Introduction to Wines of Tuscany, History, Supertuscan wines, Certifications, Future of tuscan wines and Wine travel
A little guide to Wines of Tuscany and its relative ideas for Travelling using wine regions of Tuscany.
A masterpiece :) written for goaskalocal.com
Wines and Tuscany, who knows when this started. WInes in Tuscany have been produced for at least 3.000 years.
The first Documented civilization producing or commercializing wines in Tuscany were the Etruscans. Before them we don’t have proof that wines was either produced here, even though it was probably already produced by the Villanovians or by Celts tribes.
Probably like for the Egyptians the main alcoholic beverage consumed and produced was beer.
Both surely were discovered by accidents, observing the spontaneous fermentation occurring while processing grapes or grains and herbs.
The first documented production of wines in Europe is in Georgia, where they have been producing wines since 10.000 before now.
Incredible and still nowadays they are producing wines using the same documented techniques. Using Terracotta vats buried in the grounds for the fermentation.
So we can actually believe that wines were largely consumed In tuscany way before the Etruscans.
Etruscans, thanks to their prosperous trading system with Greeks and Mesopotamia in general, were the first one to establish a notable production of wines in Tuscany.
There are proofs as well that Etruscans were producing fake Greek wines and sold them to tribes living along the French coastline.
Was the wine produced by the Etruscans identical to ours?
Not at all!
They were sweet. Wine must was largely cooked and served adding water and aromas including honey and species.
It was common to use dry fruits and other types of fruits to add to the wine.
Wines were very low in alcohol and drank in big quantities.
The tradition to blend water and wine together remained till our days. Let’s say till world war 2.
Drinking straight wines, high in alcohol, was done only by the peasants.
Imagine how different our society is nowadays where wines are largely 14/15% of alcohol, full body wines, fully ripened aromas and super rich are considered the most valuable wines.
My grandfather’s wines were around 9/10% alcohol for many reasons including the lack of techniques. Wines that have had some defects and that’s why always paired with cheese.
Cheese (milk fats) covers many defects including the acidity and the tannins, predominant aspects in tuscan wines.
A brief historical overview of wine growing in Tuscany:
Nowadays Tuscany is one of the most important producers of wines in Italy with its 58 Designed wine areas.
Which of those are divided in DOCG, DOC and IGT wine certifications.
Consider from the list that some DOCG wines and DOC wines are produced in the same area, for example Chianti Classico DOCG and Vin santo del Chianti Classico DOC.
These 2 are wines produced in the same wine region ( Chianti Classico) but they are totally different wines, one is a famous red wine and the other is a sweet wine with only few producers making it.
Other examples are Brunello di Montalcino DOCG and Rosso di Montalcino DOC or Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG and Rosso di Montepulciano DOC.
In this case the DOCG are the big brothers of the DOC wines, both red wines but the Doc wines are younger and fresher compared to the Docg.
- Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
- Carmignano DOCG
- Chianti DOCG
- Chianti Colli Aretini
- Chianti Colli Fiorentini
- Chianti Colli Senesi
- Chianti Colline Pisane
- Chianti Montalbano
- Chianti Montespertoli
- Chianti Rufina
- Chianti Classico DOCG
- Elba Aleatico Passito DOCG
- Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG
- Morellino di Scansano DOCG
- Suvereto DOCG
- Val di Cornia Rosso DOCG
- Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG
- Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG
- Barco Reale di Carmignano DOC
- Bianco dell’Empolese DOC
- Bianco di Pitigliano DOC
- Bolgheri DOC
- Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC
- Candia dei Colli Apuani DOC
- Capalbio DOC
- Colli dell’Etruria Centrale DOC
- Colli di Luni DOC
- Colline Lucchesi DOC
- Cortona DOC
- Elba DOC
- Grance Senesi DOC
- Maremma Toscana DOC
- Montecarlo DOC
- Montecucco DOC
- Monteregio di Massa Marittima DOC
- Montescudaio DOC
- Moscadello di Montalcino DOC
- Orcia DOC
- Parrina DOC
- Pomino DOC
- Rosso di Montalcino DOC
- Rosso di Montepulciano DOC
- San Gimignano DOC
- San Torpè DOC
- Sant’Antimo DOC
- Sovana DOC
- Terratico di Bibbona DOC
- Terre di Casole DOC
- Terre di Pisa DOC
- Val d’Arbia DOC
- Val d’Arno di Sopra DOC
- Subregion Pietraviva
- Subregion Pratomagno
- Val di Cornia DOC
- Valdichiana Toscana DOC
- Valdinievole DOC
- Vin Santo del Chianti DOC
- Colli Aretini
- Colli Fiorentini
- Colli Senesi
- Colline Pisane
- Vin Santo del Chianti Classico DOC
- Vin Santo di Carmignano DOC
- Vin Santo di Montepulciano DOC
- Alta Valle della Greve IGT
- Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT
- Costa Toscana IGT
- Montecastelli IGT
- Toscana IGT
- Val di Magra IGT
This last category IGT is a very weak certification with vast areas involved including even the all tuscany territory with the IGT Toscana.
This category is for wines produced in areas where they already have DOCG or DOC certified wines and they want to produce something different and special.
For example if you go to Chianti Classico for some wine tastings you will noticed that producers have in their range of wines, beside the red wine DOCG production, also some sparkling rosè wines or white wines made by local grapes, or rosè wines or 100% red wine from a local grape like Canaiolo or Colorino or Black malvasia.
So Igt wines are not linked necessarily with a territory but they are wines produced by winemakers, using their talents or ideas.
How wine growing has changed in recent years
Wines in the last 2 decades became very popular and one of the most thriving businesses of Italy and Europe in general.
Their sales increased non stop and the prices went up.
In the last five years instead the consumption of red wines decreased, recently there was a strike in the bordeaux region due to the overproduction of red wines.
Producers were asking money to change their productions and vineyards were removed to plant other types of cultivations.
In Tuscany this trend is not visible and it seems it is still growing but slower.
The Tuscan brands are very strong and synonymous of quality all over the world so big producers and investment funds are playing their games here as well.
Imagine you can find a Brunello di Montalcino DOCG for 13€ in a supermarket.
How is this possible ?
Big players are buying certified grapes from the entire wine region and assembling it in their cellars ( designed as a factory, not charming at all).
Filling up their production with chemicals to correct all the grapes defects.
We are talking about Millions of bottles produced by big players such as Antinori, Frescobaldi, Piccini, Geografico, etc.
They selling out brands like Brunello di Montalcino.
So even if for now the quality of the products is recognised world wide it will end that the great real producers of these delicious wines will suffer the bad marketing and prices made by these large brands.
New trends are for sure the research of quality even in areas not certified where the land is cheaper and you have more space of maneuvering to invest and invent new wines.
Small producers are all becoming organic or biodynamic to increase the quality of their products.
Becoming biodynamic is getting very popular even if many aspects of this philosophy are not proved are scientifically effective.
Surely it is synonymous with more attention to the natural aspects of wine making.
Visiting these small producers is always very pleasant and they are very interesting.
Travel in Tuscany focused on wines:
Tuscany is the land of wine trips. You have wine regions all over you go.
Being Florence one of the most desired tourist destinations, the areas surrounding the city are very popular wine destinations like Chianti and Chianti Classico.
These wine regions 2 can be confused even if it is very simple once you learned.
Chianti Classico is the only true Chianti, historically and for the higher quality of the production.
Other areas are like the Alpi Apuane, or Bolgheri, Castagneto Carducci, Montalcino, Montepulciano and Pienza.
A little gem just outside the city of Florence is Carmignano with its powerful, rich, full body wines produced with international varieties like Cabernet sauvignon and merlot.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano is a decent wine depending on the producers but in this case it’s the town that made the wine famous and not vice versa.
There are so many tourists going to San Gimignano that made famous its wines. Generally is a light mineral white wine with few great producers and lots of anonymous producers.
Less Known Wines of Tuscany
Surely on the list to try there are wines like Chianti Classico that for my humble opinion, producers have reached incredible levels of quality.
Than you have Nobile di Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino and Bolgheri.
All 3 are great reds of Tuscany, Bolgheri is the most international taste of them all.
Less known with great producers is Montecucco, very similar to Montalcino, powerful, rich, succulent wines for a lower price then Brunello di Montalcino.
Suvereto is another lovely place for wines and to have a visit of the village, including a stop in Castagneto Carducci.
Super Tuscans Wines
Let’s start saying that Super Tuscans wines don’t exist. It was an old journalist term used to describe Great Bold Tuscan reds created like the bordeaux style ones.
When we talk about Super tuscan we talk about bold powerful reds produced all over Tuscany, identified as IGT wines.
In the IGT category we can find them all from white/rosè to macerated orange, up to powerful reds.
So always ask for the most important red wine available at the winery.
As said by IGT, the least controlled of them all, is where you can find the most desirable wines and also the cheapest wines.
Well yes because in Europe we drink wine by the wine region and every wine region has its own characteristic. This madness to produce bold reds everywhere I found it very bizarre and not representative of the territory creating a faltering offer of bold/heavy red wines that after 1 glass you feel fulfilled.
It’s definitely a course to be liked by international markets not used to drink wines with a vibrant acidity to be paired with our food and an astringent touch given by tannins( polyphenols that are natural antioxidants).
DOC and DOCG are the most controlled categories where the most important and protected wines are.
DOCG is the top certification of quality for wines where every single aspect of the wine production is controlled and guaranteed for the final consumer.
DOC stands for Denomination of Origin Controlled
DOCG stands for Denomination of Origin Controlled and Guaranteed
Wines that haven’t reached yet a certain value and probably will never reach are in the DOC category.
These certifications were created to protect specific Italian products from frauds.
They are synonymous with quality and they represent typical products.
Between producers you can find really good ones and lots of average products but all of them are produced with specific methods and specific techniques in a specific part of the world in a specific vintage.
Chianti vs Chianti Classico
Please have a look at my past artical about Chianti vs Chianti Classico
Chianti Classico can be produced in 3 different styles: Annata, Riserva and Gran Selezione.
Chianti was only Annata and Riserva but last year they added also Gran Selezione.
The production methods and grapes used are the same for the 3 styles but what changes the most are
1)longer macerations (more extractions from grapes)
2)longer aging process
Riserva is 24 months aging between woods and bottles
Gran Selezione has been improved recently. Including the fact wines are produced with only grapes directly owned by the winery and planted around the winery.
Plus Gran Selezione has now the denomination of the town where it is produced, called UGA. So in the next years you will see Chianti Classico Gran Selezione UGA “Panzano in Chianti” or “ Greve in Chianti”, “Radda in Chianti” etc etc etc.
I personally prefer Annata or maximum Riserva. I don’t like spending 3 times the money for a Gran Selezione, for the same money I buy different DOCG wines like Carmignano or Bolgheri for example.
Here is a link to Chianti Classico rules:
How are Tuscan wines different from other Italian wines?
Tuscan wines are different from other regions mostly due the territory and the grapes used.
Sangiovese is the main grape used in the central of italy like Emilia Romagna, Umbria. Less but still produced in Marche and Lazio.
Tuscany has been the first one to start looking for quality.
Emilia Romagna is changing now with very interesting products but has always been more focused on quantity over quality to support their cooperatives.
Umbria is changing rapidly but has struggled to come out with quality products for the lack of interesting producers.
Umbria thanks to Sagrantino di Montefalco is leading a new renaissance in the umbrian wine products.
Tuscany territory is so different with every condition. We have the sea, The high mountains ( Appennino with 2.100 mt elevation) and the rolling slopes of the southern part of the region.
The myriads of native grapes helped a lot also to have a great differentiation in products and quality, even though the Chianti was the only name known outside of Tuscany.
Tuscan is since the Roman Empire the green heart of the Empire and the people from my region knew and knows how to deal with our loved earth, even if the last 20 years the new generations have come out with cons and pros.
Tuscany is synonymous with agriculture and maybe now we are producing too much wine.
I do believe we will have to slow down because in the last 5 years they are all producing wines even in areas where wines never came out good and this will ruin the image slowly.
Contact us from wine travel ideas
Looking for ideas for your 2023 trip in Tuscany? Contact us for a customised itineray in some of the special wine regions of Tuscany.
By van or by foot, you choose and together we design your well deserved experiences.
We can’t wait to meet you and show you our beautiful region and its wines.
Travel responsibly 🙂
Travel with a local 🙂
Better do special things more than famous things © Out of the Box Florence © [email protected]