Monica Larner - 30/09/2015
About this WINE
Responsible for only 6 percent of Italy's total wine production in 2006 (half that of the Veneto) Tuscany may not be a heavyweight in terms of quantity, but as the home of two of the country's most famous fine wines - Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino - it certainly holds its own in terms of quality.Tuscany is Italy's most ancient wine region, dating back to the 8th century BC when the Etruscans developed the area in parallel with the Greeks, before ceding to the Romans. Along with building roads and sewers, they developed the region's viticultural potential, using wood for winemaking rather than amphorae, and passing their expertise onto their French neighbours. With the demise of Rome in the 5th century AD, the Longobards established Lucca as the capital of what was then known as Tuscia. Florence and Siena became banking and trading hubs during the Middle Ages, with Chianti – then a white wine – first documented in the 14th century.
Tuscany passed from the Medicis to the Habsburgs as part of the Holy Roman Empire, and then onto the Austrian Empire before becoming part of a reunified Italy in 1861. The quality of Chianti was first recognised by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo III, who classified its finest areas in 1716.
Located in the west-central part of the country with the Tyrrhenian Sea lapping its coastline, Tuscany's climate ranges from Mediterranean on the coast to continental deep in the Apennines. More than two thirds of the province is covered with hills, an important terroir factor in the production of fine Tuscan wine. The finest such areas are Chianti Classico, Chianti Rufina, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Morellino di Scansano and Bolgheri. Sangiovese (in its various clones) is the black grape of choice.
Cabernet Franc is widely planted in Bordeaux and is the most important black grape grown in the Loire. In the Médoc it may constitute up to 15% of a typical vineyard - it is always blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and is used to add bouquet and complexity to the wines. It is more widely used in St.Emilion where it adapts well to the cooler and moister clay soils - Cheval Blanc is the most famous Cabernet Franc wine in the world, with the final blend consisting of up to 65% of the grape.
Cabernet Franc thrives in the Loire where the cooler growing conditions serve to accentuate the grape's herbaceous, grassy, lead pencil aromas. The best wines come from the tuffeaux limestone slopes of Chinon and Bourgeil where growers such as Jacky Blot produce intense well-structured wines that possess excellent cellaring potential.