Italians wines

Bottles of Chianti and other Tuscan wines

Tuscany

Tuscany (Tuscano in Italian) is one of Italy’s top producers of DOC and DOCG wines, second only to Piedmont. Located in central Italy, it is home to some of the country’s most notable red wines: Chianti, Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – all of which are made from Tuscany’s traditional and most important grape varietal, Sangiovese. Although made from the same from grape, they all taste quite different. This is partly due to the region’s various climactic conditions created by the mountains and rolling hills in which the grapes are grown. Tuscany also is home to some exquisite nontraditional Italian wines known as super Tuscans.

Chianti and Chianti Classico

Chianti is one of the world’s most famous and highly regarded wines. The region known as Chianti covers an extensive area over most of central Tuscany and has a long history of winemaking dating back to at least the thirteenth century. Italian WineChianti and Chianti Classico are two distinctly different wines and each have their own set of DOCG rules. Chianti DOCG is divided into seven zones: Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colli Senesi, Colline Pisane, Montespertoli, and Rufina. Its wines must be made up of at least 75% Sangiovese. Grapes used for blending typically include Cabernet Sauvignon and Canaiolo. Other grapes may be used such as the white varietals, Trebbiano and Malvasia. Though, they can result in weak and acidic wines, thus are rarely used.

Italian WineChianti Classico is the most renowned of the Chianti wines. It has its own DOCG designation and covers the original, smaller central region of Chianti. Winemaking customs here are more stringent and generally produce the richest and most complex wines. Wines must be made using at least 85% Sangiovese grapes and white grapes are not allowed for blending. Chianti Classico usually carries the black rooster seal on the label, the symbol of the Chianti Classico growers association. Often displaying notes of cherries, tobacco, leather and spice, it pairs well with tomato-based pasta dishes and grilled meats.

Brunello di Montalcino

Italian WineJust south of Chianti is the village of Montalcino. This is where Tuscany’s most venerated wine is produced. Brunello is Italian for “brown or dark one” and is the name of the Sangiovese clone grown in Montalcino. The wines here are quite different from the Chianti wines made from Sangiovese. They are bolder and more tannic with fruit-forward flavors. This is due in part to Montalcino’s more southern location and warmer climate. Brunello di Montalcino DOCG also has some of the strictest regulations. It’s made using 100% Sangiovese, has yield limitations, and must be aged for a minimum of four years before being released. Five to ten years of aging is better. However, ten years or more usually is aged to perfection.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Italian WineAs noted in the beginning of this article, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is not made from Montepulciano grapes. Rather, it’s made from Sangiovese grown in near the southern Tuscan town of Montepulciano. Vino Nobile often trails behind Chianti and Brunello in notoriety. However, it has a long history and received its name in reference to members of the noble class who commonly drank it. This wine is not one to be underestimated. Its easy to drink and quite versatile, making it great on its own or paired with food.

Super Tuscans

Italian WineSuper Tuscans is the nickname given to a non-traditional style of Italian wines that was first produced in the 1960’s and 1970’s. A group of innovative and rebellious winemakers decided to create wines that did not follow the strict guidelines mandated by DOC regulations. They sacrificed DOC status of their wines and made them the way they wanted to, which, consequently, qualified only as Vino da Tavola (table wine). Although the lowest classification of Italian wines, they began to gain huge popularity and eventually forced wine laws to change with the creation of a new category called Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT).  As mentioned previously, this classification elevated the status of wines that are of superior quality to basic table wines, yet do not meet the criteria for DOC status. Many Super Tuscans are made using non-Italian grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and others. Winemakers have more flexibility to experiment with various blends. They tend to be more modern-styled, bold and rich. The quality of Super Tuscans is undeniable and make up a large part of Tuscany’s high-end market, often costing $100 or more per bottle.

Conclusion

Italy is one of the most important wine-producing countries in the world. The amount of wine it produces for its size is astonishing. It has hundreds of grape varieties and those that constitute its most respected wines, such as Sangiovese and Nebbiolo, are rarely found outside of the country, making them truly unique to Italy. Italy’s DOC laws regulate the production of wines as well as establish traditional practices and identify the top wine-making regions. This article covers Italy’s classic regions. Other important regions include Lombardy, Friuli, Abruzzo, Lazio, Umbria, and several others. There is much to learn about Italian wines. It may seem intimidating or confusing at first, but it’s well worth it.

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