Italy’s economic life nor of its political life, but it is the region which formed Italy’s language, its literature, and its art, and has thus assumed a central place in the country’s culture and self-image. The landscape, immortalized in the work of artists from Giotto to Michelangelo and part of every European’s cultural baggage, has remained largely unchanged to this day: a succession of hills and valleys covered with cypresses, umbrella pines, olive groves—and vineyards.
Tuscany- Ancient History
In the ancient world, Tuscany, and at certain points of its history a much larger area, was known as Etruria.
Tuscany- Medieval History
If we know more about the wines of medieval Tuscany than we do about the wines of other regions of medieval Italy, it is not because they were better or there were more of them: the reason is the region’s, and particularly Florence’s, economic and political importance. Viticulture flourished despite the frequent, small-scale civil wars. The region produced more or less equal amounts of oil and wine, but by far the largest crop was wheat. Smallholders were rare in this part of Italy, since the land was mostly owned by monasteries, the local aristocracy, and, increasingly, by merchants in the cities. The system of agriculture was often that known as mezzadria, sharecropping whereby the landowner would provide the working capital and the land in return for half (mezzo, hence the name) the crop. In 1132, for instance, the Badia (Abbey) di Passignano (whose wine is now made and sold by the merchants antinori) leased some of its land to a wealthy cobbler for half his crop of olive oil and wine. The regional centre for selling wine was the Mercato Vecchio in Florence. The earliest reference to wine retailers in the city dates from 1079, and in 1282 the wine sellers formed a guild, the Arte dei Vinattieri. Giovanni di Piero Antinori joined it in 1385, a member of the noble family that continues to make and sell wine in Tuscany today. In order to uphold the profession’s reputation, the guild imposed a strict code of practice. The statutes insisted on cleanliness and exact measures; the shop was not to be situated within 100 yards of a church and it was not to serve children under 15. No cooked food could be sold, and shops were not to shelter ruffians, thieves, or prostitutes. The wine trade was vital to the Florentine economy. Tax records show that more than 300,000 hl/7.9 million gal of wine entered the city every year in the 14th century. The Florentine historian Villani, writing in 1338, estimated that weekly consumption of wine was a gallon a head. Given that Florence had approximately 90,000 inhabitants, this meant that well over 90% was sold elsewhere, to the surrounding country or other Tuscan cities, some overseas via the port of Pisa, mainly to Flanders, paris, and Marseilles. By no means all of this wine would have been Tuscan: a lot of it had come from crete (Candia), corsica, or naples. Tuscany itself produced red wine, which was usually called simply vino vermihlio, but occasionally names appear. The reds of montepulciano and Cortona were heavy, those of Casentino lighter. In the late 14th century, we find Montalcino referred to as brunello. The most important of Tuscany’s white wines were called ‘Vernaccia’ and ‘Trebbiano’, probably named after their respective grape varieties vernaccia and trebbiano, but neither was an exclusively Tuscan wine. Of the two, Vernaccia was the more highly reputed. In its sweet form it was associated primarily with liguria, and particularly with Cinqueterre and Corniglia, although sweet Vernaccia was also made in Tuscany. The dry style of Vernaccia, made in San Gimignano (but also elsewhere), which is not found before the 14th century, was not exported overseas, because only the sweet version was capable of surviving the long sea voyage to France, Flanders, or England. Trebbiano, too, could be dry or sweet. The first recorded mention of chianti is in the correspondence of the Tuscan merchant Francesco di Marco Datini in 1398, and it is a white wine. Datini was fond of it: in 1404 Amadeo Gherardini of Vignamaggio, which is still a well-known estate, wrote to Datini sending him half a barrel of his personal stock. Another of Datini’s favourites was (red) carmignano. Datini’s letters give us an idea of what a rich merchant bought for his own consumption. He had malmsey sent to him from Venice and Genoa, and, more exotically, the equally strong, sweet wine of Tyre from Venice. These foreign wines were luxury items. Another expensive wine from outside Tuscany that Datini loved was Greco. It was grown in puglia and so highly prized was it that in the 14th century the commune of San Gimignano abandoned its tradition of giving distinguished visitors a few ounces of saffron and instead made them a present of the precious Greco. Dante and Boccaccio both mention Vernaccia, a byword for luxury. No Tuscan author wrote exclusively about the wines of the region until Francesco Redi. His Bacco in Toscana (‘Bacchus in Toscana’), published in 1685, is subtitled ditirambo, the Greek dithyramb being a choral lyric in praise of dionysus. Redi’s poem, however, has little to do with the classical genre and is no more than an excuse for showing off his learning to fellow members of the Accademia della Crusca: he provides 228 pages of unhelpful and pretentious notes to deluge 980 lines of verse. Neither the poem nor the notes contains anything interesting or new about Tuscan wine and viticulture, and the notes Leigh Hunt wrote to his translation (1825) of Bacco in Toscana are a good deal more amusing (although of more use to the historian of language than to the historian of wine). The only wines Redi mentions, and praises, are vernaccia, chianti, carmignano, and, finally, montepulciano, which he regards as the king of all wines.
Tuscany- Modern History
Tuscan viticulture was dominated historically by large estates owned by wealthy local families, the majority of them of noble origin, and tilled by a workforce of sharecroppers. The demise of this system in the 1950s and 1960s led to a hiatus in investment or even ordinary maintenance, deterioration of the vineyards and cellars, plummeting wine quality, and eventual sale of the properties to new owners with the requisite capital and energy to carry on the viticultural traditions of the past. Tuscan ownership of Tuscan viticulture is no longer the norm but the new wave of vintners from Milan, Rome, and Genoa—joined in the 1980s by a sizeable contingent of foreigners—has shown both a commendable commitment to quality and an equally commendable openness to new and more cosmopolitan ideas.
Tuscany- Geography and Vine Varieties
Tuscany produces wines in a wide variety of elevations, expositions, and soils. Vineyards spread from the plains of the maremma on the Tuscan coast and steep hillsides as high as 550 m/1,800 ft above sea level in Gaiole-in-Chianti and Lamole in Greve-in-Chianti. A full 68% of the region is officially classified as hilly (a mere 8% of the land is flat) and hillside vineyards, at elevations of between 150 and 500 m (500–1,600 ft) supply the vast majority of the better-quality wines. The sangiovese vine, the backbone of the region’s production, seems to require the concentration of sunlight that slopes can provide to ripen well in these latitudes, as well as the less fertile soils on the hills. Growers also value the significant day-night temperature variability as an important factor in developing its aromatic qualities. Sangiovese, with more than 38,000 ha/93,860 acres planted in 2010 is by far Tuscany’s most planted grape variety. The second most planted, the insipid white trebbiano Toscano was planted on just 3,095 ha and continues to decline now that it has lost its classic role as ingredient in the many Sangiovese-based wines made in the region. In the past enormous yields were demanded from both varieties and the generously demarcated DOCs that were set up in the 1960s encouraged large-scale plantings of high yielding clones with scant attention to the suitability of the site, giving Sangiovese an undeserved reputation as a mediocre grape variety. As the doc laws did nothing to encourage the production of good quality wines, many producers enthusiastically embraced international varieties, especially Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, which they aged in French barriques and sold at high prices. The popularity of these supertuscans is only now slowly subsiding. Several iconic producers persevered with Sangiovese, devoting their best sites to it and drastically lowering yields. As they refused to blend the then-obligatory Trebbiano Toscano into the wine, they also had to resort to the lowly vino da tavola category. The situation has been redressed, especially in chianti classico where intensive research in clonal material and site specifics led to a noticeable increase in quality, while the creation of the igt Toscana brought the Supertuscan rebels back into the fold of a slightly higher denomination. Although many producers in Chianti Classico still use Merlot as a blending partner (up to 20% varieties other than Sangiovese is allowed), the unstoppable trend is for varietal Sangiovese wines, and regularly from single vineyards. Many ferment with ambient yeast with wines aged in traditional large oak casks rather than small French barrels. brunello di montalcino, a 100% Sangiovese wine by law, and in spite of the recent lapse in credibility caused by a blending scandal, has long shown that Sangiovese can produce world-class, long-lived wines. Its neighbour vino nobile di montepulciano has been more reluctant to embrace Sangiovese fully; the production rules were changed in 2010 to allow for a 30% inclusion of international varieties, although quality producers tend to concentrate on Sangiovese and its ability to transmit a transparent expression of the Monepulciano terroir. bolgheri has been Tuscany’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot hotspot (see sassicaia for more details) although many of the wines contain a portion of Sangiovese to add acidity to Cabernet and Merlot which can be too ripe and flabby when grown on the hot Maremma plains. Further inland and higher up in the hills where a cooler climate prevails, the previously unremarkable DOC Montecucco has attracted newcomers who regularly produce wines on a par with the best from Chianti Classico even if their number is still small. DOC Monteregio di Massa Marittima seems equally promising for fine wine, especially when vineyards are planted on elevations above 300 m, but it may take some time (as well as more producers) to convincingly show its potential. Not all of the myriad of DOCs and DOCGs in Tuscany (48 in total in 2014) are either significant or particularly different from the supposedly lower IGT category. Producers therefore often prefer to label their wines with the more widely recognized IGT Toscana. More than half of Tuscany’s 60,000 ha are registered for the production of DOC and IGT wine with their stricter production rules than for basic table wine. While the Chianti DOCG continues to supply the mass market with distinctly modest wines, the majority of Tuscany’s wine regions are now focused on high quality. While the trend for indigenous varieties seems unstoppable, the international varieties, which are still widely planted, excel in several areas (notably in carmignano, Bolgheri, Suvereto, and, for Syrah, Cortona). While the whites from international varieties fared less well, there was still almost as much Chardonnay (585 ha/1446 acres) as Vermentino (652 ha/1611 acres) but most of Tuscany seems too warm to produce truly great whites. Vermentino, a relative newcomer in central Tuscany arriving from nearby liguria, seems to be the most credible indigenous answer, while the minerally and elegant vernaccia di San Gimignano deserves a comback after it became a victim of its own success which led to the overproduction of rather technical wines.
Seminal central Italian wine first produced by the house of antinori as a single-vineyard Chianti Classico in the 1970 vintage and then as a ground-breaking vino da tavola in the 1971 vintage.
Trail-blazing Tuscan wine made, largely from cabernet sauvignon, originally by Mario Incisa della Rochetta at the Tenuta San Guido near bolgheri and one of the first Italian reds made in the image of fine red bordeaux. The first small commercial quantities were released in the mid 1970s. For more details, see vino da tavola. In 1994 Sassicaia was granted its own DOC as an official subzone of Bolgheri (Bolgheri-Sassicaia DOC), the only wine from a single estate in Italy to enjoy this privilege.
Term sometimes used by English speakers to describe the innovative wines labelled as vino da tavola made in the central Italian region of Tuscany which emerged in the 1970s. Prototype Supertuscans were tignanello and sassicaia, both initially marketed by antinori. The Vino da Tavola denomination was replaced by igt in 1994, but the term Supertuscan remains.
Small town in the Tuscan maremma made famous by Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, who planted Cabernet Sauvignon vines for a house wine as early as the 1940s on his San Guido estate, labelling the resulting wine sassicaia. Bizarrely, the DOC created for Bolgheri in 1983 was only for whites and rosé, but it was amended in 1994 to include red wine and the subzone Sassicaia was created. Prior to this Sassicaia had to be labelled as vino da tavola, but due to its high quality it became known as a supertuscan, spawning many copies throughout Tuscany. The success of Sassicaia, Grattamacco (first vintage 1982), and ornellaia (1985) triggered an investment frenzy in the region, which expanded from 250 ha/618 acres at the end of the 1990s to more than 1,000 ha/2,470 acres in 2010 when it was home to more than 50 wine estates. The proximity to the sea gives a more temperate climate than that found in the central Tuscan hills, resulting in grapes that ripen earlier, often before the autumn rains arrive. The DOC’s red wine production is based on Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are allowed as varietal wines or blends, while the indigenous Sangiovese may comprise no more than 50% of the wines. Unsurprisingly, most estates produce a classic bordeaux blend aged in barriques, a model which initially seemed to guarantee commercial success. The wines are generally of a high quality, but styles differ due to the diverse soil composition and location of the vineyards as well as differences in winemaking. Although once hailed as one of Italy’s future fine-wine regions, the lower elevations have proved too warm to produce wines of sufficient elegance to mimic Bordeaux, which seems to be the objective of most producers here.
Long, loosely defined strip of tuscan coastline south of Livorno (Leghorn) extending southward through the province of Grosseto. (Lazio also has its part of the Maremma, between Civitavecchia and the border with Tuscany, but this is not a viticultural zone.) Since 1995 it has also been the name of an igt which was elevated to DOC in 2011 but, perversely, without more rigorous production rules. Within its borders lie no fewer than eight DOCs and four DOCGs, but although the area is extremely extensive, in 2012 only 1,665 ha/4,113 acres were declared DOC Maremma—modest in comparison with chianti classico’s 6,818 ha/16,847 acres. It cannot be used for declassifying wines from the many DOCs within the region, therefore it is potentially attractive only to producers in obscure DOCs whose names do not resonate with wine lovers. The Alta Maremma (Upper Maremma) is the highest part of the region in the north between Massa Marittima and Roccastrada where vineyards are situated at elevations between 150 and 500 m (490–1,640 ft), providing a cooler mesoclimate than the warm Maremma plain, and resulting in more elegant wines. In etymological terms, the word Maremma derives from the Latin mare, or sea, and is related to the French marais. Like the médoc in Bordeaux, the low-lying parts of the Maremma were swampy or marshy for much of their history with chronic problems of malaria. Production of bottled wine is consequently a recent phenomenon and quality wine can be said to date from the first bottles of sassicaia in the 1970s, although the zone of Morellino di Scansano, high and relatively malaria free, enjoyed a certain reputation in the past. Thanks to the success of Sassicaia and, later, ornellaia, the mid 1990s saw an investment boom in the Maremma, its apparent potential for large-scale vineyards on relatively inexpensive land attracting many prestigious producers. Because the much warmer climate here results in riper grapes, it quickly became a source of blending wine for beefing up other Tuscan DOCs. The history of the region is so recent that eight of its 12 DOCs and DOCGs did not exist prior to 1989 (Bolgheri itself having been elevated only in 1983), while several small DOCs owe their status to the success of remarkably few producers, Suvereto being an example. Sassicaia laid the foundation stone for successful Cabernet-based wines, and many estates tried to copy the style while often supplementing their vineyards with plantings of Merlot and Syrah, but the results often lack the elegance and age-worthiness of the prototype. barrique ageing is still the standard, although large oak casks are increasingly used instead. Even if almost every DOC within the Maremma has a provision for the production of international varieties, be it as an added percentage or as varietally labelled wines, Sangiovese is still the most common and mandatory ingredient in most of the wines here. In the Maremma there are three important areas, all promoted to DOCG in 2009. Morellino di Scansano DOCG is Maremma’s classic zone for Sangiovese near Grosseto around the town of Scansano. Vineyards rise up to 450 m while Sangiovese (here called Morellino) tends to be fuller bodied on lower-lying vineyards. Like Chianti Classico, the wines must contain a minimum of 85% of Sangiovese. Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG, north east of Grosseto and further inland than Morellino di Scansano, shares its provision of a minimum of 85% Sangiovese. Unremarkable in the past, it has attracted newcomers unable to afford vineyards in Chianti Classico and Montalcino who have begun to produce high-quality Sangiovese wines. Montecucco DOC is for whites based on Vermentino and reds with up to 60% Sangiovese. Val di Cornia Rosso DOCG on the Tuscan coast south east of Suvereto, on a spit of land jutting out into the Mediterranean, is for blends of Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cabernet while the Val di Cornia Bianco DOC is for whites made from Vermentino and Ansonica (the DOC Ansonica Costa dell’Argentario on the coast near the rocky promontory of Argentario is reserved for whites with a minimum of 85% Ansonica, the same variety as Sicily’s inzolia). The DOC Monteregio di Massa Marittima, extending over a large area between the coast and the town of Roccastrada, features Sangiovese for reds and Vermentino for whites, complemented by international varieties. Rising up to 500 m, the hills here are virgin vineyard land but the few wines produced here are generally elegant and fresh, suggesting that it has an interesting future. Bolgheri apart, the Maremma has not turned out to be the promised land it appeared to be in the mid 1990s, although it may eventually produce some excellent wines from vineyards planted with the right varieties and clones, and, crucially, in the best sites.
Historic central Italian red wine made 16 km/10 miles north west of Florence in a zone noted as one of tuscany’s finest for red wine production since the Middle Ages. The vineyards are located on a series of low hills between 50 and 200 m (160–650 ft) above sea level, unusually low for the sangiovese grape, which forms the base of the blend and gives wines with lower acidity and softer tannins than the wines of chianti classico. The wines were first given legal status by Cosimo III de’Medici—himself a major proprietor in the Carmignano zone at the villa of Artimino—who included them in his selection of four areas of superior wine production in an edict of 1716 which prohibited other wines from using the names of the selected areas. The grand-ducal wines were sent regularly to Queen Anne of England, who apparently appreciated their quality. The wines were also praised by Giovanni Cosimo Villifranchi (1773) and Cosimo Ridolfi (1831). The report of the Dalmasso Commission in 1932 (see italy and tuscany) assigned Carmignano to the nearby zone of Chianti Montalbano, where cooler temperatures and higher elevations result in Chianti wines of lighter body and higher acidity more suitable for early drinking. Independent status was restored in 1975, however, with the granting of a doc for Carmignano, the only Tuscan DOC to require the inclusion of cabernet sauvignon (up to 20%) in a Sangiovese-based blend years before its use became common in the so-called supertuscans and long before the production rules of Chianti and Chianti Classico were loosened to allow international varieties in the blends. It was awarded docg status in 1990. Bizarrely, a provision for up to 10% white wine grapes remains, but is hardly used by any quality-conscious producers. The wine must be aged for at least 12 months in oak or chestnut casks. The alleged tradition of Cabernet Sauvignon in the zone was of major assistance in detaching it from Chianti Montalbano. The vineyards of Ugo Contini-Bonacossi of Villa di Capezzana, who was instrumental in obtaining the DOC for the region, and the zone’s major producer, were grafted with cuttings from Ch lafite in the 1970s. He claimed to be reviving a local tradition begun by the Medici. This view is supported by the zone’s Consorzio, which maintains that Cabernet Sauvignon vines were planted here as early as the 16th century at the request of Catherine de Medici, then Queen of France. Although in the past many of the Carmignano wines were aged, at least partially, in French barriques, many producers have returned to ageing the wines in large oak casks, while Fattoria di Bacchereto uses clay amphorae with impressive results. The DOC for younger wines is Barco Reale (referring to the ‘royal park’, as distinguished in the Medici edict of 1716), the DOC which also applies to the zone’s sweet vin santo and its rosé often obtained by saignée. The rosé has a long history here as Vin Ruspo, a reference to peasants’ drawing off, or ‘robbing’, the pale juice from the cask at the beginning of fermentation.
Brunetto di Montalcino
Youngest of Italy’s prestigious red wines, having been invented as a wine in its own right by Ferruccio biondi-santi, the first to bottle it and give it a distinctive name, in 1865. Conventional descriptions of the birth of the wine stress Biondi-Santi’s successful isolation of a superior clone of sangiovese, the Sangiovese Grosso or brunello. an investigation begun by his father Clemente Santi. The 1865 vintage of a wine Clemente had labelled ‘brunello’ had been a prize-winning entry in the agricultural fair of Montepulciano in 1869, indicating that genetically superior material was available in the zone at an earlier date. (Some records show the wines of Montalcino referred to as Brunello as early as the 14th century; see tuscany, history.) Only four vintages—1888, 1891, 1925, 1945—were declared in the first 57 years of production, contributing an aura of rarity to the wine that translated into high prices and, in Italy at least, incomparable prestige. The Biondi-Santi were the only commercial producers until after the Second World War and a government report of 1932 named Brunello as an exclusive product of the family and estimated its total annual production at just 200 hl/5,280 gal. Until the 1960s the region was almost exclusively known for sweet and often sparkling moscadello. With the arrival of the American company Banfi at the end of the 1970s Brunello’s fortunes took a sharp turn. Banfi’s owners, the Italo-American Mariani brothers who had had huge commercial success with lambrusco, bought up whole swathes of land in the hotter, southern part of the zone which until then had never been vineyards, planting them with Moscadello for the production of a fizzy sweet white. The plan failed spectacularly, after which the vines were grafted over to Sangiovese and international varieties. Banfi started to produce Brunello in great quantity and had such commercial success with it that many outsiders were tempted to jump on the bandwagon. The region, which in the 1960s consisted of 11 producers on a mere 63.5 ha/157 acres swelled to almost 2,000 ha/4,940 acres shared by 258 producers in 2012. This dramatic increase was made possible by including land new to viticulture. in 1996 a new DOC, Sant’Antimo, was added to the production regulations to allow for the international varieties that inevitably turned up in the wake of the success of supertuscans. The question of Brunello’s true identity culminated in a blending scandal in 2008 when Italy’s financial police sequestered whole batches of wines from several producers after their investigations had shown that these wines were not the mandatory 100% Brunello, but illegal blends which contained international varieties. The scandal, known as Brunellogate (Brunellopoli in Italy), led to a controversial proposal, eventually rejected, to allow the addition of other varieties but actually highlighted the uncomfortable fact that the official Brunello zone may well include land unsuitable for Brunello vines. Climate and elevation are perhaps more significant factors than specific clones in creating the characteristics of the wine: the town of Montalcino, 112 km/70 miles south of Florence, enjoys a warmer, drier climate than the various zones of chianti. Indeed, it is the most arid of all Tuscan docg zones, with an annual rainfall of about 700 mm/28 in (compared with over 900 in central Chianti Classico). In addition, a cool maritime breeze from the south west ensures both excellent ventilation and cool evenings and nights. Sangiovese can reach its maximum ripeness here, giving fuller, more structured wines than anywhere else in Tuscany. The zone can be split roughly in two. On the galestro soils in the northern part of the zone, vineyards are at elevations up to 500 m, while in the south the soil has more clay, the average temperature is higher, and the wines tend to be fuller than the more aromatic wines from the north. Because of this some of the zone’s producers have vineyards in both the north and south to give them the balance they seek in their wines. However, winemaking practices differ widely between estates, resulting in myriad styles of Brunello but the finest examples manage the tricky balancing act of combining layers of red fruit, bold structure, and elegance. The DOC regulations of 1960, largely written by Biondi-Santi on the basis of the family’s oenological practices, include five to six years’ cask ageing for the riserva and established a model of Brunello as a full, intense, long-lasting wine, which was confirmed in 1980 by the docg rules. The minimum cask ageing period was lowered to 36 months in 1990 and then to two years in 1998. barrique ageing has become standard in Montalcino, however, as in much of Tuscany. Some producers balance the oak with the wine better than others, while many producers have returned to ageing in large oak casks (botti), which impart less or no oak flavour at all to the wine. The financial burden imposed by the lengthy ageing period has led to a corresponding increase in the production of rosso di Montalcino, the 100% Brunello DOC wine that can be marketed after one year. The existence of a second DOC into which lesser wines can be declassified has had a positive impact on the quality of Brunello di Montalcino, in addition to its obvious advantages for producers’ cash flow.
Town in tuscany in central Italy famous for its long-lived red brunello di montalcino. Rosso di Montalcino is also made of 100% Brunello grapes but needs be aged for only one, rather than four, years.
Vino Noble Di Montepulicano
Potentially majestic and certainly noble red wine based on sangiovese, called Prugnolo Gentile here, made exclusively in the township of Montepulciano 120 km/75 miles south east of Florence in the hills of tuscany in central Italy. Vino Nobile has an illustrious history, having been lauded as a ‘perfect wine’ by the cellarmaster of Pope Paul III in 1549, by Francesco Redi in his ‘Bacchus in Toscana’ of 1685 (he called it ‘the king of wines’), while the first record of the official name dates from 1787 when it was listed in the expense accounts of Giovan Filippo Neri for a trip to Siena. After the introduction of the doc in 1966, from 1970 and 2011, the total vineyard rose from less than 150 ha/370 acres in 1970 to 1,300 ha in 2011, while the number of producers bottling their own wine increased from seven or eight to 230. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was one of the first four docgs conferred in 1980. Traditionally, producers would have blended in Canaiolo, Mammolo, Trebbiano, and even Gamay, but since the mid 1980s Sangiovese has come to the fore as the principal variety of Montepulciano. Following a change to the DOCG regulations in 1999, the wine must contain between 70 and 100% Sangiovese, while in 2009 the production regulations were changed to allow up to 30% of varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah into the blend, reflecting what was already common practice. This amendment was criticized widely as the ‘internationalization’ of a historic Tuscan wine. The region is generally higher in sand than either Montalcino or Chianti Classico, and consists of two distinct zones: the hills around the township of Montepulciano and, about 10 km to the west and separated by the Val di Chiana plain, the hills around the township of Valiano, the latter dominated by extensive holdings. It is further divided into 20 subzones whose names may appear on labels, although further research into their individual characteristics is needed. Vines are planted on east- to southeast-facing slopes at elevations of 250 m to 600 m/2,000 ft, while vineyards on the plain do not qualify as Vino Nobile. Stylistically Vino Nobile sits between chianti classico and brunello di montalcino, combining the elegance of the first with the firm structure of the latter. It is notably deep in colour, due to the heavy, cool clay and sand soils which result in austere, muscular Sangiovese that demands bottle age. Many producers blend in Merlot to accelerate the wine’s evolution but it can blur terroir expression. The DOC Rosso di Montepulciano, which allows the wines to be released in March following the vintage (Vino Nobile must be aged for two years), was created for earlier-maturing wines but, because it is much less profitable than Vino Nobile, it is not widely used. Two contrasting philosophies determine the style of Vino Nobile produced today: a traditional approach using Sangiovese either on its own or blended with canaiolo and aged in large casks of Slavonian oak and generally requiring prolonged ageing; and a more modern approach in which Sangiovese is blended with international varieties, notably Merlot and Syrah, and aged in new French oak. This modern style, although still dominant, has been losing ground because it results in wines that are less recognizably Vino Nobile. The traditional approach has been criticized as outdated, but a few practitioners such as Contucci and Boscarelli have shown that it can yield wines on a par with Brunello and Chianti Classico.
Signifies a red wine from the Italian zone whose name it precedes, often a declassified version of a long-lived, more serious wine such as brunello di montalcino or vino nobile di montepulciano.
The name of a specific geographical area between Florence and Siena in the central Italian region of tuscany, associated with tangy, dry red wines of very varied quality. The Chianti zone is first identified in documents of the second half of the 13th century which named the high hills between Baliaccia and Monte Luco ‘the Chianti mountains’ but without reference to the actual wine (although see tuscany, history). In the 18th century the name was applied to the townships of Castellina, Radda, and Gaiole that formed the nucleus of the medieval League of Chianti under Florentine jurisdiction. These townships became one of the very first wine regions anywhere to be officially demarcated. In an edict drawn up in 1716 by Cosimo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, the Chianti Classico borders were determined in order to protect authenticity and combat fraud. In the 1930s the Italian government’s Dalmasso commission enlarged this historic zone to capitalize on the Chianti name (see chianti classico). Thus it is that legally oenological Chianti extends over 15,500 ha/38,285 acres. Seven subzones can call their wines Chianti: Chianti Colli Fiorentini, chianti rufina, Chianti Montalbano, Chianti Colli Senesi, Chianti Colline Pisane, Chianti Colli Aretini, and Chianti Montespertoli, while other parts of this extended region may produce a wine labelled simply Chianti. There are quality-oriented producers outside the Chianti Classico heartland, notably Chianti Rufina’s Fattoria Selvapiana and Pacina in the Colli Senesi, whose wines are on a par with the best from Chianti Classico but much of the wine labelled simply Chianti lacks distinction. Production regulations for Chianti and its seven subzones have always been more lenient (some would say lax) than for Chianti Classico. Although sangiovese is the main variety in the wines, it may represent only 70% of the blend compared with the minimum 80% for Chianti Classico, and white wine grapes may still comprise up to 10% of the blend. Maximum permitted yields at 9 ton/ha are higher than Chianti Classico’s 7.5 ton/ha, while the minimum alcohol of 10.5% indicates a tolerance for less ripe fruit compared with Chianti Classico’s minimum of 12.5%. The very irregular quality of wine labelled simply Chianti has always had a detrimental effect on Chianti Classico’s reputation, especially when the latter shifted its focus from quantity to quality from 1984 onwards when all of Chianti was elevated to docg status (in one of the worst vintages the area has known). Large volumes of Chianti are bought by bottlers furnishing large retailers at the lowest possible price, which has done little to incentivize investments and increase overall quality. However, some good-quality Chianti is produced, even if the wines are usually ready to drink earlier than those from Classico or Rufina. This is reflected in the law which states that Chianti may be released from 1 March following the vintage, while wines from individual subzones, and Chianti Superiore (with its minimum alcohol of 11.5%), must wait longer (1 October for Chianti Classico) before release.
The heartland of the chianti zone, was given its fundamental geographical delimitation by the Medici Grand Duke Cosimo III in an edict of 1716, one of the first examples of such legislation, and was defined as the townships of Radda, Gaiole, and Castellina in addition to the township of Greve (including Panzano). In 1924 the ‘Consortium for the defence of Chianti wine and its symbol of origin’ was founded to fight the cheap imitations seeking to take advantage of the growing international demand for Chianti Classico. At the request of the Consorzio in 1932 a government committee, known as the Commissione Dalmasso, was sent to the region to demarcate the original, classico zone but, much to the frustration of the Consorzio, the commission enlarged the zone with six additional subzones. The new enlarged region was what is now more or less Chianti proper, defended by the commission on the basis of presumed common oenological practices rather than suitability or historical evidence. To integrate such a large and diverse area, the production regulations set up by the Dalmasso commission were decidedly flexible, requiring only 50 to 80% of the region’s most important red variety, sangiovese. They also allowed white malvasia and trebbiano grapes in the blend, the latter two believed to have been traditionally interplanted with red wine varieties in the Chianti vineyards. Little is known of the precise varietal composition of the wines before the 19th century, although the work of Cosimo Villifranchi (1773) suggests that the wine was a blend dominated by canaiolo with smaller amounts of Sangiovese, mammolo, and marzemino. Modern Chianti can be said to have been invented by Baron Bettino ricasoli, who, in a letter in 1872, synthesized decades of experimentation and recommended that the wine be based on Sangiovese (‘for bouquet and vigour’) with the addition of canaiolo to soften the wine. Malvasia was suggested as appropriate for wines to be drunk young although its use was discouraged for wines intended for ageing. By the 1960s the old sharecropping system was official abolished, leading to an exodus of workers looking for paid work in the growing industrial cities in the north. Mixed agricultural estates were transformed into a monoculture, without much attention paid to vineyard site selection for the many newly planted vineyards. The government promoted high-yielding clones of Sangiovese as well as the white Trebbiano, believing that a focus on quantity rather than quality would help to improve the economic state of the region. The DOC regulations of 1967, guided by the ‘Ricasoli formula’, therefore required between 10 and 30% of the white grapes Trebbiano and Malvasia. They also allowed generous permitted yields of 80 hl/ha (4.5 tons/acre), and put no limits on production per vine. Because of the resulting low quality and the fact that 100% Sangiovese wines were now outlawed, several quality-oriented producers decided they had no choice but to opt out of the doc system and produce instead, often using new winemaking techniques such as barrel maturation, wines labelled vino da tavola which gained swift recognition (see supertuscans). This presented the Consorzio with an embarrassing and absurd situation. From the beginning of the 1980s the Consorzio finally understood that for Chianti Classico’s quality—and price—to increase, it needed to focus on improving the output of the region’s vineyards. This coincided with the fact that most vineyards, planted in the 1960s and exhausted from excessive yields, had to be replanted. Committing itself fully to quality, the Consorzio started an in-depth study, called Chianti Classico 2000, into different clones, elevations, and soil compositions, the results of which were freely divulged to the producers. At the same time, many investors from outside the region, some foreign, were attracted by the low land prices. Many of these incomers had little prior knowledge of viticulture and winemaking, and relied heavily on consultant oenologists. Overall wine quality then improved considerably. international varieties were often added to make Sangiovese’s initial high acidity and tannic structure more appealing to international palates. At last, in 1996, Chianti Classico became autonomous, was granted its own docg, and was therefore no longer a subzone of Chianti. The suffix Classico was to be restricted to the original 7,000-ha/17,500-acres zone, with stricter regulations such as lower yields and a higher minimum of Sangiovese (80%). Many Chianti Classicos made today are 100% Sangiovese but an almost incredible 49 dark-skinned varieties are authorized to make up the additional 20%. In spite of many a marketing campaign aimed at distancing itself from generic Chianti, the Consorzio of Chianti Classico has still to make the difference clear to the general public. The region is already subdivided into nine communes (Greve in Chianti, San Casciano in Val di Pesa, Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, Barberino Val d’Elsa, Castellina in Chianti, Poggibonsi, Radda in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, and Castelnuovo Berardenga), but by 2014 the Consorzio had not condoned subzone naming on labels (as, say, Côtes-du-Rhône Villages are clearly identified). Instead the Consorzio continues to argue that the region’s elevation, exposition, and soil types (based on galestro and Alberese) are too diverse to allow for a simple system, and prefers to cling to a single name to describe such a large viticultural area while ignoring the fact that the focus of many producers has noticeably shifted away from international varieties and barrique ageing. Today they are much more likely to age Sangiovese in traditional large oak casks in order to achieve more transparency and expression of the individual terroir, emphasizing the variety’s characteristic tangy, dark-cherry flavours with a fine gravelly tannic structure in place of any vanilla from new oak. This trend has also led to a significant increase in single-vineyard Chianti Classicos. Instead of identifying and promulgating subzones, in 2014 the Consorzio introduced a new ‘top layer’ known as gran selezione to the denomination pyramid, which consists of Chianti Classico as its base and Chianti Classico riserva (with a mandatory 24 months of oak and three months of bottle ageing) above it. This supposedly top selection, made on the basis of tastings, met with lukewarm enthusiasm, as the production regulations are only marginally stricter than those for the Riserva category with which it competes.
North-eastern and smallest of the seven subzones that form chianti. Rufina was first identified as an area of superior production in Cosimo III de’Medici’s grand-ducal edict of 1716, which names the zone Pomino, a village within Rufina, after the famous estate of the Albizi family. Pomino, now owned substantially by frescobaldi, has its own doc for blends of international varieties, but the delimited zone of the DOC of 1967 followed to a substantial extent the territory first delimited by Cosimo III, with an extension of the zone to the west of the confluence of the Sieve and Arno rivers. This happens to be one case where the often contentious measure of enlarging the production zone was based on sound principles. The vineyards of Rufina are south-west facing and have soils similar to those of Chianti Classico, consisting of galestro, Alberese, and limestone at elevations from 200 to 700 m (655 to 2,300 ft). It is said that these higher elevations are responsible for the wines’ trademark acidity and longevity, but relatively few of the Rufina wines currently on the market demonstrate these qualities. Only 22 producers bottle wine, while 120 growers sell their grapes to négociants or bottlers, who often sell the result as Chianti rather than Chianti Rufina since it entails less bureaucracy. All this obscures the fact that the best of Rufina can truly be outstanding (as evidenced by the wines of Selvapiana), if producers eschew high yields and the inclusion of 30% of international varieties (as well as up to 10% white varieties) in what is a historic Sangiovese-based wine. Specific characteristics of superior communes such as Pelago, Monsecco, Cafaggio, and Travignoli are inevitably lost in the usual big blends. Rufina’s potential at least equals that of the much larger Chianti Classico, but the region has been slow to emulate the latter’s continued efforts to improve overall quality.
One of Italy’s most important wine producers, based in tuscany. The modern wine firm was founded by brothers Lodovico and Piero Antinori in 1895, although the Antinori family can trace their history in the wine trade back to 1385, when Giovanni di Pietro Antinori enrolled in the Vintners Guild of Florence. Like the vast majority of the Florentine nobility, the Antinori were, for centuries, producers of wine on their substantial country properties. The work of the 19th-century brothers was continued by Piero’s son Niccolò, who extended the house’s commercial network both in Italy and into foreign markets and purchased the Castello della Sala estate near orvieto in Umbria. The house developed a certain reputation for its white wines, sold under the Villa Antinori label, and for its Chianti, made in a soft and fruity style. Although the family fortunes flourished, Antinori was only a medium-sized operation in 1966 when Piero Antinori, the son of Niccolò Antinori, took over. By the early 1990s, he had increased the annual production fifteen-fold, giving the house a commanding position in Tuscany, based on both the excellent quality of all the firm’s wines at various price levels and, above all, on the innovative work of Antinori and its oenologist Giacomo Tachis in creating Tignanello, the prototype supertuscan; Solaia, which, together with sassicaia (initially marketed by the Antinori and whose development was assisted by Tachis), showed the potential for outstanding Cabernet in Tuscany; and Cervaro, a white wine produced at the Castello della Sala based on Chardonnay grapes and, then unusual for Italy, barrel fermented. Although it is firmly anchored in Central Italy, where its vineyard holdings were 1,475 ha/3,643 acres in 2014, Antinori has expanded steadily, securing holdings in every important or upcoming Italian wine region: Montenisa in franciacorta; the historic house of Prunotto in barolo; and Tormaresca, a large-scale operation in puglia. Internationally Antinori spread its wings quite early on, often through joint ventures, the most important of which is Antica in Napa Valley in 1993. (It was originally named Atlas Peak, now a brand acquired by accolade.) This was followed in 1995 by Col Solare in a joint venture with Ste. Michelle, in washington state. In 2007, again in a joint venture with Ste. Michelle, the legendary Stag’s Leap Winery of Napa Valley was acquired. Tuzko Bátaapáti in Hungary had been acquired in a joint venture with Fonterutoli’s Lapo Mazzei in 1991. Meridiana on malta, producing international varieties, was established in 1992, followed by Vitis Metamorfosis, a joint venture with Halewood in romania, and Haras de Pirque in chile’s Maipo Valley. Piero’s brother Lodovico Antinori independently created the internationally famous Supertuscans ornellaia and the all-Merlot Masseto at his own estate near bolgheri (now owned by the Antinoris’ great rivals the frescobaldi). With their sister Ilaria, the brothers have developed the Tenuta di Biserno project at Bibbona just north of Bolgheri. Lodovico, long a fan of Sauvignon Blanc, independently produces one in marlborough, New Zealand, with Mount Nelson Estates.
Important bolgheri estate founded in 1981 by Lodovico antinori, brother of Piero Antinori, following in the footsteps of nearby Tenuta San Guido’s phenomenal success with sassicaia. The estate was created when Lodovico acquired 70 ha of land from his mother, sister-in-law of the owner of Tenuta San Guido. He hired André Tchelistcheff as his consultant. He planted Bordeaux grape varieties and the first commercial vintage, 1985, was an immediate success, eclipsed by the estate’s release in 1986 of Masseto, a Pomerol-styled Merlot from a single vineyard. Michel rolland succeeded Tchelistcheff. In 1999 Lodovico sold a share of Ornellaia to Robert mondavi who took complete control of the estate in 2003 with the Frescobaldi family (with whom Mondavi had already started a Tuscan joint venture to produce the internationally styled supertuscan Luce). In 2005 constellation brands, which had acquired Mondavi, sold the remaining 50% of Ornellaia to Frescobaldi. This recent somewhat stormy history has never compromised the wine’s popularity nor its commercial value. Meanwhile, in 2001 Lodovico, together with Piero Antinori, founded a new estate in Bibbona north of Bolgheri, Tenuta di Biserno, where Rolland is involved in the production of Bordeaux-style wines.
Case Basse (Soldera)- Region of Production
Brunello di Montalcino
Case Basse (Soldera)- Winery Location
Case Basse (Soldera)- Year Established
Case Basse (Soldera)- Summary
Gianfranco Soldera purchased the abandoned land that would become Case Basse from sharecroppers in 1972. He and his wife, Graziella, set out to focus on sustainable agriculture—organic farming and never any pesticides or herbicides—throughout the entire 23 hectares of the estate. To develop a total ecosystem surrounding the vineyards, Graziella also created a two-hectare botanical park including an artificial lake, bird nests and over 1,000 rose varieties. Gianfranco is known as a staunch advocate for 100% Sangiovese in Brunello, and the estate grows Sangiovese exclusively. In 2013, Soldera withdrew from the local Consorzio and was in the news for having lost over 60,000 liters of wine after a disgruntled former employer broke into the cellars and drained multiple casks of wine.
Case Basse (Soldera)- Vineyard Holdings
23 ha on the Case Basse estate
Case Basse (Soldera)- Average Total Production
Case Basse (Soldera)-Top Wines Produced
- Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
- Brunello di Montalcino
- Intistieti: from younger vines or wines that do not meet Soldera’s standards for Brunello; spends four years (instead of five) in botti
- Pegasos: de-classified Brunello; only made so far from 2005 vintage
Case Basse (Soldera)- Inaugural Vintage (for top wines)
Brunello di Montalcino Riserva in 1995; Brunello di Montalcino in 1990
Case Basse (Soldera)- Brief Description of Style / Vinification Techniques
Gianfranco strives for maximum ripeness through short pruning, green harvesting, grape thinning and leaf stripping. Grapes are hand-harvested and fermented with indigenous yeasts in large, Slavonian oak casks. Maceration lasts 14-25 days with frequent pumping over. Fermentation vats are not temperature-controlled, and the fermenting wines are monitored by frequent tasting and microbiological testing by the University of Florence. Wines are aged in botti for five years, then bottled unfiltered.
Biondi Santi- Region of Production
Brunello di Montalcino
Biondi Santi- Winery Location
Biondi Santi- Year Established
Biondi Santi- Summary
Biondi Santi is widely considered the “original” creator of Brunello: The first recorded mention of a Brunello was Clemente Santi’s award-winning “select red wine (Brunello) of 1865” from his family’s Greppo estate in Montalcino at a local fair in 1867. The family has produced this wine continuously ever since, and bottles of 1888 Riservas still exist in the family cellars. Clemente’s daughter married Jacopo Biondi, and it was this couple’s son, Ferruccio, who inherited the estate and joined both last names on the wines’ labels. At a time when both oidium and phylloxera threatened the local vineyards, and turning a quick profit was in vogue, Ferruccio steadfastly focused instead on extended aging of 100% Sangiovese. Ferruccio was succeeded by his son, Tancredi, and Tancredi by his son, Franco. As Brunello became popular and much more widely produced in the second half of the 20th century, with many producers pushing for shorter aging in smaller oak barrels or the addition of international grapes to the wines, Franco Biondi-Santi remained a staunch advocate of the “traditional” style of Brunello his family had crafted for over 100 years. Franco Biondi-Santi passed away in 2013 at the age of 91. His son and daughter, Jacopo and Alessandra, now helm the estate.
Biondi Santi- Vineyard Holdings
25 ha of vines at 300 to 500 meters on stony marl
Greppo: the historic property, includes 5 ha of 40- to 70-year-old vines
Biondi Santi- Average Total Production
Biondi Santi- Top Wines Produced
- Brunello di Montalcino Riserva: from Greppo vines at least 25 years old; made only in exceptional vintages; aged for 36 months in Slavonian oak casks
- Brunello di Montalcino Annata: from Greppo vines 10-25 years old; aged for 36 months in Slavonian oak casks
- Rosso di Montalcino Fascia Rossa: a.k.a. “Red Stripe” made in years when the estate deems the quality of fruit inadequate for labeling as Brunello; aged for 12 months in Slavonian oak casks
- Rosso di Montalcino: a.k.a. “White Label”: from 5- to 10-year-old vines; aged for 12 months in Slavonian oak casks
Biondi Santi- Inaugural Vintage
Biondi Santi- Brief Description of Style / Vinification Techniques
Grapes are de-stemmed and crushed before temperature-controlled fermentation in large concrete tanks lasting 15-18 days with twice daily pump-overs. Wines are racked, then malolactic fermentation is assisted in tank. In April following harvest, wines are transferred to Slavonian oak casks for aging as outlined above.
‘holy wine’, tuscany’s classic amber-coloured dessert wine, is produced throughout this central Italian region. It is made traditionally from the local white grapes trebbiano Toscano and malvasia (although the red sangiovese is also used to produce a wine called Occhio di Pernice, or eye of the partridge) which have been dried on straw mats under the rafters. grapes were normally crushed between the end of November and the end of March, depending on the desired residual sugar level in the wine (the longer the drying process, the greater the evaporation and the sweeter the must), and then aged in small barrels holding between 50 l and 300 l/79 gal. These barrels, often bought second hand from the south of Italy, were frequently made of chestnut, but the 1980s saw a decisive turn towards oak. The barrels themselves are sealed and never topped up, resulting inevitably in ullage and oxidation which gives the wine a rancio-like aroma and its characteristic amber colour. Some producers believe in using a madre, or starter culture, comprised of yeast cells from previous batches of Vin Santo in order to help the fermentation and to add complexity to the blend. Some, view the madre as marred by faults and refuse to its use. The wine comes in lots of styles from ultra-sweet to bone-dry which resembles a dry fino sherry. The habit of keeping the barrels under the roof in a space called the vinsantaia encouraged refermentation each year when warm weather arrived and tended to exhaust the unfermented sugars that had remained in the wine. Today, most producers keep their Vin Santo in a cellar with a more constant temperature so as to retain a degree of freshness in the finished wines. Until recently, most Vin Santo was sold as a vino da tavola, simply because the authorities had struggled to codify the bewildering array of styles contained within the many localized traditions. The docs under which Vin Santo is now produced include Chianti Classico, Chianti Rufina, Chianti, Montepulciano, Colli dell’Etruria Centrale, and Val d’Arbia. Trebbiano and Malvasia remain the mainstay of many of these DOCs, as a number of producers argue that the production technique is far more important in determining the style of the eventual wine than the grape varieties used. The quality of the wine itself varies wildly, not only as a result of variation in grape composition, residual sugar, and winemaking competence, but because the land is divided between so many smallholders, all of whom seem to feel obliged to produce Vin Santo as an obeisance to the tradition of offering this wine to guests as a gesture of esteem. Although some delicious Vin Santo is made, there is also a considerable proportion with serious wine faults, particularly an excess of volatility, usually a direct consequence of lengthy barrel maturation. DOC rules insist the wine is matured for at least three years, and the better producers rarely release their Vin Santo before five years. Cask maturation, without racking, may last for up to ten years for the most traditionally made wines. Producers who manage to produce traditional yet fault-free Vin Santo include Avignonesi, Capezzana, Fontodi, Isole e Olena, Felsina Berardenga, Poliziano, Rocca di Montegrossi, San Giusto a Rentennano, and Selvapiana. The advent of DOC for Vin Santo sounded the death knell for Vin Santo Liquoroso, which was made by adding grape spirit to sweet must, and produced in four months rather than four years. An official decree stated that the name Vin Santo could only be used on wines of orgin (DOCs), so Vin Santo Liquoroso was thankfully eased off the shelves. Trentino also produces its own version of Vin Santo called Vino Santo, made from the nosiola grape and a decisively sweet dried-grape wine. These wines are different from Tuscan Vin Santo they are aged in barrels subject to regular topping up, although they too are decidedly artisanal and very variable in quality.
One of Florence’s most prominent noble families since the 13th century, are among the largest landholders in tuscany with a wide range of agricultural activities. The Frescobaldi holdings can be divided into three distinct blocks: the first, Tenuta di Castiglioni to the south west of Florence, where the family started to produce wines as early as the 1300s; the second, to the east of Florence, produces classic chianti rufina from the Nipozzano estate and the wines of Pomino; the third block is Castelgiocondo in montalcino, whose acquisition in 1989 made Frescobaldi the largest potential producer of Brunello. In 2000, Frescobaldi ventured outside Tuscany when it acquired the Conti Attems estate in friuli. In 2004, they acquired control of the ornellaia estate in bolgheri, their first foray into what had been an Antinori fief. Also in the Maremma Frescobaldi now produce international varietals on their Tenuta dell’Amiraglia. The Frescobaldi were the first Italian producers of a barrique-aged white wine, beginning in the mid 1970s with the grapes from their Benefizio vineyard at Pomino. Their single-vineyard Chianti Rufina, Montesodi, was also among the first superior all-Sangiovese wines aged in small barrels.
One of the oldest and most powerful noble families of tuscany in central Italy, important landholders between Florence and Siena for over a thousand years. The vast size of their holdings led the medieval republic of Florence to bar them from holding public office lest the combination of territorial dominion and civic position create a threat to republican liberties. Bettino Ricasoli (1809–80), a dominant figure in the political life of his time and the second prime minister of the newly united Italy in 1861, a dedicated agricultural experimenter and reformer, played a fundamental role in the revitalization of the viticulture of his time and invented what came to be the standard varietal formula for the production of chianti. Like all Tuscan landowners of the time, he believed that the sharecroppers should grow the grapes and the large commercial houses—principally controlled by the Tuscan nobility such as antinori and frescobaldi—would age and distribute the finished wines. He founded the Ricasoli négociant firm, which would assume a position of leadership in Tuscany for the better part of a century; André simon could still write after the Second World War that ‘the most reliable brand of Chianti is that of Baron Ricasoli’. The 1970s and 1980s were less kind to the fortunes of the house: a partnership with American distillers Seagram in the négociant part of the business in the 1960s, and others such as hardys of Australia, led to huge expansion of production and a general lowering of quality, and the marketing of Ricasoli wines in supermarkets and other mass distribution centres was extremely damaging to their image. In 1993, Francesco Ricasoli repurchased the family business and set about modernizing the estate. By the second decade of this century all the vineyards had been replanted, and Ricasoli had the largest number of hectares under vine of any producer in the Chianti Classico denomination. Very much in the model of a Bordeaux grand vin, they produced a Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico for the first time in 1997. This wine became a gran selezione in the 2010 vintage. The distinctive character of the neo-gothic castello, combined with the fame of both Brolio and the Ricasoli name, ensures visits from over 40,000 people a year to the Castle, the cellar door tasting room, and the osteria which serves traditional local food.
(Marches in English), the easternmost region in the central belt of Italy stretching from tuscany through umbria to the Adriatic coast (see map under italy). It shares a variety of characteristics with these neighbours to the west: a topography shaped by land rising from the coastal plains to rolling hills and, westward, to the central spine of the Apennines; and a temperate climate that, though it is marked by hot, dry summers, is not as uniform as its western neighbours. In the northern part of the region around Ancona, the climate is continental, while in the south near Ascoli Piceno it is mediterranean. This has an impact on the grape varieties that perform best in the north and south of the Marche. Some viticultural characteristics are shared with Tuscany and Umbria: calcareous soils from the sea which once covered an important part of central Italy; hillside vineyards; and large-scale plantings of sangiovese, montepulciano and verdicchio vines. The Marche has been the last of the three central Italian regions to realize its potential for good-quality wines, however, partly because the region is off Italy’s main commercial axis of Milan–Bologna–Florence–Rome–Naples, and partly because of the lack of any urban centre more important than Ancona. However, the local white verdicchio, produced in large volumes by co-ops and large bottlers, is a continuous export success, although it has obscured the fact that high-quality wines, provided yields are kept in check, can and are being made. The Marche has several authentic wine styles that are now of serious interest with more vineyards (10,376 ha/25,629 acres) dedicated to doc wines (10,376 ha) than ever. Of its 15 DOCs and three DOCGs, Verdicchio di Castelli di Jesi with 2,762 ha of vineyards is Marche’s largest. For red wines, Montepulciano, with 4,289 ha/10,598 acres, is the second most planted variety after Sangiovese (6,215 ha/15,357 acres) and produces its finest expression in Conero DOCG. Rosso Conero DOC is very similar except that notably higher yields are allowed: 13 rather than 9 tonnes/ha. The best producers stick to much lower yields. The ubiquitous Sangiovese features in no fewer than six of the Marche’s 15 DOCs. Traditionally it was blended with Montepulciano in the Rosso Piceno DOC, but the once-obligatory minimum 50% has been reduced to 15%, while varietal Sangioveses are also now allowed within this DOC. Rosso Piceno Superiore indicates a smaller historic zone with marginally lower yields. The quality of both DOCs can be irregular, from fine oak-aged wines to modest stainless steel-fermented, early-drinking versions. Sangiovese from the Colli Pesaresi near the coast in the north of the region, can be particularly elegant, notably that of Fattoria Mancini. A local speciality are the medium-bodied, fresh, perfumed reds of the growing Lacrima di Moro d’Alba zone near the town of Moro d’Alba in the north eastern corner of the Verdicchio di Castelli di Jesi zone. Offida white wines, promoted in the early 2010s from DOC to DOCG, can be produced either from the Pecorino or Passerina grapes, while red Offida must be at least 85% Montepulciano. Offida Pecorino, in particular, has benefited from the ambitions of a new generation of wine producers determined to unleash its potential by lowering yields. Curiously the parallel DOC Terre di Offida is reserved for white wines only.
Italian red wine doc based on montepulciano grapes whose full potential is yet to be realized.
Italian red wine consisting of 35–85% montepulciano and a maximum of 50% sangiovese, while Conero Sangiovese is a wine containing at least 85% of the latter.
Vernaccia Di San Gimignano
Potentially distinctive dry white wine made from the historic local vine variety of the same name, probably unrelated to any other Vernaccia, cultivated in the sandstone-based soils around the famous towers of San Gimignano in the province of Siena in tuscany in central Italy. There are references to Vernaccia in the archives of San Gimignano as early as 1276. The wine was the first ever awarded doc status, in 1966, and was elevated to docg status in 1993 in recognition of its unquestioned superiority over the standard bland Tuscan white blend of Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia. In the late 20th century Vernaccia di San Gimignano enjoyed some export success and producers were encouraged to make crisp, refreshing wines. Demand for them has since declined, despite attempts to provide complexity via small barrel maturation. Since the beginning of this century the Consorzio has promoted sustainable viticulture, and some producers have adopted organic viticulture—even going so far as to ferment Vernaccia grapes on their skins in amphorae. The best examples have a ‘minerally’, salty impact on the palate and gain both complexity and notes of ripe yellow fruit and beeswax with age. Total plantings of Vernaccia have declined, to 500 ha/1,236 acres by 2010, perhaps because of sales success with serious red wines based on sangiovese grapes (which have always been grown around San Gimignano), and because it was usurped by an influx of international varieties.
‘Holy wine’, tuscany’s classic amber-coloured dessert wine, is produced throughout this central Italian region. It is made traditionally from the local white grapes trebbiano Toscano and malvasia (although the red sangiovese is also used to produce a wine called Occhio di Pernice, or eye of the partridge) which have been dried on straw mats under the rafters, in the hottest and best-ventilated part of the peasant home (see dried-grape wines). The grapes were normally crushed between the end of November and the end of March, depending on the desired residual sugar level in the wine (the longer the drying process, the greater the evaporation and the sweeter the must), and then aged in small barrels holding between 50 l and 300 l/79 gal. These barrels, often bought second hand from the south of Italy, were frequently made of chestnut, but the 1980s saw a decisive turn towards oak. The barrels themselves are sealed and never topped up, resulting inevitably in ullage and oxidation which gives the wine a rancio-like aroma and its characteristic amber colour. Some producers believe in using a madre, or starter culture, comprised of yeast cells from previous batches of Vin Santo in order to help the fermentation and to add complexity to the blend. Others, in true Tuscan fashion, view the madre as a throwback to the time when all Vin Santo was marred by faults and refuse to countenance its use. The wine comes in a bewildering range of styles from the ultra-sweet to a bone-dry version which more closely resembles a dry fino sherry than a dessert wine. The habit of keeping the barrels under the roof in a space called the vinsantaia encouraged refermentation each year when warm weather arrived and tended to exhaust the unfermented sugars that had remained in the wine. Today, most producers keep their Vin Santo in a cellar with a more constant temperature so as to retain a degree of freshness in the finished wines. Until recently, most Vin Santo was sold as a vino da tavola, simply because the authorities had struggled to codify the bewildering array of styles contained within the many localized traditions. The docs under which Vin Santo is now produced include Chianti Classico, Chianti Rufina, Chianti, Montepulciano, Colli dell’Etruria Centrale, and Val d’Arbia. Trebbiano and Malvasia remain the mainstay of many of these DOCs, as a number of producers argue that the production technique is far more important in determining the style of the eventual wine than the grape varieties used. The quality of the wine itself varies wildly, not only as a result of variation in grape composition, residual sugar, and winemaking competence, but because the land is divided between so many smallholders, all of whom seem to feel obliged to produce Vin Santo as an obeisance to the tradition of offering this wine to guests as a gesture of esteem. Although some delicious Vin Santo is made, there is also a considerable proportion with serious wine faults, particularly an excess of volatility, usually a direct consequence of lengthy barrel maturation. DOC rules insist the wine is matured for at least three years, and the better producers rarely release their Vin Santo before five years. Cask maturation, without racking, may last for up to ten years for the most traditionally made wines. Producers who manage to produce traditional yet fault-free Vin Santo include Avignonesi, Capezzana, Fontodi, Isole e Olena, Felsina Berardenga, Poliziano, Rocca di Montegrossi, San Giusto a Rentennano, and Selvapiana. The advent of DOC for Vin Santo sounded the death knell for Vin Santo Liquoroso, which was made by adding grape spirit to sweet must, and produced in four months rather than four years. An official decree stated that the name Vin Santo could only be used on wines of orgin (DOCs), so Vin Santo Liquoroso was thankfully eased off the shelves. Trentino also produces its own version of Vin Santo called Vino Santo, made from the nosiola grape and a decisively sweet dried-grape wine. These wines are quite different from Tuscan Vin Santo since they are aged in barrels subject to regular topping up, although they too are decidedly artisanal and very variable in quality.
Heavily perfumed, historic red grape variety producing wines which supposedly smell of violets, or mammole, in central Italy. It seems to have played a significant genetic role in several Tuscan vine varieties. A permitted ingredient in chianti, and vino nobile di montepulciano, it was planted on 50 ha/123 acres in 2010. Today it is quantitatively much more important as Corsica’s sciacarello.
The Italian name for the friable rock of the marl-like soil that characterizes many of the best vineyard sites in chianti classico, and also the name of a Tuscan white wine based on trebbiano created at the end of the 1970s to soak up the surplus of white grapes that developed when producers began to reduce the amount of Trebbiano used in their chianti. It has largely faded although antinori, under its Santa Cristina label, still produces a version.
- South- West of Chianti Classico
- Hilly, with clay rich soils, warm due to the influence of the sea which is not too far.
- Wine with sweet tannins, mature where fresh and vibrant notes, typical of Chianti Classico, more mellow, doughy and ripe.
- Vineyards for production of Brunello are about 2100 hectares for a production of 60 to 80,000hl.
- Rosso Di Montalcino is produced on 500 hectares of v/ yards which provide about 25,000 hl of wine.
- The two wines must be produced only with Sangiovese that is aged for 4 yrs (including 2 yrs in wood) before being sold as Brunello
- Rosso instead requires a year of aging, usually in big casks, before being put on the market. There is also the Brunello Riserva which requires an additional year of aging than the Brunello.
- South of Chianti, in the Municipality of Montepulciano
- Variety: Sangiovese (locally called Prugnolo Gentile)- 70%. Other varieties are Canaiolo, but also other red grapes including the so- called international.
- Production varies between 50 and 60,000hl with about 1200ha of v/yards (Rosso Di Montepulciano is about 400ha for a production of 15- 20,000 ha).
- Nobile can be sold starting January 1st, 2 yrs after the harvest and require for at least 1 yr aging in wood. For the Nobile are usually used aged casks from 30 to 50 hl but also traditional barrels and 3 hl ones having a good use.
- Climate: fairly dry climate, clay rich soils and quite poor in stones; continental climate with a good temp excursion.
- The wines have a good amount of tannins, sometimes exuberant, that need time to soften.
- Doesn't have the same elegance of Chianti Classico or the sweetness of Brunello but characterised depth of flavour, quite a powerful taste and with a long thick finish.
- Located on the Tuscan coast, near the manicipality of Castagneto Carducci.
- Famous for Sassicaia, famous for international varieties such as Cabernet Sav, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
- Weather conditions are not the best for Sangiovese
- The area acts like an amphitheatre open towards the sea and protected from the high hills. These conditions means production of wines that are said to be silky, deep, sweet in tannins, characterised by dark fruits, blueberries and blackberries as well as notes of jam, coffee, licorice that make them unique and different to most wines in the Tuscan landscape which is characterised by Sangiovese
- 1000 hectares of about 50,000 hl. The varieties can be used alone or in combination and two types of wine can be produced. Vintage and Superiore.
- Vintage: put on the market 1 yr after harvest (Sept 1st). Superiore: not before Jan 1st, two yrs after harvest (2013 in 2016)
- Wines are aged in oak barrels, partial or totally new, Small amounts of oak help to soften the the wines that already have silky, fruit notes
- The areas has a lot of different clays mainly red, which impart great flavour intensity and great aging potential
Designated an IGT Toscana since the mid- 1970s, is a 47 hectare vineyard acquired in 1900 and gives its name to Antinori's most famous wine. Since 1982, Tignanello has been made from 85% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sav and 5% Cabernet Franc. The vineyard lies at 1150- 1312 feet above sea level, within the Santa Cristina estate (also known as Tenuta Tignanello).
'The Sunny one' is a 10 hectare vineyard adjacent to Tignanello in the Mercatale Val Di Pesa zone of Chianti Classico. The eponymous wine was released in 1978 as an 80% Cab Sav, 20% Cab Franc blend, although that has now evolved to a mix of 75% Cab Sav, 5% Cab Franc, 20% Sangiovese. Like Tignanello, fruit not used for the grand vin goes into Antinori's Chianti Classico Riserva, Tenute deal Marchese and the IGT Villa Antinori (60% Sangiovese, 20% Cab Sav, 15% Merlot and 5% Syrah)
Close to Tignanello, 55 ha of the 100 ha of the Peppoli estate are planted with vines. The slopes face northeast, but the unique microclimate of the valley produces a fruity Peppoli Chianti Classico and contributes to Marchese Antinori.
Badia a Passignano
The Antinori's bought the 325 hectares estate around the historic Vallombrosian Abbey in 1987, including the right to use the abbey's cellars. Fifty hectares are planted with Sangiovese from Tignanello which provides the grapes for another Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva, Badia a Passignano. Piero Antinori regards this as his testbed for the ultimate expression of Sangiovese in Tuscany. Some grapes go into Marchese Antinori.
Guado al Tasso
A massive estate of 900 hectares in the Bolgheri bowl, 60 miles SW of Florence, at just 150- 200 ft above sea level. A third of it is planted with vines; mostly Sangiovese, Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah, grapes here ripen two weeks before the Chianti holdings. The best known wines are Guado al Tasso, the Scalabrone rose, Il Bruciato and Vermentino.
La Braccesca Estate
Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano La Braccesca, Vigneto Santa Pia, Sabazio, and the Bramasole and Achelo Syrahs.
Pian Delle Vigne Estate
60 hectares of v/ yard in a 186 hectares estate bought in 1995, which provides their Brunello Di Montalcino.
Isole E Olena
Isole e Olena v/ yard goes back to the 12th Century. In the 1950s the estate changed hands, the new owners were from Piedmont. The de Marchi family also owns a v/ yard in the northern Piedmontese town of Lessona acquired Isole e Olena. In 1976 Paolo de Marchi finished his studies of Oenology in Turin, in the same year he took over the management of Isole e Olena. The de Marchi version of a super Tuscan is also pleasantly different: "Cepparello" does without merlot and cab. It is pure Sangiovese- which had more muscle than the Chianti Classico.
8th bc: Etruscans brought viticulture to Tuscany.
After fall of the Roman Empire & through the Middle Ages: monasteries were main the purveyors of wines
From 11th: a growing amount of Tuscan wine were sold in Florence
13-18th: mainly white wine region with Vernaccia from San Gimignano highly praised and prized
1716: first delimitation of the Chianti wine area
19th: statesman Bettino Ricasoli inherited an estate in Broglio, travelled Germany & France to study
grapes, experimented w several grapes and established that Sangiovese, Canaiolo & Malvasia made the
best wines. Ricasoli’s ‘recipe’ was 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo nero & 10% white varieties 5% others
1903: Chianti producers association to protect its quality -> 1931: Chianti boundaries established
1950-60s: winemakers not trained to modern and hygiene practices & highly in debt -> demise of share-cropping
system and winemakers leaving for the city
Late 1960s-late 1980s: DOC system in place & modernisation. Quantity halved, growing international reputation, DOC/DOCG zones widened to face demand
1970s: Super Tuscan revolution w the rise and/or birth of top quality wines that did not fit the legal framework
(e.g. Tignanello, Sassicaia) and using Bordeaux blends
Toscana: Climate and Weather
Warm Mediterranean climate moderated by altitude (e.g. Pomino). Harsh winters. Annual rainfall: 900mm
Wide diurnal range brought by altitude also helps maintain the balance of sugars vs. acidity & aromatics
Toscana: Typography and Soils
68% of the terrain is classed as hilly (8% only flat) w majority of vineyard 150-500m hi
Very poor soils: calcium-rich marls in best zones
Toscana: Sangiovese aka Prugnolo, Brunello, Morellino
Believed to be half Tuscan, half southern Italian
Buds early, slow & late to ripen; vigorous grape
Naturally low in anthocyanins so tendency towards
lighter colour and hi acidity (esp. if yields not
At best in Tuscany thanks to a better sun exposure
(to fully ripen) and poor soils (to temper vine vigour)
Used in Chianti blend to sweeten and soften Sangiovese’s asperity
Heavily perfumed (violet) red grape permitted in Chianti blend
Rare but still used in Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Planted in Tuscany for over 250yrs; often used to complement Sangiovese or in Supertuscans
Maritime sites ideal for Cabernet & Merlot
Toscana: Other Red White Grape Varieties
Colorino, Malvasia Nera, Merlot, Pinot Noir
Toscana: Trebbiano di Toscana
Ugni blanc in France
Toscano: workhorse grape with hi productivity,
acid-converving qualities in hot areas and
resistance to damp & frost in cooler areas
Usually little flavour
Most planted grape in Italy w presence in
every single region
Hi refreshing acidity, medium body & good citrus fruit
Aromatic white grape w hi acidity & citrus tang similar to Roussanne
Scattered plantings around Toscana
Toscana: Malvasia aka Malmsey
Usually used for Vin Santo
Toscana: Other White Wine Varieties
Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc
62,500ha –5th largest area under vine but half the production
50% of vineyard replanted in the last 30 years with improved clones
Key hazards: spring frost, hail, summer sunburn, harvest rain. Emergency irrigation allowed in Classico zone.
- In the past, white wine varieties (Malvasia) were added during fermentation to soften the tannins - Nowadays, blended with Canaiolo, Colorino, Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah
- Ageing usually in large 300l botti or barriques. Riserva wines have min 3 yrs ageing
Brunello di Montalcino / Vino Nobile di Montepulciano:
- Traditionally, extended maceration w skins (for more colour & flavours) and min 2-3yrs ageing in large Slovenian oak botti and then in bottle. Some producers now use small French barrique for oaky flavours.
- Riserva have one extra year ageing
- Grapes harvested in September/October & laid out on straw mats in ventilated rooms for drying until March
- Grapes are then crushed & fermented to different level of dryness using the madre (yeast + small amount of
finished Vin Santo from previous years) believed to jumpstart fermentation
- Wine is then aged in small 50-300l barrels for min 3 years depending on DOC (e.g. 8 years in Montepulciano).
- Producers use traditional chestnut (to promote oxidisation), juniper, cherry wood and/or oak.
Toscana: Key Appellations Info
42 DOC and 11 DOCG are spread out across the 10 provinces of Tuscany
Chianti DOCG- 17,000ha (R)
Large area stretching from Firenze’s surrounding area down south to Montalcino & Montepulciano
7 different sub-region e.g. Classico, Rufina Colli Senesi w possibility to label zone as suffix to ‘Chianti’
Chianti Rufina DOC: cool area a few kms east of Firenze; most long lived tradition of quality wines w most
of the vineyards in altitude (up to 900m) on chalky, marl soils. Frescobaldi & Antinori families dominate
DOCG: min 80% Sangiovese, min 3 months ageing & 11.5% abv
The wines have hi acidity & tannins, med body w sour cherry and earthy flavours.
Chianti, as a region, produces 750,000hl/yr of wine i.e. 25% of the region’s production
Growers represented by Chianti Consorzio, which sets the rules on grapes allowed. In 2002, international varieties from 10 to 15% in Chianti. White varieties phased out of the blend.
Chianti Classico DOCG- 7,140ha (R)
Original Chianti zone from 1716 delimitation between Firenze and Siena.
Ideal growing conditions for Sangiovese: hillside vineyards btw 250-500m hi w good drainage, chalky
malaceous soils (galestro) in the north or weathered sandstone (albarese) towards the south
Medium-bodied wines with firm tannins, med-hi acidity w floral, cherry and light nutty notes.
Best wines come from medium altitude sites south of Greve and north of Radda & Castellina.
Production supervised by the Consorzio del Vino Chianti Classico, a union of producers, which sponsors research into viticultural and winemaking practice (esp. clonal selection for project ‘Chianti 2000’). Gallo Nero
Brunello di Montalchino DOCG- 1,200ha (R)
Area south-east of the Chianti by the border with Umbria; DOCG since 1980
One of Toscana’s warmest & driest climates w 700mm w northern slopes less exposed (slower ripening) vs.
southern slopes (more exposure + maritime winds). The higher altitude (up to 500m hi), poor soils and
climate mean that Sangiovese ripens more consistently than anywhere else in Toscana.
Various terroirs w limestone, clay, schist & volcanic soils.
100% Brunello (one of Sangiovese’s clones) released min 4 yrs after harvest & min 2 yrs in cask.
Wines have full-bodied w hi but smooth & ripe tannins, hi acidity and intense black fruit flavours (blackberry, black cherry, black raspberry), chocolate, leather & violets. Can age 10-20yrs+.
200 producers for 330,000cs/yr w 1/3 of production exported to the US.
2008 Brunellopoli scandal w 4 producers accused of using international grapes for Brunello wines.
Vino Noble di Montepulciano- 1,500ha (R)
First DOCG classified (1980)
Warm area, Higher percentage of sandy soils; mainly east to south east facing slopes up to 600m hi although
best wines tend to come from the lower vineyards.
Min 70% Prugnolo Gentile (another Sangiovese clone), 10-20% Canaiolo Nero & local varieties e.g. Mammolo
More full-bodied and alcoholic vs. Chianti
Rosso di Montalcino (R) and Rosso di Montepulciano DOC (R)
Same grapes and area as Vino Nobile/Montepulciano but only 1yr min ageing before release.
Wines are lighter & fruitier & to be drunk younger. Similar to Bordeaux’s 2nd label wine for most producers.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG (W)
Area west of the Chianti Classico; 30kms from Radda; 1st ever DOC (1966) & now only white DOCG in Toscana
Sandstone-based vineyards on high altitude hills w great diurnal range and better exposure in Autumn
Best examples have a high crisp acidity, medium body, citrus-flavoured and w a slightly bitter finish.
Min 90% Vernaccia & 10% non aromatic white; usually fermented in stainless steel. Some use oak ageing.
Bolgheri DOC (R/W)
DOC created in 1994 in recognition of super Tuscan in the area but did not comply with DOC regulations
More temperate climate (proximity to the sea) & gravelly, chalky soils (known as Sassicaia) are ideal to grow
Sangiovese up to 70%, Cabernet 10-80%, Merlot up to 80%. Must be aged for 24 mths.
The subzone Sassicaia must be aged 26 months and is expected to DOCG status.
Regional appellation introduced in 1992 & used by producers (incl. Antinori w Tignanello) to make prestigious outside the DOC regulations.
Carmignano DOCG & Pomino DOC
North of Florence. Serious reds made from Sangiovese with a percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Vin Santo DOCs
Dessert wines elevated to DOC in most Tuscan wine regions; produced mainly from Malvasia & Trebbiano
Wines have a pale to dark amber colour, nutty or raisin notes with honey and cream attributes
1999, 2000, 2001, 2004 & 2006 have all been excellent vintages for the reds.
3m hl/yr production - #7th largest wine producing region rd
DOC represents 52% of total and makes Tuscany i.e. the 3 highest volume of DOC/G after Sicily & Puglia. oKey producers:
Marchesi Antinori – 18m btls/yr
- One of the biggest Italian wine company founded in 1385 & involved in the 70s Super Tuscan revolution
- Launched a barriques-aged Sangiovese-Cab Sauv-Cab Franc made from the 47ha vineyard of Tignanello
in 1971 propelled Tuscany on the international fine wine scene. Solaia followed (80% Cab Sauv)
- Other signature wines include Peppoli Chianti Classico and the 500ha Umbria’s Castello della Sala (Cervaro)
Marchesi Frescobaldi – 6.7m btls/yr
- Oldest wine family company in Italy & the world (founded in 1141); has produced Tuscan wine since 1308
- Entered a joint venture w Mondavi in 95 and has since Constellation’s acquisition of Mondavi regained
control of Luce della Vite and Ornellaia
- Very wide range incl. Nipozzano, Pomino Bianco but no Chianti Classico
Biondi Santi - Montalcino
- First ‘modern’ Brunello made by Ferruccio Biondi-Santi in 1888
- Signature wine: the ‘Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Il Greppo’. Super Tuscan from Maremma ‘Schidione’ - Reputation has been preceding quality since the late 70s as the estate did not keep up w improvements
Brunello di Montalcino
Brunello di Montalcino is a wine made with 100% Sangiovese with Italy’s highest DOCG classification. This is the Sangiovese that most wine critics cite to be the best in all of Italy. Brunello di Montalcino is made with a local Tuscan type of Sangiovese called Brunello. It’s noted for having larger berries and, because of this, Brunello produces wines with exceptionally bold fruit flavors, high tannin, and high acidity. The fruit is a highlight to the enduring popularity of Brunello di Montalcino, but it’s the tannins and acidity that extend the life of this wine so it reaches perfection a decade or more later. It’s worth the wait.
Brunello di Montalcino- Young
Imagine a smart, somewhat cocky, flamboyant, young brunette–this is young Brunello. Wines are packed with fruit and flower flavors including cherries, dried cranberry, wild strawberry, blackberry, violets, potpourri and licorice. When you taste it, Brunello di Montalcino exudes earthy notes of espresso and tilled soil along with mouth-gripping tannins. It’s a bold wine, but because of the high acidity it ends on a tart, astringent note that will have you licking the insides of your mouth. This astringency is why most reviews suggest a drink-by window several years after its release date.
Brunello di Montalcino- Old
Now that the wine has aged and been softened by time, our Brunello is more ravishing than ever. With 10+ years of age, Brunello di Montalcino drops the fresh fruit flavors to reveal sweeter notes of dried figs, candied cherries, hazelnuts, and sun-baked leather. The tannins turn chocolatey and the acidity is succulent. I haven’t met anyone drinking perfectly aged Brunello that doesn’t think it’s fantastic.
Awesome Sangiovese Vintages in Italy....
2015 A very well balanced vintage offering explosive red cherry fruit, balanced tannins and acidity. This vintage will age for well over 10 years and make sure you age it for at least 8.
2012 An outstanding vintage according to Consorzio Brunello di Montalcino.
2010 A fantastic bold fruit vintage offering flavors in both the red and black fruit spectrum with massive tannins. Wines from this vintage should start tasting awesome around 2018–2025
2007 An outstanding vintage according to Consorzio Brunello di Montalcino.
2006 Another bold fruit vintage that’s been ready to drink since 2015
2004 A great vintage to seek out now
2001 Wines from this vintage are heading towards more tertiary fruit development from exceptional producers who focus on more age-worthy wines. Think figs, hazelnuts, stewed cherries.
1997 Wines will have more tertiary flavors (nutty flavors, dried fruit and flower notes) from exceptional producers.
Brunello di Montalcino- Aging
Brunello di Montalcino is required to be aged for a minimum of 5 years prior to release (6 for Riserva bottlings). In most Brunello, you’ll start to notice 2 schools of thought used for the aging routine with Brunello di Montalcino wines:
Traditional Method: Some producers prefer the more traditional method of using more large well-used Slavonian oak barrels (called botte from northeastern Croatia) that impart very little oak lactones into the wine and are used simply as vessels to encourage tertiary flavor development through oxygen exposure. Wines develop more dried fruit, leather and flower flavors and have a long aging potential.
Modern Method: Borrowing innovations from France in Bordeaux, some producers use more new, smaller French barrels (called barriques) that impart more oak lactones into the wine and encourage the development of black fruit, chocolate, brown sugar and vanilla flavors. Because oxygen exposure is increased due to oak-to-wine surface area, you can expect modern method Montalcino wines will often be ready to drink sooner than traditional method wines.
Brunello di Montalcino
100% Sangiovese (Brunello) produced and bottled in Montalcino. Minimum 12.5% ABV.
Normale: 5 years required aging after harvest vintage with 2 years minimum in oak and 4 months in bottle.
Riserva: 6 years required aging after harvest vintage with 2 years minimum in oak and 6 months in bottle.
Rosso di Montalcino
100% Sangiovese (Brunello) produced and bottled in Montalcino. Minimum 12% ABV. 1 year aging prior to release with no oak aging requirements.
Any white or red grapes allowed in Tuscany produced as single-varietal wine or blend (labeled bianco or rosso) from Montalcino and bottled within Siena. For example, may include Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, etc.
Moscadello di Montalcino
Still, Sparkling and Late Harvest white wines made with 100% Muscat Blanc. Still and Sparkling wines have a minimum of 10.5% ABV and Late Harvest have a minimum of 11.5% ABV (15% potential alcohol). Late Harvest must not be released until 2 years after harvest vintage.
Also known as governo alla toscana, since it is most closely associated with tuscany, is a winemaking technique once widely used in the various chianti production zones, and occasionally in umbria and the marche. The technique consisted of setting aside and drying grapes from the September and October harvest, pressing them in mid to late November, and introducing the resulting unfermented grape juice into young wines which had just completed their alcoholic fermentation, thereby restarting the fermentation. This practice led to a slight increase in the alcoholic strength of the wines, but its principal and most desirable effect was to encourage the malolactic conversion, which was not always easy in the cold cellars of the past, with wines made from a grape as high in acidity as sangiovese. A side-effect was to increase the level of carbon dioxide in the wine, some of which inevitably remained in young Chianti, bottled and marketed in the spring after the harvest. One of the precise purposes of the governo was to make the wines marketable at an earlier date by accelerating the malolactic conversion. Occasionally a second addition (rigoverno) is made in spring, producing a deeply coloured, fragrant wine with low acidity. Today governo is much less widely used as producers have striven to transform Chianti’s image from quaffing wine to a serious candidate for bottle ageing. The technique was also used in the verdicchioproduction zone in the Marche, to add fizz and a slight sweetness—from the high sugar content of the dried grapes—to counteract Verdicchio’s occasionally bitter finish. It has virtually disappeared here now.
Sangiovese- Outside Italy
Like other Italian grape varieties, particularly red ones, Sangiovese was taken west, to both North and South America, by Italian emigrants. In South America it is best known in Argentina, where there were 2,000 ha/5,000 acres in 2012, mainly in Mendoza province, producing wine that few Tuscan tasters would recognize as Sangiovese. In California, however, international recognition for the quality of Supertuscans brought a sudden increase in Sangiovese’s popularity in the late 1980s and 1990s. By 2003, acreage had increased to nearly 3,000 but this had fallen to 1,800 acres by 2012, perhaps partly because California Sangiovese, typically more fruit-driven than the prototype, failed to establish a strong identity. antinori, unsurprisingly, persists with the variety at their Antica winery on Atlas Peak above Napa Valley. The grape also seems to be losing favour in Washington state where plantings had fallen to below 200 acres by 2011. In Australia, however, it has the allure of being classified an alternative variety and total area exceded 575 ha by 2012 even if renditions varied considerably in style and quality. It is a minor feature in South Africa and Chile
Qualitatively variable red grape variety that is Italy’s most planted wine vine and is particularly common in central Italy. In 1990, almost 10% of all Italian vineyards, or more than 100,000 ha/247,000 acres, were planted with some form of Sangiovese, although this had fallen to 71,558 ha/176,824 acres by 2010. In its various clonal variations and names (brunello, prugnolo gentile, Morellino, nielluccio), Sangiovese is the principal vine variety for fine red wine in tuscany, the sole grape permitted for brunello di montalcino (in theory), and the base of the blend for chianti, vino nobile di montepulciano, and the vast majority of supertuscans. It is, in addition, the workhorse red grape of all of central Italy, widely planted in umbria (where it gives its best results in the docg wines Torgiano and Montefalco), in the marche (where it is the base of Rosso Piceno and an important component of Rosso Conero), and in lazio. Sangiovese can be found as far afield as Lombardy and Valpolicella to the north and Campania to the south. Sangiovese is widely thought to be of ancient origin, as the literal translation of its name (‘blood of Jove’) suggests, and it has been postulated that it was even known to the etruscans. Yet in 2004, researchers Vouillamoz and Grando at san michele all’adige identified the parents of Sangiovese: the Tuscan ‘cherry grape’ ciliegiolo and Calabrese Montenuovo, an obscure variety found in Campania though probably originating from Calabria. Other Italian researchers had established a direct link between Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo in 2002, but the parentage remained incomplete until Calabrese Montenuovo was DNA-typed by chance at San Michele all’Adige and identified as the other parent. Ciliegiolo was already cited in Tuscany in 1590 by Giovanvettorio Soderini under the name Ciriegiulo. In his book, Soderini also mentioned the variety Sangiogheto. This is commonly accepted as the first historical mention of Sangiovese, but there is no evidence that Sangiogheto actually was Sangiovese. Indeed, when Soderini writes about the ways to make a very good wine, he says ‘beware of the Sangiogheto, who thinks to make wine from it will make vinegar’. Moreover, Sangiovese was rare or almost unknown in Tuscany prior to 1700, whereas trebbiano and malvasia were the most widespread grapes. This is consistent with Sangiovese’s probably being born some time before 1700 from a spontaneous cross between Ciliegiolo and Calabrese Montenuovo. Calabrese Montenuovo is not a registered variety, and its true identity is still not known, but researchers were prompt to make it clear that it is not nero d’avola from Sicily, a variety often called Calabrese. In fact, the name Calabrese is commonly used for several distinct cultivars in Italy, even for Sangiovese.
Cosimo Trinci, in 1738, observed that wines made solely from Sangiovese were somewhat hard and acid, but excellent when blended with other varieties, a judgement echoed by Giovanni Cosimo Villifranchi in 1883. Bettino ricasoli found a way to tame Sangiovese’s asperity—a substantial addition of sweetening and softening canaiolo—which became the basis of all modern Chianti and of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (although Ciliegiolo, mammolo, and colorino as well as the white grapes Malvasia and, especially, Trebbiano were subsequently added to the authorised blend). The use of small oak barrels, begun in the 1970s, can be seen as a modern solution to the same problem of excessive asperity.
Conventional ampelographical descriptions of Sangiovese, based on the pioneering work of G. Molon in 1906, divide the variety into two families: the Sangiovese Grosso, to which Brunello, Prugnolo Gentile, and the Sangiovese di Lamole (of Greve in Chianti) belong, and the Sangiovese Piccolo of other zones of Tuscany, with the implicit identification of a superior quality in the former. Current thinking is that this classification is too simplistic, that there is a large number of clones populating the region’s vineyards, and that no specific qualitative judgements can be based on the size of either the berries or the bunches. Significant efforts are at last being made to identify and propagate superior clones; mass selection in the past sought principally to identify high-yielding clones without any regard for wine quality. The variety adapts well to a wide variety of soils, although the presence of limestone seems to exalt the elegant and forceful aromas that are perhaps the most attractive quality of the grape. Sangiovese’s principal characteristic in the vineyard is its slow and late ripening—harvests traditionally began after 29 September and even today can easily be protracted until or even beyond mid October—which gives rich, alcoholic, and long-lived wine in hot years and creates problems of high acidity and hard tannins in cool years. Over-production tends to accentuate the wine’s acidity and lighten its colour, which can oxidize and start to brown at a relatively young age. The grape’s rather thin skin creates a certain susceptibility to rot in cool and damp years, which is a serious disadvantage in a region where rain in October is a frequent occurrence. Too often Sangiovese has been planted with scant attention to exposure and elevation in Tuscany, where the vine is often cultivated at up to or even above 500 m/1,640 ft. A good part of recent viticultural research in Tuscany—which has involved increased vine density, lower yields per vine, better clones, more appropriate rootstocks, lower vine-training systems, small oak barrels, more suitable supplementary varieties for blending, different temperatures and lengths of fermentation—has been dedicated to resolving a single problem: how to put more meat on Sangiovese’s bones, how to add flesh to its sizeable, but not always sensual, structure. Throughout modern Tuscany, Sangiovese is now often blended with a certain proportion of the Bordeaux grape cabernet sauvignon, whether for Chianti (in which case the interloper should not exceed 15% of the total) or a highly priced vino da tavola. Even in this commercially successful blend, sanctioned by the doc authorities in carmignano, Cabernet can overwhelm the Sangiovese. In umbria, the variety dominates most of the region’s best red wine, as in the Torgiano of the producer lungarotti. But in terms of quantity rather than quality, Sangiovese is most important in Romagna (see emilia-romagna), where sangiovese di romagna is as common as the lambruscovine is in Emilia. Sangiovese di Romagna wine is typically light, red, ubiquitous, and destined, quite properly, for early consumption. The most widely planted Sangiovese vines planted in Romagna appear to have little in common with Tuscany’s most revered selections, although there has been some careful clonal selection in Romagna with promising results, and two of the best clones currently being used to repopulate Tuscan vineyards, R24 and T19, are in fact from Romagna. Some Sangiovese is grown in the south of Italy, where it is usually used for blending with local grapes, and the success of Supertuscans has inevitably led to a certain amount of experimentation with the variety to the north of Tuscany too. dna profiling has further suggested that Sangiovese is a parent of several significant southern Italian varieties including frappato, gaglioppo, nerello mascalese, and perricone.
The crescent-shaped strip that runs along Italy’s Mediterranean coast from the French border to the edge of Tuscany is Italy’s third smallest wine-producing region after the Valle d’Aosta and Molise. See map under italy, and see genoa, vernaccia, and italy for some historical detail. The extremely rugged terrain—the Apennines descend virtually all the way to the sea—combined with the minute size of individual properties make agriculture in general and viticulture in particular a marginal activity, and the greater economic possibilities offered by the thriving tourist industry, commercial flower-, vegetable-, and olive-growing have steadily drained manpower from the region’s vineyards ever since the Second World War. However, Liguria’s total vineyard area, 1,568 ha/3,873 acres, has been stable in recent years, with more than half of it dedicated to the production of doc wine. A crossroads of trade and traffic between Italy, France, and Spain, Liguria has long cultivated myriad vine varieties, and a census of the province of Imperia in 1970 revealed no fewer than 123. Many of these have since been abandoned, although renewed interest in indigenous varieties has saved several from extinction, notably the white Scimiscià, which in 2003 was officially included in the national register. The region is concentrating its efforts on the white wine grapes vermentino (pigato) and the less characterful Bosco, and the red varieties rossese, sangiovese, and dolcetto (the last of these called Ormeasco in Liguria). Ormeasco, Pigato (now proved identical to Vermentino), Rossese, and Vermentino each have their own overarching DOC within the Riviera Ligure di Ponente zone, a wide stretch of territory between Genoa and the French border, which has been divided in five smaller subzones: Albenga, Finale, Quiliano, Riviera dei Fiori, and Taggia. Liguria’s most renowned wine, the white Cinqueterre, is perhaps most famous for its vertigo-inducing vineyards perched on terraces sculpted into cliffsides high above the Ligurian Sea. The wine itself, made from Vermentino plus Albarola and/or Bosco, occasionally rises above thirst-quenching level. The rare Sciacchetrà, a sweet Cinqueterre made from passito grapes, is enjoying a modest comeback. Production of Vermentino is concentrated in Castelnuovo Magra, to the south of La Spezia in the Colli di Luni DOC zone, and in Diano Castello and Imperia in the province of Imperia. The name Pigato is traditional in Ranzo and Pieve di Teco, to the north of the city of Imperia. Ormeasco (Dolcetto) is produced almost exclusively in Pornassio and Pieve di Teco. The rossese grape, sometimes called ‘Italy’s Pinot Noir’, has its own DOC near Ventimiglia, Rossese di Dolceacqua or simply Dolceacqua. The wine, combining aromas of blackcurrants and roses with power and delicacy, is produced on steep vineyards clinging to the coast, fighting a losing battle against greenhouses for vegetables. This admired but tiny DOC is divided among 14 villages, each with their own cru vineyards at 400 m/1,312 ft elevation, sometimes higher. A new generation, determined to save the steep vineyards from being abandoned, is focusing on the production of high-quality wines which seem ripe for elevation to docg status.
A cold and rainy winter preceded an irregular spring followed by exceptionally hot, dry summer weather, creating small bunches of Sangiovese, so yields were down across the region – exacerbated by several violent August hailstorms – although concentration levels are very good.
A rainy, mild winter was followed by a cool spring, with one exceptional patch of high temperatures causing early budbreak and quick and generous fruit set. But the growing cycle was protracted due to cool weather and frequent hailstorms in July and August, causing widespread downy mildew. An exceptionally mild and dry September and early October turned a potentially disastrous vintage into a surprisingly good one, but with generally much lighter, earlier-ripening wines than 2013.
Considered a ‘classic vintage’ due to harvest taking place at the beginning of October. (This used to be the norm but the previous two, much warmer, years brought harvests forward to the beginning of September.) A very cool wet spring delayed budbreak by an average of two weeks. A very wet May that encouraged widespread and continued spraying was followed by a cool June. A picture-perfect July, August and September saved the year, one that resulted in elegant, fresh wines. A promising vintage on the whole, with the wines of Montalcino expected to be exceptional.
An unusually mild winter ended with a very cold February with lots of snow that replenished water tables. Spring was more or less regular with a warm and dry June, while temperatures climbed relentlessly during July and August. Just when producers feared a repeat of the scorching 2011, and vines had but all shut down, the rain that fell at the very end of August reignited growth and ripening. In spite of the intense heat, 2012 resulted in medium-bodied, fresh and at times rather light wines, arguably a welcome change from the heavy and sometimes alcoholic 2011s.
An exceptionally hot vintage with a very irregular weather pattern. A very cold and snowy winter preceded an unusually warm beginning of spring, although budbreak was not much earlier than normal. April was very hot, followed by a cool May. This pattern of alternating cold and hot periods had a ‘stop-go’ effect on the growth of the vines. The middle of August brought record-breaking heat and the grapes seemed prematurely ready, with some producers picking at the end of August to rescue the fruit from the burning sun. September remained extremely warm and 2011 was the year in which the sorting table arrived en masse in Chianti Classico. Many wines are rich, but fortunately still have enough freshness, although it is doubtful that this will remain during prolonged bottle ageing.
Much cooler than the hot 2009. A very wet winter continuing into a very wet spring was followed by a cool growing cycle. The heat that came in July helped to reduce the delay in ripening that was by then an estimated 15 days behind schedule. Sangiovese was harvested as late as the third week of October and many producers had to do several pickings to obtain regularly ripe grapes in the fermentation tanks. Montalcino, exceptionally, was drier than other parts of Tuscany and the long and slow ripening of the grapes resulted in what is considered an outstanding vintage with true ageing potential for years to come.
Initially hailed as a great vintage but the wines, rich and at times jammy with high alcohol, have begun to betray the exceptionally hot summer as they develop in bottle. A very wet winter was followed by a regular spring with a very hot May, with temperatures up to 30 ºC, resulting in a swift flowering and fruit set. The vintage looked to be 10 days earlier than normal, until mid May brought 30 solid days of rain. August was extremely hot with day temperatures reaching 40 ºC, although nights were much cooler than in 2003, which helped to preserve the freshness in the grapes. While the 2009s overall showed richness of fruit with good acidity, in many cases a certain jamminess looks likely to affect their ageing ability.
A relatively cool year with high diurnal temperature differences resulting in wines generally high in acidity and with firm tannins. The heterogeneity of finished wines suggests that this is a vintage in which the best terroirs shine. This seems to be true of Chianti Classico too, where the 2007s were initially considered greater. However, the best 2008s, especially the truly serious Riservas, should prove to have complexity as well staying power.
Tremendous: high alcohol and good acidity with consistent ripening, after a worryingly erratic budburst. Especially good for Chianti and Montalcino, and for Cabernet Sauvignon in Bolgheri.
Very promising vintage with a steady, prolonged growing season and well balanced wines.
Grapes had to be picked before the rain really set in if decent wine was to be made. A notable exception to my five year rule
Exceptionally good vintage, central Italy’s equivalent of the perfect growing season that France experienced in 2005.
Very difficult heatwave conditions were felt in all but the highest vineyards of Chianti Classico. Wines generally pretty unbalanced.
Exceptionally wet summer resulted in rotten grapes, many of which failed to reach full ripeness. A real annus horribilis.
Smallish crop thanks to April frosts. June and July were dry but August and especially September were quite wet with rain threatening vine health as harvest time approached.
Easy, ripe wines from a very hot, dry vintage which, unless vineyards were extremely well-managed, resulted in wines with a certain hollowness, though no shortage of alcohol.
Quite exceptionally good quality. A vintage not unlike 1997 but with arguably more finesse and less sheer mass. Warm summer led to an early harvest of healthy grapes.
Irregular vintage after another hot summer which stressed the vines.
Hot summer and very ripe grapes that produced wines that seemed unusually luscious at the time even if some could do with a little more freshness.
Very varied year producing soft, early maturing wines that should have been drunk by now.
Nail-bitingly late harvest saved by an unusually warm, dry October, although acids are still generally high.
At last a dry but cool harvest: rich and structured and certainly the best since 1990.
Survived the rains better than Piemonte, concentration held up, but some picked unripe fruit.
A big crop of rather light wines to drink young.
Endless harvest rains so the best were no more than pleasant.
A hot year and low yields, the ingredients for really good wines, especially in Montalcino.
Distinctly inferior to Piemonte. Light if not watery, so best to avoid.
Delightfully smooth wines, balanced and ripe from low yields.