Tuscany is one of the most famous and prolific wine regions anywhere in Europe. It is best known for its Sangiovese-based dry red wines - which dominate output. These include Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. However the most searched-for wine on our database is Sassicaia, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc from the coastal region of Bolgheri.
The region's Vin Santo is also highly prized, as are its passito dessert wines, though these are made in tiny volumes by comparison. Dry whites are probably less familiar to most consumers - apart perhaps from Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
Situated in central Italy, Tuscany's neighbors are Liguria and Emilia-Romagna to the north, Umbria and Marche to the east and Lazio to the south. Its western boundary is formed by the Tyrrhenian Sea. The picturesque rolling hills with medieval villages and cypress-lined avenues appeal to tourists and so help promote the wines.
As is the case with almost all of Italy's 20 regions, Tuscany has a long wine history. This can be traced back as far as the fifth century BC. (? Wine-Searcher).
The region's top wines are officially recognised and protected by a raft of 41 DOC and 11 DOCG titles. There are six more flexible IGP/IGT designations, with the pan-regional Toscana IGP representing nearly a quarter of total output. See Italian Wine Labels for more details regarding this heirarchy.
Climate is a vital factor in this region's success as a wine region. Warm, temperate coastal areas are contrasted by inland areas (particularly those in the rolling hills for which the region is so famous), where increased diurnal temperature variation helps to maintain the grapes' balance of sugars, acidity and aromatics. One variety that particularly thrives on these hillside vineyards is Tuscany’s signature red grape, Sangiovese.
Tuscan Grape Varieties
Arguably the most important of all Italian wine grapes, Sangiovese accounts for around two thirds of all plantings and 85 percent of red wine volume in the region. It is the mainstay variety in almost all of Tuscany's top reds. Its long history and broad regional distribution means that it has acquired various names.
The first word of the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG refers for the local name for Sangiovese. For Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, the grape is known as Prugnolo Gentile. Under the name Morellino it is the grape used to make Morellino di Scansano. Sangiovese also features in Chianti, in which it is joined by small amounts of Canaiolo and Colorino, as well as increasing quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
With the rise of the Super Tuscans, the most famous of which come from Bolgheri, Cabernet Sauvignon became a much more prominent variety in Tuscany. Merlot and the other Bordeaux varieties also feature, as does Syrah (most notably in Cortona).
More recently focus has increased on neglected local red grapes, both as blending components and for single variety wines. Of these Ciliegiolo is the most prominent; here it achieves a more structured wine than is usually the case in neighboring Umbria. Pugnitello is also experiencing a revival, though as yet on a smaller scale.
Trebbiano (Ugni Blanc) is the most planted white variety, followed by Malvasia, Vermentino and Vernaccia. International varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier are planted in very small quantities, but do feature in (usually Toscana IGP) white wines from some top estates in red wine-focussed appellations.