There are dozens of secret wines in Tuscany still to be discovered by the global public. Hidden oenological treasures from over a hundred years of history. Let’s find them!
Tuscany is one of the most important Italian regions for wine production both in terms of quantity and quality. In fact, there are 11 DOCG wines and almost 40 DOC wines. Some of these are popular all over the world such as Brunello di Montalcino, Nobile di Montepulciano, and Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Some others (lots of others, actually) are even unknown to people living in Tuscany, let alone to their fellow Italians!
From the north to the south of our region, there are many lesser-known wines that have yet to be as celebrated as the most recognized ones.
The perfect Soil
One of the main reasons why vines have been grown all over Tuscany since ancient times is its pedoclimatic environment. There is everything in this region: sandy coast and lowlands to the west, acres and acres of hilly areas in the heart of the region where the soil is mostly marl, sandstone, and clay, in addition to real mountains such as the Apuan Alps in the northwest famous for its marble quarries and the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines.
The greatest concentration of vineyards is in the hilly areas to obtain a better quality of the wines, but there are pleasant exceptions on the coast and near the mountains. There are very few areas where vines are not planted.
The climate is generally temperate but with big differences from area to area, especially based on the distance from the sea and on the altitude. As an example, the temperature range is mild on the coast and more pronounced towards the Apennines.
There is an absolute prevalence of red over white grapes. Among the reds, Sangiovese is, of course, the king of grapes found in most Tuscan blends, often vinified on its own according to regulations, such as Brunello di Montalcino, or as in some Chianti Classico or Nobile di Montepulciano wines, even if it is not mandatory.
Other red grapes used in Tuscany are the Colorino (from Colore, color, usually used to enrich in color the light Sangiovese), Syrah, Cabernet and Merlot.
Among the white grapes, the most important one is certainly Vermentino but we can find also a lot of Trebbiano and Malvasia
Colli di Luni
Starting from the northern coast, Colli di Luni is quite an important appellation where Vermentino grape probably gives the best results.
The wine area is part in Tuscany and part in Liguria where Vermentino is often called Pigato.
Wines usually have an intense nose with characteristic notes of thyme, sage, and basil, a good acidity and saltiness, perfect with fish fry and baked fish with herbs.
Candia dei Colli Apuani
The Candia dei Colli Apuani wine region in the Massa Carrara province is also very interesting, not necessarily for the quality of wine produced (still based on Vermentino, sometimes with a tiny addition of carbon dioxide to increase the freshness) but most certainly for the crazy locations of vineyards. Vines are actually planted very close to the marble quarries on really steep slopes and are very hard to reach and to work on!
Heading east in the Prato province, Carmignano is a wine region where wine has been produced since Etruscan times.
The borders of the production area were already established in 1716 by the Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici together with those of Chianti Classico.
It has been part of the Chianti wine region for a few decades, and, since 1975, it has had its own appellation.
Carmignano can be considered the predecessor to the Super Tuscan wines. In fact, it has been used to blend Sangiovese with Cabernet, a grape variety imported from France by the Medici (in the area it is still called Uva Francesa or Francesca which means coming from France) for its production since as early as the year 1600.
Pomino, in the Florence province, shares the same history with Carmignano and Chianti Classico. Borders were established at the beginning of the 18th century, which explains the close connection between these wines and their territory. As in Carmignano, French grapes have been used here since the 1800s. Still, the most important white grapes in Pomino are Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay, very unusual in Tuscany where the traditional white grapes are Trebbiano and Malvasia.
Southeast from here on the border with beautiful Umbria, the Cortona DOC is becoming more and more popular. Of all the winemaking areas in Tuscany, only in Cortona does Syrah prevail over Sangiovese.
It is thought that one of the first to bring Syrah to Tuscany was the Count of Montecarlo of Lucca on the way back from a trip to France arriving first in the Arezzo area and finally in Cortona in the early twentieth century. It seems that there is a certain similarity in the climate of Cortona and the Rhone coast, a wine-growing area now recognized worldwide as the home of Syrah.
The wine region is located between Montalcino and Montepulciano, and it includes most of the areas not belonging to the “big brother” wines. Even if wine has always been produced here, the appellation has only been in existence since the beginning of 2000 thanks to the tenacity of some of the founding producers of the Orcia Wine Consortium with the goal of protecting and promoting this wine and its territory. The most important grape is, of course, Sangiovese.
The Wines of the Volcano
In the Grosseto province in the southern part of Tuscany, the landscape is dominated by our “gentle giant”, Monte Amiata, an ancient extinct volcano, nowadays a beautiful mountain.
The hilly area from the coast to Amiata Mountain is very suitable for viticulture. Morellino di Scansano and Montecucco Sangiovese are probably the most important DOCG wines of this area. In the last 10 years, the quality of both of these wines has improved considerably. Both based on Sangiovese, these wines are usually full bodied with an intense nose of red and black fruit, nice acidity, and quite tannic primarily in their youth. The perfect pairing is with game, especially wild boar.
Wines from South and Islands
The Ansonica Costa dell’Argentario wine region includes the Monte Argentario, a lovely peninsula connected to the coast by three strips of land, the tiny Isola del Giglio, and the area of Capalbio.
The Ansonica grape requires particular microclimatic characteristics for correct maturation with intense sunshine, high temperatures, and zero or very low rainfall especially during the vegetative phase. That is why it is only produced in this little part of the coast and on the islands. It can also be found in Sicily and Sardinia where it is called Inzolia.
Bianco di Pitigliano is the white wine produced in the area of the Etruscan city of Pitigliano, on the South Slope of the Amiata Mountain. The main grape is the Tuscan Trebbiano followed by Grechetto, Malvasia, and also international grapes such as Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.
A little gem is the Elba Aleatico Passito, a dessert wine produced with 100% Aleatico, a very interesting red grape. Passito stands for “appassito” , which means withered. In fact, before being vinified, the grapes are subject to natural drying for at least 10 days in order to reduce the quantity of water in the grape.
Aleatico usually has a deep ruby red color, sometimes with violet reflections tending to garnet with aging, is intense and sweet, full-bodied, and perfect with fruit tarts or chocolate desserts.