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.
It is a high yielding, late ripening grape that performs best on well-drained calcareous soils on south-facing hillsides. For years it was blighted by poor clonal selection and massive overcropping - however since the 1980s the quality of Sangiovese-based wines has rocketed upwards and they are now some of the most sought after in the world.
It produces wines with pronounced tannins and acidity, though not always with great depth of colour, and its character can vary from farmyard/leather nuances through to essence of red cherries and plums. In the 1960s the advent of Super Tuscans saw bottlings of 100% Sangiovese wines, as well as the introduction of Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon blends, the most famous being Tignanello.