Focus on Tuscany
By Philip Reedman, MW
Is there a more romantic wine region than Tuscany? I doubt there is. Is there a more exciting and diverse wine region than Tuscany? Probably not, and here’s why.
Sangiovese, the “blood of Jove”, forms the backbone of Tuscan wines, but there are whites too: the dry and the thrillingly sweet. Tuscany’s suite of grapes includes the international alongside the local. Diversity creates exciting choices for adventurous drinkers. Whether you’re looking for a bright, young red or a barrel-matured, complex and savoury wine, the answer is Tuscany. If you’re looking for one of the world’s most fascinating sweet whites, buy a Vin Santo. For fresh dry whites, well, Tuscany has that covered too.
The town of Montescudaio is a microcosm of Tuscany, so let’s start there. The regional Rosso DOC is made with at least 50% Sangiovese. Winemakers choose the blending varieties from a long list which includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Varietal Sangiovese is produced too. Thinking you’d like an Italian Chardonnay or a fresh, Lambretta-zippy, Bianco to drink with seafood? Montescudaio meets your needs. With dessert? A Vin Santo. This sumptuous wine is made from Trebbiano Toscano grapes, picked and dried for several months to concentrate the flavours and sugars. Matured for at least four years in small barrels called caratelli. To me, this precious liquid is a “meditation wine”. I revel in the winemaker’s patience that produces this gem.
Chianti Classico, bearing the top-of-the-tree DOCG status, is the flag carrier for Tuscan reds. The last two decades have seen important changes to the wines. Traditional botti have recaptured the hearts of winemakers who had a brief dalliance with French barriques. Today’s wines are much finer, with elegant black cherry and violets seasoned with savoury tannins. Wines bearing the Riserva label have been aged for you for at least two years in wood, giving additional class. Pasta is the obvious pairing, but don’t overlook veal or Parmesan cheese.
Two lesser-known varieties deserve a mention. Vermentino is a white variety on the up. Tuscan Vermentino is at home in coastal regions such as Costa Toscana: refreshingly dry, it is served in the beachside trattoria. Ciliegiolo is a rediscovered red. Pronounced “cheeli-a-jolo” this grape used to be blended into Chianti. As Sangiovese rose in status, Ciliegiolo fell from grace. Restored to its pedestal by winemakers in the coastal district of Maremma, Ciliegiolo makes bright, fruit-filled wine with distinct cherry flavours.
So, if the question is “What am I drinking with tonight’s dinner?” the answer can always be “A bottle from Tuscany.” It won’t let you down.
Philip Reedman MW lives in Adelaide, South Australia. Philip is an educator for the Wine and Spirit Education Trust and is involved in education through the Institute of Masters of Wine. He works as a consultant to a number of wineries and vineyards in South Australia.
Order these wines by January 16, 2023