In the last review I covered the Northeastern regions of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto. At this point in the Intensive Sommelier Training, if we were being as through as our study of France, we should have studied Central Italy which includes Abruzzi, Latium, Marche, Tuscany, and Umbria. But due to time constraints and the expectations of the Certified level of Sommeliers exams we only covered Tuscany. But Central Italy will be combined and quickly covered with Southern Italy in the next review.
Overview of Tuscany
Premium wines are produced throughout Tuscany and it is second only to Piedmont in its number of DOCG regions. Winemaking in this region dates back to around 800 B.C. so I won’t even attempt to cover its history, other than mention that it became part of the Roman Empire in the 1st century B.C. and during the Middle Ages (5th to the 15th century) it became a very wealthy region and cultural center of Italy. The city of Florence is considered to be the birthplace of the Renaissance as well as of such well-known artists as Botticelli (1445-1510), Michelangelo (1475-1564) and Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).
The Grapes of Tuscany
Tuscany has a temperate to warm climate with a Mediterranean influence. Of the three quality wine-producing regions (Piedmont, Veneto, Tuscany) Tuscany is by far the warmest. Tuscany is bordered by Emilia-Romagna to the north and northeast, and Umbria and Latirum to the southeast. Most of the region’s vineyards are planted on rolling hillsides that dominate the landscape.
About 80% of wine production in Tuscany is red wine. The top red grape is Sangiovese (Brunello) which goes into just about every red wine and the second is a non-native grape - Cabernet Sauvignon. There are hundreds of Sangiovese clones grown throughout Tuscany but the two main clones are Sangiovese Grosso and Sangiovese Piccolo.
The top wine regions include Chianti DOCG, Chianti Classico DOCG, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, and Toscano IGT for the Super Tuscans. In different regions the Sangiovese is referred to by the name of the clone:
Important white grapes in Tuscany include such as Vernaccia, Trebbiano, Malvasia, Chardonnay, and Vermentino. Vernaccia is used in Tuscany’s only white DOCG - Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG.
Other important red grapes include Canaiolo, Merlot and Syrah. Canaiolo is one of the main grape varietals used to complement Sangiovese-based blends.
Although our class textbook The Sommelier Prep Course states that there are 6 DOCGs in Tuscany, and some online resources list 9, there are actually 11 which are as follows:
Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
Chianti Classico DOCG
Elba Aleatico Passito (Aleatico Passito dell’Elba) DOCG
Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG
Morellino di Scansano DOCG
Rosso della Val di Cornia (Val di Cornia Rosso) DOCG
Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG
The most important DOCGs are Chianti DOCG with its sub-region Chianti Classico DOCG and Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. The Tuscano IGT wines are also very important as this is the designation used by many Super Tuscan producers.
The Chianti region is over 40 miles from Florence south to the city of Siena. The appellation is made of 7 zones including:
If a wine is labeled simply Chianti DOCG without a zone indicated then the grapes were grown in two or more zones. For Chianti DOCG wines and its zones it must consist of at least 75% Sangiovese with up to 10% of other red grapes including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah or others as well as white wine grapes such as Trebbiano and Malvasia.
If it is Chianti Classico DOCG it must consist of at least 80% Sangiovese with up to 20% of other red grapes including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah or others. As of 2006, NO white grapes may be used in producing Chianti Classico DOCG.
Brunello Montalcino DOCG
Brunello Montalcino DOCG is a small appellation that utilizes Brunello and Sangiovese Grosso which are local synonyms for Sangiovese. These wines must be aged for 4 years with a minimum of 2 years in in oak. Ror riserva wines they must be aged 5 years with a minimum of 2 years in in oak. Rosso di Montalcino DOC is made from young vines or declassified Brunello.
Moscadello di Montalcino DOC is a white wine made which comes in tranquillo (still), frizzante (sparkling) and late-harvest Vendemmia Tardiva forms. The precise genetic identity of Moscadello remains unconfirmed as some theorize that it is related to Muscat of Alexandria, but the Moscadello di Montalcino DOC laws cite it as Moscato Bianco.
Other Tuscan Red Wines
Other Tuscan red wines include Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG which is made from a minimum of 70% Prugnolo Gentile (Sangiovese). The Bolgheri DOC is an appellation created in 1994 which includes the sub zone ‘Bolgheri Sassicaia’ one of the most well-known “Super Tuscans” and it was established as a DOC to feature international varieties. The Sant’Antimo DOC was created in 1995 to bring other Super Tuscans into DOC system specifically from Montalcino.
The Super Tuscan style of wine was first produced in the last 1960s and early 1970s when several winemakers, rather that abiding with the DOC system, decided to forgo the regulations and produce high quality blends using Sangiovese and Bordeaux varietals and label them as Vino da Tavola. The irony is these wines ended up demanding higher prices than many DOCG wines. Their success motivated the revamping of the wine laws in 1992 and the creation of a new designation called Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT). Some of the Super Tuscan wines have even been granted their own DOC designation. Some of the most well known Super Tuscans are as follows:
Sassicaia was created by Tenuta San Guido and the 1st vintage was in 1948. Typically it is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc.
Tignanello was created by Marchesi Antinori and the 1st vintage was in 1970. Typically it is a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc.
Solaia was created by Marchesi Antinori and the 1st vintage was in 1978. Typically it is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Sangiovese and 5% Cabernet Franc.
Ornellaia was created by Tenuta Dell’Ornellaia and the 1st vintage was in 1984. Typically it is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petite Verdot.
Tuscan White Wines
Although Tuscany is primarily known for its red wines about 20% are white wines. The Pomino DOC (Bianco) produces dry white wines from Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay and Trebbiano di Toscana (aka Ugni Blanc). The Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG produces dry white wines from the Vernaccia grape with up to 10% Chardonnay and Trebbiano di Toscana. Vin Santo are dessert wines produced from passito Trebbiano di Toscana and Malvasia grapes fermented slowly in small wooden barrels (caratelli). These are included in few DOCs such as Chianti Classico and they must be matured at a minimum of 3 years and may be aged up to 6 years.
Learning Objectives of Unit 4 – Day 3: Tuscany
At the beginning of class lectures a list of learning objectives is provided to the students. By the end of the class, the students should have a certain degree of understanding from their own reading and the lectures and be able to provide the answers to list of questions. The Learning Objectives for Unit 4 - Day 3 along with the answers are as follows.
By the end of class, students should be able to:
(1) State the ageing requirements for Brunello and Brunello Reserva
Answer: Brunello is 4 years, 2 in oak and Brunello Reserva, 5 years, 2 in oak
(2) Name 2 DOCGs in Chianti
Answer: Chianti Ruffina, Chianti Fiorentini
(3) Name 1 DOC created to include Super Tuscans
Answer: Sant’Antimo DOC
(4) What is Tuscany’s only white DOCG
Answer: Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG
(5) Describe the production and style of Vin Santo
Answer: Dessert wines produced from passito Trebbiano di Toscana and Malvasia grapes fermented slowly in small wooden barrels (caratelli).
(6) Note the only non-traditional grape of the 1st Super Tuscan
Answer: Cabernet Sauvignon
(7) Name a red Tuscan DOCG other than Chianti and name the grape
Answer: Morellino di Scansano DOCG, Sangiovese (85% minimum)
(8) Name a new DOCG of Tuscany
Answer: Elba Aleatico Passito DOCG
(9) Describe the attributes of any wines tasted today
Answer: See below
On the third day of Unit 4 we tasted the following wines:
1. 2012 Collezione Privata Chardonnay, Toscana Bianco IGT
This is a clear white wine, yellow-gold in color, star bright with medium+ viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate intense aromas of peaches, nectarines, baked apples, creamed corn with a hint of buttered popcorn. On the palate it has flavors of baked apples and peaches, lemon and a touch of chalky minerality with a hint of caramel on the finish. It is dry with medium+ acidity, medium+ body, medium+ alcohol and a very long finish. I was really surprised to be tasting a Chardonnay from Italy and was pleased with the quality of this wine. It seems to have one foot in the old world and one foot in the new world – it has the style of California but reflects the terroir of the old world. This wine sells for about $38 to $40 per bottle.
2. 2010 Poliziano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
This is a clear red wine, dark ruby at the core to pink at the rim, moderate concentration with medium viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate intense aromas of cherries, raspberries, black currants, cinnamon stick, dried roses, green herbs, and a hint of rusty nails and gunflint. On the palate has flavors of black cherries, rusty nails, a hint of chocolate and the woodiness and texture of a tongue depressor. It is dry with medium+ tannins, medium+ acidity, medium body, medium+ alcohol and a medium length finish. This wine is a blend of 85% Prugnolo Gentile, 15% Colorino, Canaiolo e Merlot and it sells for about $18 per bottle.
3. 2009 Fattoria Selvapiana Bucerchiale Chianti Reserva, Rufina
This is a clear red wine, garnet at the core with a tint of orange at the rim. It has medium concentration and medium viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate intense aromas of dried cherries, raspberries, dried tobacco, dried roses, green herbs, and old leather. On the palate it has flavors of dried cherries, black tea, cloves, and a touch of black pepper. It is dry with medium+ tannins, medium+ acidity, medium+ alcohol, medium body and a medium length finish. This wine sells for about $28 per bottle.
4. 2010 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico
This is a clear red wine, dark ruby at the core to garnet at the rim, day-bright with medium concentration and medium+ viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate intense aromas of baked cherries, blood oranges, fruitcake, cherry cola, decaying soil and a hint of dried herbs. On the palate it has flavors of blood oranges, dried cherries, decaying soil and dried herbs. It is dry with medium+ tannins, medium+ acidity, medium+ alcohol, medium body, it is moderately complex with a medium+ length finish. This wine sells for about $24 per bottle.
5. 2008 Casanova di Neri Tenuta Nuova, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
This is a clear red wine, dark ruby at the core to garnet at the rim, day-bright with medium concentration and medium+ viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate intense aromas of prunes, dried cherries, lavender, black pepper, cinnamon and a hint of smoke and charred wood. On the palate it has flavors of intense black cherries with sort of a medicinal quality, cloves, cola, dried cinnamon and texture of a tongue depressor. It is dry with some residual sugar, it has medium+ tannins, medium+ acidity, medium+ alcohol, medium body, it is highly complex with a medium+ length finish. This wine sells for about $24 per bottle.
6. 2011 Le Volte dell'Ornellaia
This is a clear red wine, dark ruby at the core to garnet at the rim, day-bright with medium concentration and medium+ viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate intense aromas of dried red fruits, beef jerky, smoke, dried earth and a hint of mint. On the palate it has flavors of black currants, black cherry, black licorice, mint, a hint of oak and a chalky minerality. It is dry with medium+ tannins, medium acidity, medium+ alcohol, it has a medium body, with a medium length finish. The nose and the palate of this wine are very different. On the nose it is Syrah-like but on the plate it is more Bordeaux-like. This wine sells for about $23 per bottle.
7. 2010 Antinori, Tignanello
This is a clear red wine, ruby at the core to garnet at the rim, day-bright with medium concentration and medium+ viscosity with tears that stain the glass. On the nose it is clean with moderate intense aromas of dusty black cherries, plums, black licorice, cocoa, mint and a hint of dried herbs. On the palate it has flavors of black cherry, plum, green bell peppers, black licorice, and cocoa. It is dry with medium+ tannins, medium+ acidity, medium+ alcohol, it has a medium body, it is well rounded and highly complex with a medium length finish. This wine is a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc and it sells for about $80 per bottle.
8. 2006 Badia a Coltibuono, Vin Santo
This is a clean white wine, it is caramel/copper in color, star-bright with minimal rim variation and medium+ viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate intense a0mas of dried oranges, golden raisins, caramel, toffee and walnuts. On the palate it is sweet with medium+ acidity, medium body, high viscosity, medium+ alcohol, with a silky texture and an extremely long nutty finish. This wine sells for about $35 per 375 ml bottle.