Wine Culture and Information - Volume 17
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  ABC Wine Issue 43, Summer 2006   
TuscanyTuscany  Contents 
Issue 42, June 2006 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 44, September 2006

Tuscany

Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano: three magnificent red wines which made Tuscany famous all over the world, one of the most celebrated wine region of Italy

 Among the first regions which come to mind when talking about Italian wine, Tuscany certainly is one of the first. Mainly famous for red wines produced with Sangiovese grape - including Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano - Tuscany is also appreciated for red wines produced with the main “international” grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir. Despite they are less famous, in Tuscany are also produced some interesting white wines, and just like for red wines, the production is made both with autochthonous grapes - such as Vernaccia di San Gimignano - and international grapes, in particular Chardonnay. Tuscany is also famous for the production of Vin Santo, certainly not the only region of Italy in which this particular sweet wine is produced with dried grapes, but certainly one of the most representative regions.

 The origin of wine making in Tuscany is dated back to Etruscan times, the ancient and amazing people who settled in central Italy, whose origin are still today not very clear. Despite some ancient authors have mentioned wines produced by Etruscans, none of them was considered of high quality as to compete with other renowned wines of those times, such as Falerno. This confirms the marginal role of wine in the culture of Etruscans, a role which however become important in commercial aspects. The finding of Etruscan amphoras dated back to the seventeenth century B.C., even in territories far away from the ancient lands of Etruscans, including south France, prove Etruscans considered wine as a good to be commercialized with other people, although they were not great consumers nor excellent wine makers. Maybe it is also because of the scarce importance Etruscans recognized to wine in their culture - and therefore to wine making as well - it will not be found mention of quality Tuscan wines for many centuries to come.


The main wine areas in Tuscany
The main wine areas in Tuscany

 Tuscan wines are mentioned from medieval times, not because they were considered to be of quality, indeed for the prestige the region - in particular the cities of Florence and Siena - acquired politically and commercially. Wine was become a strategic commercial item, and it is thanks to this if today we have information about Tuscan wine because of the work of merchants. Information about the trading of wine in Tuscany are dated back to 1079, when the wine of the region was sold and commercialized at Mercato Vecchio (Old Market) in Florence. The trading of wine soon acquired a strategical importance, and in 1282 was founded the corporation of Arte dei Vinattieri (Art of Wine Merchants and Makers). It was a period in which viticulture and the production of wine flourished, although not showing important development in quality. In 1385 Giovanni di Piero Antinori joins Arte dei Vinattieri, therefore starting one of the most ancient dynasties still in activity and committed to wine making, a continuous and important history 26 generations long, which plays, still today, a primary role in Tuscan and Italian enology.

 In 1398 Chianti wine is mentioned for the first time, however it is interesting to see the citation was referred to white wine and not to the red one, that is the type of wine which today distinguishes the renowned and historical Tuscan area. The Chianti area is defined for the first time in a document dated back to the second half of twelfth century, where the hills between Baliaccia and Monte Luco are being identified as Monti del Chianti (Mountains of Chianti). The term Chianti - which probably comes from the Etruscan name Clante - was subsequently added to the names of the villages Castellina, Radda and Gaiole, which founded the “Lega del Chianti” (Chianti League), controlled by the jurisdiction of Florence. In occasion of the definition of its statute, the Lega del Chianti chose as its emblem the famous “black rooster in golden background”, which is still today used for distinguishing the wines of Chianti Classico. In the Chianti area wine has always played a strategic and important commercial role. Many are in fact the edicts and laws expressly emanated for the safeguarding of vineyards, cultivation techniques of vines and wine production in order to guarantee quality and therefore their commercialization.


 

 Chianti has also another important historical and worldwide record, the one of having being the first wine making area to be delimited and defined by law. In 1716 Grand duke Cosimo III, with a specific edict, delimited the borders of Chianti wine area «from Spedaluzzo to Greve; then to Panzano, with the territory of Radda, which includes the three villages of Radda, Gaiole and Castellina, up to the borders of the state of Siena». At those times the color of Chianti wine was already changed since many years, and the ancient citation of white wines written in the document of 1398 is now replaced by a red wine called “Vermihlio” (vermilion). To talk about the grapes used at those times for the production of Chianti is Cosimo Villifranchi, who in 1773 wrote this wine was mainly produced with Canaiolo Nero to which was added a small quantity of Sangiovese, Mammolo and Marzemino. It is singular to notice Cosimo Villifranchi mentioned the use of white grapes Trebbiano and San Colombano as well. In 1872 the famous Baron Bettino Ricasoli, after having experimented for decades on the production of Chianti, formulated his renowned recipe which is still today used by many producers.

 Baron Bettino Ricasoli suggested the use of Sangiovese for most of the part, in order to give Chianti vigor and aromas, as well as Canaiolo Nero, in order to smooth both the acidity and astringency of Sangiovese. He also suggested the use of Malvasia Bianca only for wines to be consumed young and he discouraged its use for wines destined for aging. Baron Bettino Ricasoli did not mention Trebbiano Toscano, mistakenly considered part of his “recipe”. The introduction of Trebbiano - which together with Malvasia Bianca can make 30% of the wine - was probably because of the custom the producers of those times had in order to make higher quantity of wines which could quickly aged and therefore commercialized earlier. At the end of 1960s, in order to stop the decaying image of Chianti wines, some producers - the first one being Marquis Mario Incisa della Rocchetta - decided to give a new boost to Tuscan enology by creating full bodied wines based on the “international” model, produced with French grapes and aged in barrique. These wines, which in the beginning were classified as table wines, were soon called Supertuscans and also other producers began their production, adding to the famous Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, the local Sangiovese: a combination which is still frequent in many Tuscan wines.

 

Classification of Tuscany

 Just like the other regions of Italy, Tuscany is classified according to the quality system in force in the country which provides for, from the lowest to the highest rank, Vini da Tavola (Table Wines), Indicazione Geografica Tipica (Typical Geographical Indication, IGT), Denominazione d'Origine Controllata (Denomination of Controlled Origin, DOC) and Denominazione d'Origine Controllata e Garantita (Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin, DOCG). Despite in Tuscany are defined many DOC and DOCG areas, particularly interesting are the wines classified as IGT, the category to which belong most of the so called Supertuscans, full bodied wines produced according to the “international” model. In Tuscany are defined 6 DOCG areas and precisely: Brunello di Montalcino, Carmignano, Chianti, Chianti Classico, Vernaccia di San Gimignano and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. The DOC areas defined in Tuscany are 35: Ansonica Costa dell'Argentario, Barco Reale di Carmignano, Bianco della Valdinievole, Bianco dell'Empolese, Bianco di Pitigliano, Bianco Pisano di San Torpé, Bolgheri, Candia dei Colli Apuani, Capalbio, Colli dell'Etruria Centrale, Colli di Luni, Colline Lucchesi, Cortona, Elba, Montecarlo, Montecucco, Monteregio di Massa Marittima, Montescudaio, Morellino di Scansano, Moscadello di Montalcino, Orcia, Parrina, Pietraviva, Pomino, Rosso di Montalcino, Rosso di Montepulciano, San Gimignano, Sant'Antimo, Sovana, Val d'Arbia, Valdichiana, Val di Cornia, Vin Santo del Chianti, Vin Santo del Chianti Classico and Vin Santo di Montepulciano.

 

Production Areas

 The production of wine in Tuscany is made in the whole territory, from north to south, the succession of hills has the vineyard as a common factor. In this region are mainly produced red wines with Sangiovese grape, which is found everywhere in Tuscany and used alone of together with other grapes, including the international ones. The most common white berried grape in Tuscany is Trebbiano Toscano, followed by Malvasia Bianca, present in many white wines of the region and, as it is suggested by tradition, in many Chianti wines as well. Another common white berried grapes in Tuscany is Chardonnay, with which are being produced white wines according to the international model to which it is frequently added the barrique. The spreading and notoriety of the so called Supertuscans has introduced in Tuscany many “international” red grapes - of which the main ones are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah - to which is being added Sangiovese, in order to keep a “touch” of Tuscan tradition. The spreading of these grapes in Tuscany is such that today most of them are included in many production disciplinary of DOC wines, including the traditional Chianti, to which are being frequently used, besides Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot as well.

 

Brunello di Montalcino

 One of the most famous wines of Tuscany, practically known by every wine lover and also the ones who are not interested in wine have heard of it at least once, certainly is Brunello di Montalcino. The wine takes its name from the grape with which it is produced - Brunello - the name with which it is called in Montalcino the Sangiovese Grosso grape. The wines of Montalcino - which is located south from Siena - owe their notoriety to a figure who is part of the history of Tuscan wine making: Ferruccio Biondi Santi. The grape Brunello, traditionally present in Montalcino, thanks to the intuitions of Ferruccio Biondi Santi, as well as the experience of his grandfather Clemente Santi, was transformed into a wine which soon became famous all over the world. It was 1888: the history of Brunello di Montalcino was just begun. This famous wine, recognized by the Italian quality system as DOCG, is produced with 100% Sangiovese Grosso - locally known as Brunello - and can be released for consumption only after 5 years from harvesting (6 for the reserve), with a minimum of two years of aging in cask.

 

Chianti Classico and Chianti

 Chianti is just another of those names - and of wines - which made Tuscany famous in the world. According to the quality system in force in Italy - who recognizes to every Chianti wine the DOCG category - the famous wines of these areas are divided in many denominations, all being different one from each other in every aspect. Chianti Classico - that is the most ancient and traditional production area - is produced in the classic territory going from south of Florence to north of Siena, and it is from this area which come the most famous Chianti wines. The production area of Chianti - which provides for the generic denomination “Chianti” - includes seven areas and precisely: Colli Aretini, Colli Senesi, Colli Fiorentini, Colline Pisane, Rufina, Montalbano and Montespertoli. According to the disciplinary, Chianti is mainly produced with Sangiovese and Canaiolo Nero grapes, a small part of Malvasia Bianca and Trebbiano Toscano, as well as other grapes permitted by the disciplinary, usually Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Despite the invasion of “international” grapes in Chianti is getting a more and more determinant role, it should be observed there are still many producers who prefer using traditional Chianti's grapes only.

 

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

 Of the six DOCG areas of Tuscany in the province of Siena, the area of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano certainly is among the most famous ones. This wine is mainly produced with the Prugnolo Gentile grape - name with which in Montepulciano is called Sangiovese Grosso - to which is added Canaiolo Nero and, in lesser percentage, Mammolo and Colorino, as well as other grapes permitted by the production disciplinary. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano can be commercialized only after a minimum of two years of aging in cask. Robust and complex wine, Nobile di Montepulciano can be aged for many years, developing with time very complex and pleasing qualities. Wine having long traditions, Nobile di Montepulciano was known since 1500s for its quality, a wine appreciated and celebrated by the nobles of those times, it was also widely praised by Sante Lancerio. After a long time of decay, the first attempts of reprise were recorded after the year 1900 and in particular in 1960s, when producers began to become interested again to Nobile instead to Chianti, a process which will give origin to the new awakening in 1980s, when Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was recognized the DOCG rank.

 

Other Wines of Tuscany

 Talking about the wine areas of Tuscany recognized by the Italian quality system, would certainly require a longer report. However it is appropriate mentioning those areas and those wines which in recent times are getting more and more popular among wine lovers. In this sense are interesting the other two Tuscan DOCG wines: Carmignano and Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Carmignano, another famous wine area having long history and tradition and which is located in the province of Prato, exclusively produces red wines with Sangiovese, Canaiolo Nero, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Vernaccia di San Gimignano - which is produced in the territory of the famous city of towers in the province of Siena - is a remarkable white wine produced with the homonymous grape. Among the other interesting DOC areas, is mentioned Morellino di Scansano, mainly produced with Sangiovese grape, locally called Morellino. Morellino di Scansano is a wine which is now part of the great ones of Tuscany, thanks to the efforts of producers who have been successful is proving the enormous potentialities of their territory and wine.

 Among the many wines, Vin Santo is one which should certainly be mentioned, despite it is a wine whose tradition is shared with other regions in Italy, in Tuscany is recognized in some areas as DOC, as in case of Vin Santo del Chianti, Vin Santo del Chianti Classico and Vin Santo di Montepulciano. In Tuscany, Vin Santo is generally produced with the grapes Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia Bianca, however there is also a style produced with Sangiovese and which is called Occhio di Pernice (partridge eye). As for other interesting DOC areas in Tuscany are mentioned: Bolgheri, Cortona, Orcia, Parrina, Pomino, Rosso di Montalcino, Rosso di Montepulciano, San Gimignano and Sant'Antimo. A special mention goes to the family of the so called Supertuscans, robust and complex wines mainly produced with “international” grapes - in particular Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir - to which is frequently added the local grape Sangiovese. Supertuscans wines generally belong to the IGT category (Indicazione Geografica Tipica, Typical Geographic Indication), a classification in which it is possible to find truly interesting wines, not only in Tuscany.

 




 Editorial  Share this article     Summary of ABC Wine column Wine Tasting 
  ABC Wine Issue 43, Summer 2006   
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