ITALY: Toscana
1
STAFF TRAINING
When Americans imagine the Italian countryside, it is often the Tuscan landscape that
spri...
The Region
2
Mountains define one-quarter of the Tuscan landscape, and hills account for a further two-thirds of
the regio...
Sangiovese
33
Sangiovese is Italy’s most planted wine grape and
the signature variety of Toscana. Legend suggests
that loc...
Chianti and Chianti Classico
4
Chianti is Toscana’s most recognizable red
wine, and the oldest appellation in the region. ...
5
Brunello di Montalcino
& Super Tuscans
Brunello di Montalcino
The small hill of Montalcino is the top region for Sangiov...
6
White Grapes in Toscana
Toscana is red wine country, and white wines
from the region rarely achieve the same level of
su...
What is the principal grape in Chianti wines?
What is the minimum period of oak aging required for Brunello di Montalcino?...
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Toscana - Guild of Sommeliers

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Toscana - Guild of Sommeliers

  1. 1. ITALY: Toscana 1 STAFF TRAINING When Americans imagine the Italian countryside, it is often the Tuscan landscape that springs into view. Fortified medieval towns crown hilltops, presiding over sun-bathed, patchwork hillsides adorned with vineyards, olive grows, and other crops. Firenze (Florence) and Siena are among Italy’s most visited cities, and the entire region enjoys a rich artistic lineage populated by luminary figures like Leonardo da Vinci, Donatello, and Dante Alighieri. The cathedrals of Firenze and Siena are monumental works of art, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa is recognizable even by schoolchildren. Toscana’s most famous wine, Chianti, is equally well known among wine drinkers, but praise for its quality is more likely parsimonious. In the 1960s, Chianti became the Italian red for Americans, but its character was often dilute, saddling the wine with an unremarkable reputation. Today, things have changed: investment in both vineyard and winery, coupled with newfound ambition and respect for tradition, has returned Sangiovese—the principal variety in Chianti wines—to its place among the noble grapes of the world. Chianti
  2. 2. The Region 2 Mountains define one-quarter of the Tuscan landscape, and hills account for a further two-thirds of the region. Less than 10% of the landscape is flat. The cooler interior hillsides create prized vineyard land for Sangiovese, while the later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon thrives in the warmer temperatures along the coast. Toscana lies on Italy’s western coastline between Lazio and Liguria. In some of the lowest areas of Toscana, summertime temperatures can become drastically hot. As one travels inland toward the snowcapped Apennine Mountains, elevation moderates the climate. CLIMATE MEDITERRANEAN characterized by mild, rainy winters and warmer, dry summers.
  3. 3. Sangiovese 33 Sangiovese is Italy’s most planted wine grape and the signature variety of Toscana. Legend suggests that local monks christened the grape Sanguis Jovis, “the blood of Jupiter”, and the name “Sangiogheto” appears in a treatise on Tuscan viticulture in the year 1600. Today, Sangiovese goes by many names in Toscana—Brunello, Morellino, Prugnolo Gentile, Sangioveto—and there is an equally wide range of styles in the resulting wines. Sangiovese The Taste of Sangiovese Classic Sangiovese is fairly light in color, firm, tannic, and driven by mouth-watering acidity. Aromas include sour cherry, fennel, chestnut, mushroom and thyme. In the past, winemakers used large, old Slavonian oak botti for aging vessels rather than smaller French barriques. Deeper color was achieved by blending a local red grape like Colorino or Canaiolo Nero with Sangiovese, and pure Sangiovese wines were extremely rare--law in Chianti actually required inclusion of white varieties in the blend. Today, years of work in the vineyard have resulted in a number of new Sangiovese clones, some of which provide darker fruit profiles and more concentrated color. 100% Sangiovese wines are common, and white grapes have been all but eliminated in the region’s red blends. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are more common supporting players than Colorino or Canaiolo Nero. New French barrels are a common site in cellars. In modern Toscana, one can find dense and toasty Sangiovese, firm and gripping traditional styles, and everything in between.
  4. 4. Chianti and Chianti Classico 4 Chianti is Toscana’s most recognizable red wine, and the oldest appellation in the region. In fact, the Chianti zone was one of the first wine areas to be formally delimited in Europe. The oldest document detailing the production of “Chianti wine” in the hills between Firenze and Siena dates to 1398, and in 1716 the Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici legally limited the production zone to the villages of Greve, Radda, Gaiole, and Castellina. Today, these four villages form the core of the “Classico” zone—the historic heartland of Chianti. In 1872, Baron Bettino Ricasoli famously transcribed the Chianti recipe that would be enshrined in legislation a century later, prescribing a blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo, and a white grape, Malvasia—the latter making the wines "lighter and more readily suitable for daily consumption.” In 1932, authorities defined the modern Chianti zone, expanding its borders to include areas beyond the provinces of Firenze and Siena, such as Pisa and Arezzo, and established the Classico zone as its original sector. In 1967, Chianti gained Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) status in Italy’s new appellation system, and the wine’s popularity as an export led many producers to emphasize quantity over quality. Furthermore, the DOC rules set Ricasoli’s formula in stone, and white grapes became a mandatory ingredient alongside Sangiovese until the mid-1990s. During this period, most Chianti was sold cheaply in a straw-covered bottle known as the fiasco. The term fit. SUB APPELATIONS OF CHIANTI Chianti can be produced in the following geographical sub-appellations, which may appear on the label: Senesi (Siena), Colli Fiorentini (the hills of Florence), Colline Pisane (the hills of Pisa), Colline Aretini (the hills of Arezzo), Montalbano, Montespertoli, and Rufina. Chianti and Chianti Classico both achieved Denominzione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) status in 1984, climbing to the highest rung on Italy’s appellation ladder. Regulations softened as many of the best producers chose to release their wines outside of the appellation system entirely, and international grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon began to appear in Chianti vineyards. Some wineries incorporated a small percentage of Bordeaux grapes in the Chianti blend, while others were finally free to produce pure Sangiovese as an appellation wine. Chianti and Chianti Classico today offer a wide palate of wines, from lighter, easy-drinking reds to serious, powerful Riserva styles, often aged in some
  5. 5. 5 Brunello di Montalcino & Super Tuscans Brunello di Montalcino The small hill of Montalcino is the top region for Sangiovese in the world. Brunello di Montalcino wines, produced from 100% Sangiovese. The wines are full-bodied, powerful, and long-lived. Prior to release, the wine must remain in oak for at least two years, and it may not be released to the public for a minimum of four years. Riserva selections are held back for an additional year. While waiting, one might consider Rosso di Montalcino, or “baby Brunello”, a more approachable wine released after only one year. Other Appellations for Sangiovese-based wines in Toscana: • Carmignano • Vino Nobile di Montepulciano • Morellino di Scansano • Montecucco Sangiovese “The Super Tuscans” Beyond Sangiovese, the most impactful red grapes in the region are international varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. The “Super Tuscan” movement, launched by Tenuta San Guido’s famous “Sassicaia” bottling in 1968, established Toscana’s coastal Bolgheri region as a world-class area for Bordeaux varieties, and producers along the coast and throughout the region now produce Bordeaux-style blends. Some of the best examples of Italian Syrah, meanwhile, emerge from the small appellation of Cortona, south of Arezzo. Although some “Super Tuscan” wines were originally produced in response to the restrictive Chianti regulations of the time, and remain largely Sangiovese, the idea of the “Super Tuscan” conjures up an image of a Bordeaux-style blend in most guests’ minds. Such internationalized wines are extremely useful in introducing California wine drinkers to the wines of Italy, but they may not be popular suggestions among those looking for traditional styles. “Super Tuscan” wines like Sassicaia and Ornellaia will be easily recognizable to serious Cabernet fans. Many Super-Tuscan wines are released without a DOC/DOCG appellation, to preserve greater winemaking freedom.
  6. 6. 6 White Grapes in Toscana Toscana is red wine country, and white wines from the region rarely achieve the same level of success. Vernaccia di San Gimignano is the top appellation for dry white wines, and in 1966 it was the first wine in all of Italy to be awarded DOC status. Despite this history and the beauty of the walled medieval city of San Gimignano itself, the wines are fairly simple: unoaked, refreshing, slightly bitter, and often tinged with flavors of pink grapefruit and salinity. The most widely planted white grape in Toscana is Trebbiano Toscano. Better known in France as the Cognac grape Ugni Blanc, Trebbiano Toscano is neutral, acidic and rarely inspiring as a dry white wine. It is generally blended with the local Malvasia grape, which adds some aromatic punch to the wine. Together, the two grapes achieve the most success as Vin Santo—“holy wine”—a dessert wine produced from dried grapes throughout Toscana. San Gimignano
  7. 7. What is the principal grape in Chianti wines? What is the minimum period of oak aging required for Brunello di Montalcino? What does “Classico” indicate for a Chianti wine? What coastal region in Toscana produces top-quality Bordeaux-style wines? Name one appellation for white wines in Toscana. What is Vin Santo? Selling Sangiovese 7 Review Questions Toscana creates crossover appeal for red wine drinkers who are interested in approaching Italian wines, but come from a background of appreciation for rich New World wines, Cabernet, and Bordeaux. While Barolo may appeal to Burgundy drinkers due to its haunting aromatic character, Brunello di Montalcino may appeal to the Bordeaux drinker, due to its powerful, aristocratic structure and cedary, oak-inflected character. Classic examples of Sangiovese are great food wines, pairing artfully with the acidity of tomato-dominated pasta dishes while providing enough body to stand up to richer beef and pork preparations. Herbal notes in the wines support similar accents in food. Cured meats work beautifully with lighter styles of Sangiovese. Overall, Sangiovese has a savory profile, so think of savory dishes rather than those with too much fruit or sweetness.

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