Tuscany is located midway between
Milan and Rome and is bordered on the west by the Tyrrhenian Sea and
the Apennines mountain range on the east. It was first inhabited by
the Etruscans, in the Middle Ages and continuing through the
Renaissance, and eventually developed into a center of the Arts and
Learning under the control of the Medici clan. No art was more
developed here than that of winemaking. Even before the Estruscans
moved to the area, wild vines grew in abundance around Tuscany's
sun-drenched hills. Early settlers developed the early grapes into
the world-famous Sangiovese and Lambrusco.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Canaiolo, Ciliegiolo combine with these and
produce Montalcino, Scansano, Carmginano, along with the more well
known Chianti. Adding even more variety are the Mammolo, Malvasia,
Colorino, Raspirosso, Gamay, Moscatello and others. Whites of the
area include Elba Island, Vermentino, Bolgheri and Val di Nievole.
Tuscany is home to four of Italy's nine top-rated DOCG (Denominazione
di Origine Controllata e Garantita) classified zones. At only one
shop in this area the number of available labels has gone from 1,000
a few years ago to over 5,000 presently. It is no wonder that Italy
now vies with France for the world leader in wine production.
These wines are produced by vineyards that range from the Castello
di Fonterutoli owned by the same family since 1435 to those founded
only a few years ago. Tuscan wines are experiencing an all time high
in both quality and popularity.
At Rocca delle Maccie the importance of quality is evident. Some of
the practices instituted by this estate are; organic fertilization,
careful pruning, hand harvesting and the use of oak barriques for
aging. As an active member of a consortium of Chianti Classico
growers, this vineyard produces one of the best selling wines in
Another example, the Fassati Novile di Montepulciano, which is made
from a mixture of Prugnolo Gentile (a clone of Sangiovese Grosso),
Canaiolo Nero and Mammolo, was praised as long ago as the 18th
century by Voltaire.
Wines produced in this area range from the simple Chiantis to the
more complex super Tuscan reds, with fruity aromas. With the changes
in vineyards and viticultural methods of the 1970s the 1996 label
has entered world class.
The 'super Tuscans' became popular as more international style reds
began to be produced from Bordeaux-style blends of Cabernet
Sauvignon and Merlot along with the Sangiovese. These wines labeled
'table wine to circumvent counter-productive government regulations,
are today anything but. Among the wonderful new reds are the Brusco
dei Barbi, celebrated among connoisseurs.
Bolgheri Vermentino is among the delightful, fruity whites of area
and pairs perfectly with shrimp. Once only the province of France,
the Cabreo Chardonnay competes on equal footing.
Swirl the wine gently, sniff and taste.
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