Tuscany is all about red, although some producers have managed to create very good Chardonnay wines, the local whites are really not to the same standard although enjoyable and cheap. As Sangiovese continues to shape the landscape, despite the wonderful blended wines produced by Le Macchiole and clan, we will see better and better Brunello's in the best vintages of the decade, which we can all agree, can only be a good thing.
Tuscany's best vintage of recent years came in 2004 with fantastic results in Montalcino. 2004 was considered a 5 star vintage. 2004 yielded 25% more in quantity and so there is an abundance of very high quality Chianti, Brunellos and Montepulicano's on the market from 2004. Tuscany has had 3 other brilliant vintages over the past 10 years including 97, 99 and 2001, the worst year has been 2002. Banfi reports a terrific vintage for 2007 as weather conditions all through the year were close to perfection so we can look forward to some beautiful wine from the 2007 crop.
The wines of the Tuscany are among Italy's most famous with six D.O.C.G wines - Chainti, Chainti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Carmignano and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. The region also has a plethora of D.O.C wines including Bolgheri Sassicaia, Rosso di Montalcino and Rosso di Montepulciano. The region is home to the once super trendy "Super Tuscans", blended wines that did not meet with the standards laid out by the governing bodies in Italy and were as such "unclassified". A new class was created IGT, to bring these wines blended in the bordeaux style back into the fold. Chianti
is Italy's most famous wine. Easily accessible, the wine can often be sold for under €5 a bottle. At the higher end, the more famous producers do create exceptional Chianti's that are a powerful and true expression of the sangiovese grape. Chianti Classico
is a wine produced in a Chianti sub-area. There are actually 8 sub-areas in Chianti: Classico, Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colli Senesi, Colline Pisane, Montalbano, Montespertoli and Rùfina. You may recognize these wines very easily by the black rooster logo on the neck of the bottles. The Classico bottles sell for a higher price and are agreed to be of higher quality than the regular Chiantis. Brunello di Montalcino
is the most expensive wine of the region and is capable of cellaring and fetching fantastic prices at auction. The award winning '01 vintage brought new popularity to the wine which has seen a huge international growth in popularity. The wine is grown in Montalcino, an area about 70 miles southwest of Florence using the Sangiovese Grosso variety. Well made, it has smooth tannins and has a fruity, ripe character. In 2006, it was named Wine Spectators top wine of the year (Casanova di Neri - Tenuta Nuova 2001). The 2004 vintage promises to be even better and will be released shortly. Vernaccia di San Gimignano
is a white wine produced close to the town of San Gimignano. At best this white can produce an apple and pears flavour with hints of vanilla. However, this is not the best white produced in Italy but rather a specific regional wine of Tuscany. Carmignano
used to be an area of production for Chianti but they gave up producing the wine to create a new denomination. Carmignano wines are a blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Cabernet and Sauvignon grapes. These wines are growing in popularity and with every good vintage they score higher and higher. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
is another wine that uses the Sangiovese grape as its base (minimum 70%) and traditionally blends some Canaiolo Nero and usually a small percentage of a local variant grape like Mammolo. These wines are traditionally quite cheap, fruity and drunk extensively by the local populous. The best current producer of these wines would be the famous Avignonesi vineyards. Bolgheri Sassicaia
is the most famous Super Tuscan. the Marquis Mario Incisa della Rocchetta came to the beautiful region of the Tuscan coast where the Sassicaia vineyards are today and wanted to create a bordeaux style wine in this fabulous italian terroir. The result, a cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon blend, was an international sensation and a headache for the Italian wine authorities. The famous Tenuta San Guido Bolgheri Sassicaia is worshipped in Italy and highly sought after the world over.
Although Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Nero and Cabernet Franc are used in the region, Tuscany is famous for the Sangiovese grape variety. This grape is synonymous with the region and the wines from Tuscany are the best expression of the grape anywhere in the world.
This section gives mention to only the most consistently good producers and those that bring something different to the region. Altesino
was established in 1970 and is a leading name in Brunello di Montalcino acheiving phenomenal results with the 1997 that saw it named as one of Wine Spectators wines of the year in 2002. The vineyard itself is housed in a fantastic 14th century Palazzo. The vineyards best wine is the Brunello di Montalcino Montosoli but also produces an excellent and far cheaper Rosso. Antinori
is a huge Florence based winemaker and one of Italy's most famous names. Producing wines from decidely average to phenomenal fruitbursts the vineyard really caters to all. At the top end, these wines are prestigious and their history goes back to 1385. Today the vineyard is producing Chianti, Brunellos and mixed wines, the most famous Tignanello is one of the most popular wines in the world. A sangiovese, cabernet blend that was the very first "Super Tuscan", it's still as important (and good) as ever. Massive variance in this vineyard of quality and prices. Banfi
is the most famous name in Italian wine in the USA. This outfit is huge, producing over 10 million bottles of wine each year, it is the largest and most modern vineyard in Montalcino. Together with Antinori, the vineyards produce wine of varying quality, the basic Chianti's can be absolutely dire but the top label Brunello's can be star quality. A wonderful estate to visit, the huge winery sits atop a hill offering fabulous views and fabulous lunches to those making a visit. Boscarelli
- Here you can find the finest Nobile de Montepulciano in the region. Aged two years in oak, these smooth, structured wines are the toast of the region. A small family production of only 70,000 bottles a year. Casanova di Neri
is a Brunello specialist who is very well received in the states. The wines are based on quality and the yields of the vineyard are very low, thus the prices can be a little high. Look out for the fabuolous Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova, always outstanding. Castellare di Castellina
is regarded as Chianti's finest estate. This is an organic vineyard and when the vintage is hot, so are their wines. Some of the very best Chianti's ever produced came from this vineyard.Castello di Ama
produces wonderful Chainti Classico on their unique parcel of terroir in the heart of Chianti-land, Gaiole in Chianti close to Siena. As well as some fine Chainti's the vineyard also produces some noteworthy Merlot, possibly Tuscany's best Merlots.Felsina
offers wonderful Sangiovese charactersitics in their top line wines, most noteworthy the Chainti Classico Rancia Riserva and Fontalloro both of which can be kept and develop signicantly when aged.Fontodi
is another famous name whose wines are considered some of the best in the world. These wines are very elegant and expensive the top productions being Chianti and the Flancianello della Piave. These are rich and delicate wines with superb structure and ageing capabilities.Isole e Olena
- a forwarding looking vineyard who are known throughout Italy for their stylish and flavourful wines. The top wine is the Ceparello, a 100% Sangiovese wine that ages beautifully. Another wonderful wine is the Syrah, "Syrah Collezione De Marchi" and their Cabernet Sauvignon/Franc blend is another award winning offering. Lots of diversity here and a wonderful vineyard to visit.Le Macchiole
is one of Bolgheri's top estates and headed by the brilliant Cinzia Campolmi. The estate produces wines from many grapes including Paleo Rosso (100% Cabernet Sauvignon), Scrio (100% Syrah), Messorio (100% Merlot) and Macchiole, a blended wine. All these wines show excellent ageing potential.Lisini
- is a relatively small estate but one of Tuscany's most famous top end producers. Bottling magnificent Brunello's, the vineyard has benefitted massively from the huge international interest the Brunello is currently receiving. The vines here are among the area's oldest and produce wonderful fruits that virtually guarentee near perfect wines in top vintages.Marchesi De Frescobaldi
- huge estate bottling 7,000,000 wines annually. Similar to Banfi in that it can produce wines that are simple and cheap through to award winning quality wines. Top labels include Lamaione Castelgiocondo, a huge Merlot and Chianti Rusina Riserva Nipozzano and the Cabernet Sauvignon/Franc & Merlot blended Mormoreto Castello di Nopozzano. Also produces a nice Chardonnay.Pacenti Siro
is one of the regions best Brunello producers. Famous internationally as a quality producer of award winning Brunello's his wines often fetch high prices at auction and are highly regarded domestically. The best bottling is the Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, exceptionally rich and flavourful.Tenuta dell'Ornellaia
is a famous Tuscan vineyard producing Bordeaux style wines. The Bolgheri Superiore Ornellaia is the most famous production and is a Cabernet Sauvignon/Franc and Merlot blended fruit bomb that is very popular worldwide.Tenuta San Guido
- produces a world famous and internationally regarded Sassicaia. The estates' Sassicaia is its top bottling and possibly holds the title of Italy's favourite Super Tuscan.Tua Rita
is one of only a handful of producers ever to receive 100 points from the legendary wine critic, Robert Parker. When Tua Rita is on its game it can produce the best wines in Italy. The Maremma estate produces quality fruity reds of many international varities. The best offering is the Merlot, "Redigaffi", very expensive but extremely impressive; an opulant wine to be cellared.
Notes on the Tuscany
Enjoying a fabulous renaissance, the Tuscan vineyards are no longer famous for only a drab Chainti sold in a straw held bottle but are the national pacesetters of quality and experimentation. Whilst the purists in the Piedmont may look down on Tuscany's willingness to experiment with Bordeaux style varities the Tuscans are reaping the benefit of an international wine community who is enjoying not only the Super Tuscan blends but also the monumental rise of the homegrown Sangiovese Grosso variety.
Brunello di Montalcino is scooping awards and plaudits across the board that were normally reserved for Barolo. Awarded International Wine of the Year awards by Wine Spectator and receiving 98+ point scores from Parker and co is only boosting their reputation, and their prices. The Brunello di Montalcino wine is the toast of the decade and the whole country is upping their game to compete and to share in the reflected glory Brunello is bringing Italian wine. A little competition never hurt anyone, and wine from across the whole country, including the South is receiving a much needed shot in the arm. Prices continue to rise and collectors are finding room in their cellars for Italian wine, great for the business but not so wonderful for the Italian consumers who are not so pleased that their secret stash of top quality wine has been rumbled.