Tuscan Wine, Part II: Mini-Guide to Reds of Tuscany

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*This is a continuation of our guest post by Amy. Part I is here if you haven’t checked it out yet!

Chianti and Chianti Classico

Chianti is what I consider the most prevalent and most representative of Tuscan wine and the Tuscan “terroir.”  Chianti is permitted to include as little as 70% Sangiovese (a minimum of 80% for DOCG), a maximum of 10% Canaiolo, and up to 15% of any other red wine grape grown in the region, such as Cabernet Sauvignon.  In some rare cases it could include up to 10% of the white wine grapes Malvasia and Trebbiano.


Tasting notes: Chianti is classified as a medium-bodied wine (however I think you could also say in some cases it is a full-bodied wine depending on the age and your palette).  Chianti is also a very tannic wine because the soil around Florence/Tuscany can be rocky and dry and sometimes rich in clay.  You may notice you will want to order extra water if you are drinking a Chianti for the first time because it could make your mouth feel very dry.  Other descriptions include a cherry, nutty, or floral aroma.

There are a few levels of Chianti with the first being a chianti or chianti classico, then Riserva, and finally a Gran Selezione.  These levels are defined by additional aging and aging methods.  For example a Riserva is aged for at least 27 months, some of it in oak, and must have a minimum alcohol content of 12.5%.  You should also expect to see an increase in price between each level.  

Chianti to try: Rocca di Montegrossi (Chianti Classico Riserva) from 32 Euros




The supertuscan is a category of wines from Tuscany that allow wine makers and producers to have a little fun and avoid the restrictions that accompany wines such as the Chianti Classico.  Supertuscans can be made with other grape varieties (as well as with traditional varieties like Sangiovese) that are not typically grown in Tuscany, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot.  Supertuscans in the past were only able to be labeled as generic red wines or table wines, but since the 1970’s when the “IGT” designation was created, they have grown in notoriety and popularity, as well as in price.  I love many supertuscans because they tend to be more round in flavor since they are able to use different grape varieties and less tannic or dry in the mouth.


Nobile di Montepulciano

As the name suggests, a Vino Nobile comes from Montepulciano which is roughly around 2 hours by car from Florence. Nobile is made from a minimum of 70% sangiovese, 10-10% of cannaiolo nero and smaller amounts of other local varieties such as mammolo.  It is aged for at least 2 years with the second year being in oak barrels.  If it is a riserva it will be aged for a total of 3 years.

Tasting Notes: As with many Tuscan red wines, you might taste ripe dark berries or black cherries. This type of wine can be more rounded when it comes to tannins and some might describe it as more velvety and well rounded in the mouth. Depending on the age and vineyard, you may also notice subtle notes of spices or black pepper.

Nobile to try: Tiberini Vigneto Fossatone Riserva 2012 from 36 Euros https://www.wine-searcher.com/wine-285338-0001-tiberini-vigneto-fossatone-vino-nobile-di-montepulciano-riserva-docg-italy


Bolgheri (or in particular Bolgheri Rosso)

Bolgheri is the name of this type of wine because it is actually from the Bolgheri region and this is the region is the home to some of the original supertuscan wines. What is unique about Bolgheri wines is that they are fairly new.  The first vines of these Bordeaux varieties were planted in 1944 and by 1978 an Italian Bolgheri (Sassicaia) won a blind taste test among Cabernet Sauvignon based wines from France and California.  What this might mean for you is if you are a french red wine lover, this Tuscan wine might be for you!  For a Bolgheri, Sangiovese can be used up to 70%, and anything above would actually be classified as an IGT.  Bolgheri can also include Cabernet Sauvignon from 10 to 80%, Merlot, up to 80% and other local red varieties, up to 30%.  A red Bolgheri wine must be aged at least 24 months.  

Tasting Notes: From my experience, because it is often a blend of different varieties, a Bolgheri rosso can be more rounded or smooth in the mouth and is normally more fruit/berry forward.  Some may describe it as juicy with more moderate tannins, and depending on age, it may have more notes and aroma of oak.

Bolgheri to try: Podere ritorti from 22 Euros



Rosso di Montalcino

This wine is what you might call the “little brother” to the wine you will read about next, the Brunello.   One of the reasons this wine category was developed was in order to be able to produce wine from of younger vines and younger fruit.  This means this wine has a fresher/younger taste and feel.  Also because it is only required to be aged a minimum of one year with only 6 months required in oak.  Because of this, Brunello producers are still able to make and sell wine while they wait for their Brunello to reach maturation and DOCG standards.  A Brunello can also be “declassified” if for example, it is not aging properly or to the winemakers standards for a Brunello and then can be sold after 2 to 3 years

Tasting Notes: This wine may be fuller bodied since it is 100% sangiovese, with notes of deep black cherry and wild berry.  Because it is aged in oak, there may also be notes of spice and vanilla.

Rosso di Montalcino to try: Il Poggione 2015 from 16 Euros



Brunello di Montalcino (DOCG)

As the name suggests this wine heralds from Montalcino, which is a city about 1 hour and 45 minute drive Southeast of Florence.  It is known as one of the best and most expensive wines in Italy.  It is normally 100% Sangiovese as set by its DOCG denomination.  It is typically aged for at least 3 years in a combination of large slovenian oak barrels and sometimes smaller french oak barrels and then at least 4 months in the bottle.  Brunello is most often compared to Pinot Noir from Burgundy.  If you have already begun to explore Italian wines, you may already know that it has become quite popular in the US with 1 out of every 3 bottles produced being sold in the US.  Some experts believe that it takes most Brunellos at least 10 years for to truly open up and reach their potential so if you would like to invest in a wine to take or send home and cellar this would be a perfect option.

Tasting Notes:

Although Brunellos are similar to Chianti in that they are both made with primarily Sangiovese grapes, the Brunello has notes (flavor as well as aroma) of many red fruits including: blackberry, black cherry, black raspberry, chocolate, leather and violets.  Its deeper flavor and body also come from its further age in oak.  It’s high acidity makes it best with grilled meats and game.

Brunello to try: Pian Delle Vigne 2012 by Antinori from 46 Euros (this is a larger producer at a lower price point, but a Brunello can range from about 45 Euros up to hundreds or more!)



Honorable mentions:

Vin Santo (dessert wine often served with cantucci, which are called biscotti outside of Italy)

Vernaccia (white wine)

Carmignano (supertuscan)

Part III coming soon on these and more! Stay tuned!

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