Tuscan wine touring
Discover the best wineries in Tuscany
There’s Italian wine… and then there’s Tuscan wine. Among Italian reds, only wines from the two great villages of Piedmont—Barolo and Barbaresco—come close to the consistent quality of an aged Brunello di Montalcino, a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, or a top Chianti Classico.
Sangiovese is the king of grapes here, and each of these fine reds is a different expression of what happens when you tend them carefully, squeeze their juice and wait.
But there’s more to Tuscan wine than just the famous names, and plenty of wine areas to explore across the region.
Brunello di Montalcino. Muscular, robust and at times so concentrated its colour almost appears black, Brunello has a fair claim to be Italy’s best DOCG wine. Montalcinese cooking is all about game like cinghiale (wild boar), and the earthy flavour of Brunello is a perfect match.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Tuscany’s only DOCG white is a subtle, straw-coloured aperitif wine. Taste or buy from the widest selection in the region at the Museo della Vernaccia, next to San Gimignano’s ruined castle.
Chianti. Tuscany’s best-known export after Michelangelo. Look for “Classico” on the label, which means grapes come from the original (and best) growing zone. Riserva wines must be aged in oak for a minimum of just over two years.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. The elegant, ruby-coloured counterpoint to Montalcino’s Brunello—it’s hard to believe they are squeezed from the same Sangiovese grape. For more everyday drinking, Rosso di Monrepulciano has a softer flavour and a more accessible price.
Super Tuscans. The nickname was originally given to a few wines made outside DOC rules in the 1960s, and it has stuck. The best Super Tuscans usually contain Cabernet Sauvignon, and come from the coastal Maremma around Bolgheri. Be sure you have packed your credit card—or better still, that someone else is picking up the tab.
Vin Santo. Tuscany’s sweet, yellow dessert wine is best paired with hard, almond-flour biscotti di Prato (sweet biscuits more often known as cantuccini). The most refined is made in the hills north-east of Montepulciano.
Monte Carlo. This small wine zone, in the hills between Lucca and Pistoia, produces DOC reds and (especially good) whites that are perfect accompaniment to a Tuscan picnic. There is a good selection in cave-like Enoteca Vanni, Lucca’s top wine shop.
Top places for Tuscan Wine
No vines grow in its streets, but the city of the Renaissance still makes a great stop on a Tuscan wine tour: Florence has the region’s best enoteche (wine bars). Cantinetta dei Verrazzano is operated by a top Chianti estate, and sells its Super-Tuscan Sasello, a rich, complex delight; order a bottle to wash down a platter of salami and pecorino (ewe’s milk cheese). Over in Oltrarno, the hand-picked wine lists at Le Volpi e L’Uva and Pitti Gola e Cantina [http://pittigolaecantina.com/] are stocked with labels from small Tuscan producers. You’ll get a first-class introduction to the history and flavours of Tuscan wine if you take Context Travel’s Sense of Tuscany Wine Tasting walk.
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No two Chiantis are the same, and there’s nowhere you’ll get a better Chianti education that at the Accademia del Buon Gusto, in Panzano. It is more than just a great wine shop. Among the larger wineries offering cellar tours and tastings, Vignamaggio and Castello di Vicchiomaggio back up their grandeur with skilful winemaking. Fontodi’s vines occupy a scenic stretch south of Panzano known as the Conca d’Oro (Golden Shell)—their organic extra virgin olive oil is the equal of the excellent red wines.
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Southern Tuscany’s highest hill-town (at 605m) has been a winemaking centre since Etruscan times. The steep streets of the centre are a good place to start a wine trail. Contucci occupies the cellars of Piazza Grande’s Palazzo Contucci. Also in the town, Gattavecchi has a range of top-class Vino Nobile, including flagship Parceto. It’s best to arrange trips to rural wineries ahead of arrival: stop in at the Consorzio del Vino Nobile office, in Piazza Grande, for help in making the arrangements.
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Wine brought riches to this lonely hilltop town, and the residents have never forgotten it. Each year the Consorzio commissions a major global artist to design a label to commemorate the vendemmia (harvest). The best place to get a handle on Montalcino’s 200-plus wines is at the Enoteca della Fortezza, which stocks as close to the whole terrain’s output as you’ll find anywhere in the world. Tours around one of Montalcino’s big-name wineries, Poggio Antico, run daily in English; phone in the morning to check times. The best Brunellos can age for a decade or more—and Poggio Antico is one of the very best.
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Last updated: 29th of July 2013