How to choose an excellent Tuscan wine? Here is a short guide to learn more about the great red wines of Tuscany
Tuscany is a region extremely suited to viticulture and Tuscan wine is famous all over the world.
Its gentle hills covered with vineyards are one of the symbols of Italy, like the great red wines of Tuscany we will talk about in this article.
Leonardo da Vinci was one of the greatest geniuses of all time and was probably one of the first winemakers in history. There he found inspiration for his agricultural studies to improve Tuscan wines.
An extremely varied wine region is the Tuscan one. From the mountains to the sea, its soil is always different and this contributes to the multitude of Tuscan wines.
The wine appellations are not few: 18 DOCG (one more than Piedmont, which is the classic comparison in terms of quality), 50 DOC and 6 IGT.
Tuscany wine region & Tuscan grapevines
The prince of Tuscan grapes is Sangiovese, a black grape variety covering more than half of the wine growing area. It is used for fine Tuscan wines such as Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino. We find this grape variety in the area around Florence, Grosseto and Arezzo.
Also relevant are Cabernet Sauvignon from the province of Livorno, Merlot from the province of Siena and Canaiolo, used as blending grapes for Chianti wine.
White grape varieties such as Trebbiano Toscano, Malvasia del Chianti, Vermentino and Vernaccia di San Gimignano are also widely used.
Top red wine from Tuscany:
1. Brunello di Montalcino
This Tuscan wine has got the DOCG wine appellation (Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin) and is produced in the municipality of Montalcino in the province of Siena. This area has been dedicated to wine production for centuries thanks to its pedoclimatic factors, but only at the end of the 1800s saw the birth of the Sangiovese clone, called “Brunello” or “Sangiovese Grosso” (the name was given due to its dark colour and thick skin).
These dark berries characterise the production of Brunello di Montalcino, a red wine from Tuscany with a ruby colour aged in oak barrels for at least two years and consequently four months in bottle (it cannot be put on sale before 5 years after the wine harvest).
It is a fine Tuscan wine for ageing. In a wide-shaped glass it releases an intense and characteristic wine aroma: red fruits in alcohol as well as coffee, tea and wood notes released from the oak barrels.
On the palate, the tannin softened by ageing will be pleasant, the sugar will have turned into alcohol with the final effect of a dry and warm, structured, complex and balanced wine.
2. Rosso di Montalcino
This Tuscan wine is the younger brother of Brunello di Montalcino.
They are produced in the same wine growing area, but Rosso di Montalcino does not require ageing in oak casks, resulting in a young, fresh and pleasant wine.
3. Chianti wine
Between Arezzo, Florence, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato and Siena extend the hills devoted to the Chianti wine production. In this corner of Tuscany wine means famous red wines: it is indeed a territory where the wine production has been a central activity since the Etruscans.
But what is Chianti wine? Chianti is one of the oldest Tuscan red wines, which obtained the DOC wine appellation (Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin) in 1967.
The territory is divided into sub-zones and each of them has got its own wine production disciplinary for Chianti wine DOCG. However, the common approach is to use the same grapevines: Sangiovese (which is the main grape variety), Canaiolo, Trebbiano, Malvasia Bianca, Sauvignon and Merlot.
Chianti is a red wine from Tuscany with an intense ruby red colour tending to garnet with ageing. It has got hints of flowers, berries, balsamic as well as spicy notes such as vanilla, licorice and cinnamon.
An interesting tannicity, a strong acidity and a good alcohol content characterise this Tuscan wine. However, the “final signature” is always put by each producer who, thanks to ageing, can modify the characteristics of his bottle.
4. Chianti Classico
It is important to specify that Chianti Classico DOCG is a distinct wine appellation from Chianti DOCG.
The difference lies in the territory, which in the latter wine appellation has got narrower borders, and in the grapes that contribute to the production of this Tuscan wine (in the Chianti Classico, Sangiovese will be present for a minimum of 80%, against 70% of the Chianti).
The word “Classico” indicates the primacy of wine, antiquity and also modernity. Something that does not pass and that, in fact, we still find it with great pleasure on our tables.
This Tuscan wine was born more than 300 years ago. At that time the Grand Duke Cosimo III delimited the boundaries of the wine production area, which today includes the municipality of Castellina in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, Greve in Chianti, Radda in Chianti and a part of others municipalities such as Barberino Val d’Elsa, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Poggibonsi, San Casciano and Tavernelle in Val di Pesa.
Chianti Classico is produced in three versions:
- Chianti Classico DOCG
- Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG
- Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG
Chianti Classico DOCG ages 11 months and must have a minimum alcohol content of 12°. It rises to 12.5° for the Riserva version, which instead ages for 24 months (3 of which in the bottle).
The Chianti Classico Gran Selezione has got a mandatory ageing period of 30 months.
This Tuscan wine has a brilliant ruby colour tending to garnet with a characteristic wine aroma. Its floral and fruity bouquet comes from the sandstone and calcareous soil of the Sangiovese wine growing area. This bouquet is completed with the spicy aroma of tobacco, cocoa and vanilla given by ageing (more or less long depending on the type).
What is a Super Tuscan Wine?
In the 1960s the winemakers of this area, who had been producing Chianti Classico following strict regulations for years, decided to try to innovate this Tuscan wine by freeing themselves from the rules and to lose the wine appellation. The intent was to raise its name so to create a fine Tuscan wine famous throughout the world.
Using international grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, together with (or instead of) local grapevines such as Sangiovese, they obtained a Tuscan wine which became immediately very popular in the USA.
This type of wine was called Super Tuscan, a term given to this Tuscan wine in the 1980s by Nicholas Belfrage, an English journalist and renowned Master of Wine.
The Supertuscan (or Super Tuscan) name has become very common for the great wines produced in the Chianti Classico area without any wine appellation: they have become the pride of Italian oenology.
The first Super Tuscan wine was the Vigorello di San Felice with the use of pure Sangiovese. It was followed by the Sassicaia, a Bolgheri red wine based on Cabernet Sauvignon (perhaps the most famous Super Tuscan wine), and finally by the Tignanello, a wine produced from Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.
These three wines were the pillars of innovation in these lands and gave birth to the glory of Super Tuscan wine.
However, several producers have continued to produce Chianti Classico using new technologies and making it famous all over the world.
5. Morellino di Scansano
In the Maremma, in southern Tuscany, we find the Morellino di Scansano, a red wine DOCG always based on Sangiovese (85%). The other grape varieties can be Alicante, Ciliegiolo, Colorino, Malvasia Nera, Canaiolo, Montepulciano, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The result is an excellent, delicate and refined Tuscan wine with good acidity and an intense perfume of violet and elegant tannins.
There are two versions:
- Morellino di Scansano DOCG
- Morellino di Scansano Riserva DOCG
6. Nobile di Montepulciano
The Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is one of the most famous Tuscan wines and was the first in Italy to receive the DOCG label. Historically it is one of the oldest wines in Italy, but only in the 1930s did Adamo Fanetti give it the nickname “noble”.
Prugnolo Gentile (Sangiovese from the Montepulciano area) is the protagonist of this fine Tuscan wine, present for at least 70%. The wine appellation provides for a minimum ageing of 2 years, 3 for the Riserva version. In fact we find:
- Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG
- Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva
This Tuscan wine is produced in Montepulciano, in the province of Siena. It offers hints of ripe fruit such as plum, cherries, violets and herbaceous notes. A warm red wine with good acidity, full-bodied, with softened tannins.
7. Rosso di Montepulciano
Similar to Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, in terms of wine production area and grapevines, Rosso di Montepulciano is a young Tuscan wine with an intense brilliant ruby red colour. It has got multiple fruity aromas, the main ones being plums and black cherries, and floral ones with light herbaceous hints. Rosso di Montepulciano retains a mineral note, the taste is persistent, fresh, alcoholic and soft.
Carmignano was the first wine in the world to obtain the DOC wine appellation. It is a fine Tuscan wine produced in the municipality of Carmignano and Poggio a Caiano in the province of Prato.
A Tuscan red wine with Sangiovese (once called “Sangioveto”), Cabernet Franc (called “francesca” grape), black Canaiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon and with an extremely small extent of Tuscan Trebbiano, white Canaiolo and Malvasia del Chianti.
The Carmignano terroir makes it possible to produce an elegant Tuscan wine for ageing.
This wine appellation includes the provinces of Arezzo, Florence, Grosseto, Livorno, Lucca, Massa Carrara, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato and Siena. It is a vast territory and allows the production of this Tuscan wine with all the grapevines suitable for cultivation in Tuscany.
We can find several versions:
- Toscana Bianco IGT
- Toscana Bianco Sparkling IGT
- Toscana Rosato IGT
- Toscana Rosé Sparkling IGT
- Toscana Rosso IGT
- Toscana Novello IGT
- Toscana Bianco Vendemmia Tardiva IGT
- Tuscany Bianco Passito
Vin Santo wine is one of the most famous sweet wines of this magnificent land (even if it is also present in other regions of Italy).
But What is Vin Santo? In Tuscany there are two main types: Vin Santo Toscano, produced with white berried grapes, especially Trebbiano Toscano, and the “Occhio di Pernice”, produced with Sangiovese and other white berried grape varieties.
The winemaking procedure is a slow and patient “dance” that begins with the late harvest. The grapes are dried in large and airy rooms. Subsequently, they are pressed and fermented in small barrels. A fermentation that lasts months or years.
As we said, slowness and patience give a Tuscan Vin Santo wine from straw yellow to intense amber with aromas of honey and raisins. On the other hand, the Occhio di Pernice is pale pink to amber. Both wines will be soft, round and velvety on the palate.
Food pairings with Tuscan wines
Tuscany means a great history of full-bodied and structured red wines with intense aromas to pair with Tuscan cuisine and beyond.
An appetiser with Tuscan crostini, savoury salami and aged cheeses is the perfect match with Morellino di Scansano or Carmignano wine.
Thanks to their structure and intense aromas, many Tuscan wines find the perfect food pairing with red meat or game.
The Florentine steak is worldwide famous and is perfect with a glass of Nobile di Montepulciano wine. Stewed wild boar finds a perfect pairing with Brunello di Montalcino.
First courses with tasty ragu find an ideal match with Rosso di Montepulciano or Chianti Classico. The latter is also recommended with fish dishes such as “caciucco alla livornese”.
Traditional Tuscan dishes for those who do not like meat are: the Ribollita, perfect with a Morellino di Scansano or with a Chianti wine, and the Panzanella which pairs easily with a nice bottle of Carmignano.
A Novello Toscana IGT can be paired with grilled meat, mushrooms and porcini. It is also perfect with chestnuts and dried fruit. Try it with Tuscan Necci!
Local desserts recall the fine Tuscan sweet wine par excellence: Vin Santo.
Cantucci with almonds and panforte are paired with Vin Santo del Chianti, while castagnaccio is paired with Occhio di Pernice.
Travel & Taste the red wines of Tuscany
Here are the food and wine experience to savour Cantucci and Vin Santo with Italia Delight:
With Italia Delight, you can discover Tuscan wines by talking directly with the local food experts. They will accompany you on a horseback ride or a bike ride through the vineyards around Montepulciano.
It is also possible to discover natural wines and biodynamic winemaking in San Miniato with guided wine tastings led by sommeliers and oenologists. Or enjoy a lunch or dinner among the vineyards in Montepulciano.
Montepulciano lake offers many activities including bird watching, the Tour of “Chiaro” and the electric boat ride. With Italia Delight, you can choose one of these excursions, take part in the winery tour, taste delicous Tuscan dishes and local wines.
A wine tour in Chianti or wine trekking in Montepulciano are excellent opportunities to discover the region and taste the Tuscan wines.
Did you like this article on Tuscan wine by Nur Migahed, a graduate student in Gastronomic Sciences and Cultures at the Roma Tre University? Discover all the experiences and travel to Tuscany with Italia Delight! 🍷🚀