Viticulture has flourished in Tuscany since the middle ages, and today the region is best known for its youthful dry red wines, typified best by Chianti.
Types of Wine/Grapes
The sangiovese vine is the backbone of the region’s production, and is virtually synonymous with the fine wines of Tuscany. It is the sole grape premitted for Brunello di Montalcino and provides the base for Chianti, Montepulciano and most of the SuperTuscans. When used alone it requires much effort to produce a full-flavoured rich wine, so it is most often blended with other grapes – principally cabernet sauvignon.
Trebbiano forms the basis of white wine production in Tuscany, cultivated largely for its high productivity and its acid-conserving properties in hot areas. Its rather neutral qualities mean that it is most often reserved for bulk quaffing wine, or used as a neutral base for other grapes, such as malvasia del chianti. Many producers are now showing an interest in other varieties, such as chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, especially in the higher areas where sangiovese grapes ripen poorly.
By far the most important wines produced from this region are the easy drinking Chianti and Chianti Classico. Most of these belong to the Classico’s marketing consortium and bear the ‘gallo nero’ symbol, but the Chianti Colli Fiorentini and Chianti Rufina consortia also guarantee the production of certified wines. A new breed of Tuscan red wines are the Super-tuscans, which are made in a more international style using French wine varieties such as cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Other important Tuscan wines are Montalcino, Montepulciano, Bolgheri, Carmignano and Maremma wines. For white wines, the key production area is San Gimignano.
With most of the Tuscan landscape hilly or undulating, hillside vineyards at relatively high altitudes provide the majority of better quality wines in Tuscany. These provide the necessary hours and concentration of sunlight for grapes to ripen, and growers also value the significant temperature fluctuations between day and night. Classed as Mediterranean, the Tuscan climate is harsh in winter.