A few years back we spent some time in Tuscany. Since Tuscany is such a vast region we limited ourselves to one wine region, Chianti Classico to be exact. To be more exact there are 12 main wine regions of Tuscany: Chianti DOCG, Carmignano DOCG, Pomino, Chianti Classico DOCG, Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG, Maremma, Bolgheri, Brunello di Montepulciano DOCG, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG, Rosso di Montepulciano, Scansano and Parrina. Now to make things a bit more confusing we say we were in Chianti Classico because within the Chianti DOCG there are 7 districts or sub-regions: Rufina, Montalbano, Colli Fiorentini, Chianti Classico, Colline Pisane, Collo Senesi, and Colli Aretini.
We really enjoy Chianti Classico wines from Castelnuovo Berardenga. This area is in the southern part of Chianti Classico and it has a quaint little town but we were there for the wines which are rich and supple.
Just to refresh your memory Italy’s wine designations are, in ascending order of quality: Vdt – Vino da Tavola, IGT – Indicazione Geografica Tipica, DOC – Denominazione de Origine Controllata and DOCG – Denominazione de Origine Controllata Garantita.
Now to make things more confusing, since the beginning of this year, Chianti Classico is now know as the “new Chianti Classico”. Just when you thought you had the hang of it! They just changed the rules and laws a little bit. Now there is Chianti Classico Annata which must be aged 1 year and have a minimum of 12% alcohol. Next, there is the Reserva which must be aged for 2 ½ years and have a minimum of 12.5% alcohol. Then, the new Chianti Classico Gran Selezione which must use only the winery’s grapes and not source additional grapes. It must also be aged for a minimum of 30 months and have at least 13% alcohol. These new rules will give IGT’s some competition. The grapes used may be a minimum of 80% Sangiovese but could also be up to 100%. That 20 % may be made up of other international varietals or local indigenous grapes, but no white varietals. On the other hand, Chianti allows 10% of white varietals but then it only requires at least 70% Sangiovese and the rest can be international varietals.
Although Sangiovese is the dominant grape of Tuscany it is named differently in some districts. In Montepulciano it is known as prugnolo gentile but in Grosseto it becomes morrellino. Sangiovese grosso includes prugnolo and brunello which have large berries and sangioveto has small berries.
So what goes into producing unique Tuscan wines? Grapes, terroir and pruning, these are things that can make or break a great wine. In Tuscany you will find many great and interesting wines from Chianti and its sub-regions. One additional wine unique to this area is vin santo, literally “sacred wine”. Most commonly used as a dessert wine and traditionally served with almond flavored biscotti, it is the perfect ending to your meal and will be an enduring memory of your Tuscan expererience.