Winery of the Month – FEBRUARY 2020
Exploring Tuscany

I am sure that when most people think of Italian wine country, pictures of rolling Tuscan vineyards pop into their minds.  For this reason, we are going to explore Tuscany in February.  Eleven areas within Tuscany have been awarded a DOCG (the highest level of quality wine in Italy), while a further 41 have DOC (a step below DOCG) status.  Along with these geographical/viticultural areas, there are 6 larger IGP areas.  IGP wines are a step up from table wines, but also not as strictly defined as DOC’s.                                                          It is worth noting, 85% of the wine production in Tuscany is red.  Only one of the 11 DOCG’s is for white wine.  The overwhelming grape of the region is Sangiovese, which makes up about 66% of production.  Chianti, Brunello, Tignanello, Ornellaia are just a few of the most well-known wine names that originate in Tuscany.

Strangely, especially for Italy, Tuscany is probably best known for French grapes.  In the 60’s, Chianti had gained a certain level of fame.  To take advantage of this, many Chianti producers super charged their output.  They put in more vines per acre, while allowing each plant to reach its maximum number of bunches.  This increase in volume came at the expense of quality.  Also, at this time the rules for Chianti required growers to include white varietals, as well as lesser quality red grapes.  There were a few renegade winemakers who decided to produce wines outside of these regulations.  They stopped using the lower quality grapes and started to use some Bordeaux varieties.  Namely Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.  These wines started to gain international fame and were subsequently dubbed by the wine media as “super Tuscans.” These producers were at least partly responsible for the increase in quality and world renown reputation of Italian wines.  In the southern part of the Chianti around the town of Montalcino another famous Italian wine was being born.  The wine from this region is called Brunello di Montalcino. 

The fame of Montalcino started in the mid 1800’s with a farmer, Clemente Santi.  He was the first to initially select, and isolate the best clones of Sangiovese, known locally as Brunello.  In 1888 his grandson Ferrucio Biondi-Santi, who has his own amazing history, released the first Brunello that had been aged in large wooden barrels.  After WW2, there was only one producer, Biondi-Santi.  Brunello was really the only place in Tuscany making high-quality wine in the 60’s.  Conversely, it was not very profitable, as there were only 11 producers making wine at the time.  As the Super Tuscans were raising the awareness and the quality of Italian wines of Italy, Brunello started to get noticed.  During the 80’s the quality and prestige of Brunello was so great that it was awarded the first DOCG.  Today, there are around 200 producers.  Just East of Montalcino lies the town of Montepulciano (there is also a grape called Montepulciano in Abruzzo).  Here Sangiovese is called Prugnello Gentile.  The region is called Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and has been famous for its wines since the 1400’s.  Many wines from this region are among the most famous of Italy.  There are so many regions to name and so little time. 

The only DOCG for white wines lies around the town of San Gimignano.  The grape is Vernnaccia.  Hence, the name of the region is Vernaccia di San Gimignano.  Vernaccia tends to produce lighter wines with apple and citrus flavors.  Another white grape from Tuscany is Vermentino.  Vermentino is grown all over the Mediterranean region where it goes by many different names.  The Vermentino in Tuscany is mainly grown in the coastal regions.  Vermentinos are normally medium bodied with citrus and stone fruit flavors.  They also have a slight touch of salinity.  It has always been said, this is because of its proximity to the sea.  Trebbiano di Toscano is normally pretty bland but there are is a lot of experimenting going on to change that. 

Le Calcinae Vernaccia di San Gimignano
A perfect example of Vernaccia.  Light to medium body with some floral notes alongside the bright citrus.   
Regularly $19.99   Sale $15.99

Sassoregale Vermentino
Here is a nice introduction to Tuscan Vermentino.  Big concentrations of stone and citrus fruits but still bright and refreshing.
Regularly $18.99   Sale $14.99

Sassoregale Sangiovese
What this wine lacks in complexity it makes up for in simplicity.  It is an easy drinking red wine with cherry and berry flavors that will pair with a lot of foods.
Regularly $18.99    Sale $14.99

Lamole di Lamole
We get a little more complexity with this one.  Dark cherry fruit with some Tuscan herbs and a hint of oak.
Regularly $19.99   Sale $15.99

Talenti Rosso di Montalcino
You will taste some familiar notes of Sangiovese here as well, but with considerably more grip.  The tannins are more pronounced, and the wine has a bit more heft.
Regularly $31.99   Sale $23.99

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