Nowhere in Italy do the wines so vividly reflect the countryside as in the central Italy region of Tuscany. The bold, full-bodied, mostly red wines are as hearty of the residents, the food, and the soul of this historic province.
Perhaps, the best known of Tuscany’s wines, Chianti is a wine-growing zone as well as a wine. Located in the heart of Tuscany, between Siena and Florence, Chianti is divided into seven sub-regions, each with their own character and terroir. The making of Chianti dates back to the 14th century, but it’s only been fairly recently, since 1932, that the Italian government has regulated its production. Today, Chianti must contain at least 75 percent Sangiovese grapes, with up to 10 percent Canaiolo and up to 15 percent Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon grapes permitted.
Chianti has a bold, full-bodied taste, with hints of ripe cherries and plums. It has a slightly spicy and salty taste that makes it an ideal accompaniement to tomato-based dishes, from traditional red sauces to braised meats.
Brunello di Montalcino
Tuscany’s most revered wine, Brunello (literally, “the nice, dark one”) comes from the southern part of Tuscany, where the climate is somewhat warmer than in Chianti. This slightly warmer temperature allows the wine grapes to ripen just a little more. Consequently, Brunello is made from 100 percent Sangiovese grapes, and always has been. By law, Brunello must be aged longer than most other Tuscan wines – four years, two of which must be in oak.
Brunello has a thick texture and a complex flavor profile, with overtones of black cherry, blackberry, and even chocolate. Brunello is ideal with meat dishes, such as a steak, lamb chops, or a roast.
Rosso di Montalcino
Often considered Brunello’s lesser cousin, Rosso di Montalcino is made from 100 percent Sangiovese grapes in the same region as Brunello, but not aged as long – a minimum one year instead of four. Thus it is fresher, lighter, and better when young. It, too, is a nice accompaniment to meat dishes.
Carmignano combines the regional favorite, Sangiovese grape with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, although up to 20 percent Canaiolo and 10 percent Trebbiano may be added. Carmignano is a graceful wine with an almost rhubarb taste combined with overtones of cherries. It pairs well with sliced cold meats, pizza, and fried foods.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
“The Noble Wine of Montepulciano” has been produced since Etruscan times. This wine gains its “noble” moniker in the 18th century, when it was the choice of nobles, popes, and poets. Like Chianti and Brunello, Vino Nobile is crafted from its own clone of Sangiovese grapes, blended with just a little bit of Malvasia, Canaiolo, and/or Trebbiano.
Vino Nobile has a soft style with slight cherry and prune overtones and is well-suited to roast meats, such as pork or beef.
Whichever wine from Tuscany you choose, you’re sure to enjoy the region’s hearty variations of the Sangiovese grapes. No where is the world are these grapes so good.