Picture clear skies; rolling hills with lots of vineyards; small towns with medieval structures; tall cypress trees around homes, towns, and lining driveways. You are in Tuscany. Tuscany is the most important wine growing region in central Italy. About 15 percent of all the land in the region is under vine.
Tuscany’s capital is the beautiful and historic town of Florence, which is renowned for its Renaissance art and architecture. Here you will find the Michelangelo’s David and a number of Botticelli’s works, in the Uffizi Gallery and the gorgeous Duomo Basilica.
Nearly two-thirds of the vineyards in Tuscany are planted in the Sangiovese grape, which is known for being the primary grape used in the production of Chianti. Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are also made from Sangiovese. In Montalcino, Sangiovese is known as “Brunello.” In Montepulciano, it is known as “Prugnolo Gentile.” Also, it is known as “Morellino,” in the wines called “Morellino de Scansano.” If you like wines made with Sangiovese, knowing these names will help you identify wines made from the grape.
Wines made from Sangiovese are medium- to full-bodied, with bright acidity, and firm tannins. These wines tend to have sour or black cherry flavors, along with an earthiness. The finer-level wines will have toasty, smoky, spicy, and herbal notes, based on their lengthier barrel aging requirements.
Another famous category of wine in the region are the "Super Tuscans" from coastal Tuscany, in Bolgheri. These are wines made from local varieties that are blended with international varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Syrah. These wines were not allowed to use the higher appellation designations, because of the inclusion of the non-local varieties.
As for white grapes, notable wines are made from Trebbiano, Vermentino, and Vernaccia. Trebbiano, known for being the grape used to produce Cognac, usually displays flavors of white peach, lemon, and green apple. Vermentino is mostly known for growing on the island of Sardinia, but is also grown in Tuscany. The primary flavors found in these wines are lime, grapefruit, and green apple.
Tuscany is also famous for a dessert wine called “Vin Santo.” The wine is made usually from a combination of Trebbiano and Malvasia, and may even contain Sangiovese. The grapes are dried on straw mats which are placed in a warm dry area right after harvest. They will lose about 60 percent of their volume from this drying process, which concentrates the sugars and then the grapes are fermented. The wines have a lovely amber hue and distinctive nuttiness.
Explore Tuscany with a glass or two of its wines.