Winegrowing in Tuscany
The Medici family dynasty was very important for Tuscan wine culture. After Tuscany had become a grand duchy, the dukes – descended from the Medici dynasty – continued the cultivation of wine. Cosimo III in particular left a lasting mark on the Tuscan winegrowing region. He introduced 150 grape varieties, one of them Cabernet Sauvignon – a grape that today plays a major role in the famous single-varietal wine Sassicaia. He is also credited with being the first to divide a wine region into different zones, a measure that was the inspiration for today's quality assurance through designations of origin. The Grand Duke also had a high level of wine expertise. His guidelines on fermentation methods and blends set precedents.In the 19th century it was once again a statesman who issued strict rules for wine production, thus creating the basis for today's quality wines. Baron Bettino Bercasoli created the blend of Sangiovese and Canaiolo grapes that achieved global fame as Chianti Classico. A new heyday of winegrowing began, which lasted until the 1950s – when farmers adopted the motto "quantity instead of quality". This resulted in thin wines with not much flavour, and products from the winegrowing regions of Tuscany suffered severe reputational damage. Oenological improvements and winegrowers who were willing to experiment enabled the region to regain its former importance in the course of the 1970s.The geological and climatic conditions in the Maremma are favourable for producing top wines. What used to be marshland in southern Tuscany is now a boom region in Italy's viticulture. The great international success of the wines known as Super Tuscans has brought the Maremma an impressive series of major investments in viticulture. The Maremma is not the only region in Tuscany that produces Super Tuscans, of course: the Chianti and Montalcino areas also produce some outstanding wines from international grape varieties. But it is in the Maremma that you will find the newest and most exciting wines in the Super Tuscan category.
The Tuscan winegrowing region enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with no heavy temperature fluctuations to disturb the growth of the vines. Many hours of sunshine ensure that the grapes ripen fully, and regular rainfall prevents the soil from drying out. Warmth and plenty of sunshine create good conditions for quality wines in all sub-regions. Microclimates vary, though, which also affects the taste of the wines. It rains less in the region around Siena, for example, which is why the products of its vineyards are sharper.
One of the country's best wines is Brunello di Montalcino, a much sought-after wine that often fetches top market prices. This extremely extract-rich wine consists of 100% Sangiovese Grosso. As a DOCG wine it belongs to the highest quality level. It matures for at least three years in barriques, and for six months in the bottle. The area of origin is limited to the small town of Montalcino. Brunello is an opulent wine, with a pithy expression from its strong tannins and an aroma reminiscent of cedar wood and blackberries. Thanks to its excellent ageing ability, its tart fruitiness only intensifies with time. The best bottles are 25 years old. More affordable, but also highly valued, are the Rosso di Montalcino and Morellino di Scansano wines, which are also based on Sangiovese Grosso. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is based on a different subspecies of the Sangiovese grape: according to legend it was once reserved exclusively for Pope Paul III, and it has retained the image of a noble wine to this day. Its powerful character and good ageing potential make this product of Tuscan viticulture quite sought after.The “table wines”, the so-called Super Tuscans, are not entirely typical of those bearing the DOCG and DOC quality seals. Though it took a long time for them to be awarded a quality label, most of them definitely reach the standard required for it – and some of them even surpass it. What paid off was the fact that from the 1970s onwards, some winegrowers abandoned strict production rules. Contrary to established practices, they adopted typical Bordelais grape varieties and vinified their red wine in barriques. The Super Tuscan Tignanello in particular is extremely elegant.Although Tuscany's winegrowing focuses on red grapes, its whites are also impressive. White wines such as Galestro are vinified in Tuscany in a light, neutral style. Local speciality Vin Santo is a strong sweet wine made from dried Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes. Vernaccia di San Gimigniano is no less impressive. Pressed from the Vernaccia grape, this dry white wine comes from the DOCG-classified vineyards on the outskirts of the small town of San Gimigniano. It combines a fresh, fruity taste with mild acidity.