Any Tuscan case has to reflect the fact that 85 percent of Tuscan wine is red, and two-thirds vineyards are planted to Sangiovese.
The following dozen includes five wines made entirely or mainly from its flagship variety, with a Bordeaux-inspired blend, a Syrah, and a last red made from a reviving local variety.
There are just two white wines, which comes in at must more wallet-friendly prices than most of the red wines. A Vin Santo is included, and the eclectic only makes an appearance with the final choice.
For the marquee red wines, wine lovers benefit from a run of very good recent vintages – 2015 and 2016 are regarded as excellent for both Chianti up in the hills and the coastal Maremma and Bolgheri regions. The 2017 and 2013 vintages were very good too, while 2012 and 2010 were stellar in Montalcino, with 2015 and 2013 not far behind.
Tuscany’s only white wine DOCG has to feature in this mixed case. Furthermore, anyone who has visited this stunning medieval town is unlikely to forget its well-textured, lemony white wine. Montenidoli's core bottling is the most searched-for example among users of our database.
Based on production volumes, I should perhaps pick a Trebbiano for this spot in the case. A white made from Ansonica could also have been included. I could also have added one of the Chardonnays or other barrel-fermented whites made by top wine estates, though it is hard to argue that such wines are quintessentially Tuscan.
However, I have always enjoyed the clean, crisp Vermentinos I have tried from coastal vineyards. This is a fine example from the Bolgheri estate owned by the Allegrini family of Valpolicella fame.
Most of the red wines in this selection are at the luxury end of the market, but this is a good example of Chianti closer to everyday price level. Poggiotondo is a family estate located five kilometers (3 miles) northwest of Empoli, around 30 kilometers west of Florence and the Classico zone.
A Chianti Superiore must be aged for at least seven months, compared with four for a standard Chianti. It must reach 12 percent abv, rather than 11.5, though with climate change this is very achievable.
I’m a big enough Chianti Classico fan that I could easily pick a mixed dozen just from that one DOCG. This is a stunning, powerful, well-structured 100-percent Sangiovese from an estate in the Castelnuovo Berardenga area right at the southern end of the Chianti Classico zone.
Rancia is named after a historic farmhouse, which was once a Benedictine monastery. The wine sees 18 to 20 months in new French oak barrels and the best vintages mature well for 20 years or more.
There are so many options for this spot in the case, the biggest, boldest expression of Tuscan Sangiovese. And it is an important choice as Brunello di Montalcino is extremely popular with Wine-Searcher users.
I could go for a high-priced legend such as Biondi Santi or Case Basse, or a deluxe cuvée from any number of estates. But in fact, the most searched-for Brunello on our database is the "standard" bottling from Il Poggione, and comparitively speaking, it is very well priced.
The estate does make a Riserva Vigna Paganelli in the best years from their oldest vineyard, but it is this wine that drives the estate's lofty status with our users.
The third and least well known of the Big Three Sangiovese appellations, though the best wines stand up well against top Chianti Classicos and and Brunellos. They can combine the structure and complexity of the former, with some of the extra weight of the latter.
This wine is 100-percent Prugnolo Gentile (the name of the local clone) in some vintages, with a little Colorino added in others. It is aged for 16 to 18 months in French oak.
The original rule-breaking combination of Sangiovese with non-traditional varieties, these days, it typically 80 percent of the former with 15 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and a little Cabernet Franc.
As mentioned in another article, the 1996, drunk a couple of years ago, is one of the best wines I’ve ever encountered. I’ve stood with my back to the hallowed vineyard (while desperately scanning the slopes below to find our holiday villa), but never set foot in it.
This is essentially the Sangiovese-free counterpart of Tignanello. Sassicaia started life in the late 1960s as a "lowly" Vino da Tavola, and remained so as it became Italy's most famous fine wine label. This led the introduction of the IGT category across Italy. It would be hard to leave out such a wine – even if it represents a hefty chunk of the overall value of the case.
Sassicaia combines around 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 15 percent Cabernet Franc. Despite the omission of Merlot, the best vintages of the wine have a suppleness that few Bordeaux or Napa Valley wines can match.
If I could have had a Baker's Dozen, I would possibly have also chosen a Carmignano. This was one of the first areas to be permitted to use Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc in its DOC wines. The local winemakers had begun to combine Sangiovese and the Cabernets as early as the 18th century.
Cortona is a small town in the hills in eastern Tuscany, and one of the less well known DOCs here. This wine is a single representative for the many high-class wines that are made in less familiar parts of the region.
Unusually for Tuscany, Syrah is a specialty here, and the most searched-for Cortona Syrah is also the one with which I am most familiar. The style is somewhere between Northern Rh?ne and Australia in terms of ripeness.
Several indigenous varieties have begun to undergo something of a renaissance in recent years. Ciliegiolo is one of these. It is being used increasingly in Chianti blends, and is appearing more often in varietal wines. The wines are fresh and cherry-laden, and do not need as much aging as many other Tuscan reds.
Even though volumes are tiny, a Vin Santo has to be included in my Tuscany case. The region also makes passito and late harvest wines, but they are less emblematic of the region.
One has to exercise caution when buying Vin Santo, due to the varieties of styles available; I have tasted drier, nuttier styles that remind me of Amontillado and Oloroso sherry. However, I prefer the sweeter styles, which remind me of crème caramel dessert, and this is a great example.
The last choice is a wildcard, to give some variation to the selection; sparkling wine is not usually associated with Tuscany.
I could have looked around for the most conventional choice. Instead I plumped for Bollamatta ("Crazy Bubble") a pinkish, 100-percent Sangiovese. Bibi Graetz makes it from the same vineyard he uses for his top red Testamatta.
The green harvest to thin the bunches for Testamatta is delayed until there is enough sugar concentration to produce a sparkling wine. The wine is made using and extended Charmat process in autoclaves, with five to six months on its lees in tank.