Tuscany or Toscana in Italian is one of Italy’s 20 administrative regions. Tuscany borders Emilia-Romagna to the north and north-east, Liguria to the north-west, Le Marche to the east, Umbria to the south-east. To the south it borders with Lazio, to the west with the Tyrrhenian Sea and in its northern part, with the Ligurian Sea.
Political geography: Capital city: Firenze (Metropolitan City of Firenze (Florence) (FI). Provinces (10): Arezzo (AR). | Firenze (FI). | Grosseto (GR). | Livorno (LI). | Lucca (LU). | Massa Carrara (MS). | Pisa (PI). | Pistoia (PT). | Prato (PO). | Siena (SI).
Tuscan wine: Tuscany, along with Piedmont, is the region where Italy’s greatest wines are made. Tuscany is a large region (23,000 sq km of which 67% is hilly, mountainous 25% and 8% flat, including the Tuscan Archipelago), with huge plantings (nearly 70,000 hectares), and can boast many DOCGs and DOCs (11 and more than 40 respectively, plus 6 IGTs).
Wine grapes: In Tuscany, about 70% of production comes from red grapes, such as Sangiovese (and its variants), Canaiolo, Ciliegiolo. Among the white varieties, Trebbiano Toscano, Malvasia Bianca Lunga, Vernaccia, and Ansonica are of note. Grapes and wines have always had a great importance in Tuscany and already in the sixteenth century the red wines of Montepulciano and the Vernaccia di San Gimignano were considered “among the noble wines of Italy.” In 1716 the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo Medici, published an edict in which the first zonation of Tuscan wines appears. In it, the finest wines in Tuscany are identified as coming from four areas: Chianti, Pomino, Carmignano and Valdarno. In 1870, another important nobleman and politician, Bettino Ricasoli, took over as Italian prime minister following Cavour, who had helped push for quality wines in Piedmont. Having a property in Chianti (the Castello di Brolio), Ricasoli was well aware of what was needed to improve local wines, and devised the first official recipe by which to make Chianti: 70% Sangiovese, 20% Canaiolo Nero and 10% Malvasia Bianca Lunga. Interestingly, Trebbiano Toscano, which Ricasoli rightly viewed as a poor quality grape, was not part of the original blend. On the other hand, Malvasia Bianca Lunga featured in the Chianti blend, as it added perfume and fragrance. Although many feared that the addition of a white grape would preclude Chianti from aging, we now know this is not true at all. As such, many Chiantis from the 1960s are still enjoyable today.
Super Tuscans: Another significant moment in Italian wine history also took place in Tuscany, as this region was the birthplace of Super Tuscan wines. Albeit nowadays produced mainly in the coastal area of Bolgheri, Super Tuscans actually started in Chianti. These wines were made with 100% Sangiovese (back in the 1970s this was not allowed in Chianti, as Sangiovese had always been viewed as a blend) or with international grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon (also previously not allowed in the Chianti blend). Despite having to be labelled by law as only lowly Vino da Tavola wines, the English press started calling them Super Tuscans to highlight their noteworthy quality.
Terroir: The climate is temperate, albeit with significant difference between various areas. Precipitation is numerous but concentrated in spring and autumn. The most characteristic areas in terms of wine are those that are located south of Florence, namely the area of Chianti and Chianti Classico, as well as areas south of Siena such as Montalcino and Montepulciano or further east like Bolgheri on the hills near the sea between Livorno and Grosseto.
Topography: 66% hills, 9% plains (Valdarno, Val di Chiana and the coastal strip from Versilia to Maremma), the rest (25%) is made up of the Apennine Mountains that connect Tuscany with Emilia-Romagna. Then there are the Apuan Alps; the Metalliferous Hills between Livorno, Siena, Pias and Grosseto; Mount Amiata, between Siena and Grosseto; and Mount Falterona: the cradle of the Arno river. Finally, there are the islands of Elba, Giglio and Montecristo.
Docgs: Brunello di Montalcino. | Carmignano. | Chianti. | Chianti Classico. | Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. | Chianti Colli Senesi. | Chianti Rufina. | Elba Aleatico Passito or Aleatico Passito dell’Elba. | Montecucco Sangiovese. | Morellino di Scansano. | Suvereto. | Val di Cornia Rosso or Rosso della Val di Cornia. | Vernaccia di San Gimignano. | Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
Docs: Ansonica Costa dell’Argentario DOC. | Barco Reale di Carmignano DOC. | Bianco dell’Empolese DOC. | Bianco di Pitigliano DOC. | Bianco di San Torpè – see San Torpè, below. | Bolgheri DOC. | Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC. | Candia dei Colli Apuani DOC. | Capalbio DOC. | Colli dell’Etruria Centrale DOC. | Colli di Luni DOC. | Colline Lucchesi DOC. | Cortona DOC. | Elba DOC. | Grance Senesi DOC. | Maremma Toscana DOC. | Montecarlo DOC. | Montecucco DOC. | Monteregio di Massa Marittima DOC. | Montescudaio DOC. | Moscadello di Montalcino DOC. | Orcia DOC. | Parrina DOC. | Pomino DOC. | Rosso di Montalcino DOC. | Rosso di Montepulciano DOC. | Rosso di San Gimignano DOC. | San Gimignano Rosato DOC. | San Gimignano Rosso DOC. | San Gimignano Vin Santo DOC. | San Gimignano Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice DOC. | San Torpè DOC. | Sant’Antimo DOC. | Sovana DOC. | Terratico di Bibbona DOC. | Terre di Casole DOC. | Terre di Pisa DOC. | Val di Cornia DOC. | Val d’Arbia DOC. | Val d’Arno di Sopra or Valdarno di Sopra DOC. | Valdichiana Toscana DOC. | Valdinievole DOC. | Vin Santo del Chianti DOC. | Vin Santo del Chianti Rufina DOC. | Vin Santo del Chianti Classico DOC. | Vin Santo del Colli Senesi. | Vin Santo di Carmignano DOC. | Vin Santo di Montepulciano DOC. | Vin Santo di Montepulciano Occhio di Pernice DOC.
Wine styles: Sweet wines: ‘Tuscany offers some of Italy’s greatest sweet wines, ranging from the deliciously thick and sweet Vin Santo to the aromatic red aleatico, which is not unlike a black muscat wine,’ (Ian D’Agata, Vinous, Sept 2014).
Organics: In my report for the 2018 Decanter World Wine Awards blind tasting competition (for which I was Tuscany Chair) I wrote ‘Less than 15% of the Tuscan vineyard is certified organic or Biodynamic yet 30% of the top-scoring Platinum or Gold Tuscan wines this year came from either certified organic or certified Biodynamic vineyards.’
Native wine grapes: Abrusco (r). | Albarola Nera (w). Aleatico (r). | Ansonica (w). | Barsaglina (r). | Biancone (w). | Bonamico (r). | Bracciola Nera (r). | Buriano (w). | Canaiolo Bianco (w). | Canaiolo Nero(r). | Ciliegiolo (r). | Colombara Nera (r). | Colorinos (r). | Foglia Tonda (r). | Gorgottesco (r). | Granè (r). | Granoir (r). | Gratena (r). | Lacrima del Valdarno. | Livornese Bianca (w). | Malvasia Bianca Lunga (w). | Malvasia Nera family. | Mammolo (r). | Mazzeze (r). | Morone (r). | Moscato Bianco (w). | Negratino (r). | Nereto (r). | Occhio di Pernice (r). | Occhiorosso (r). | Orpicchio (w). | Primaticcio (w). | Pugnitello (r). | Raspo Rosso (r). | Sangiovese (r). | Tenerone (r). | Trebbiano Toscano (w). | Verdello (w). | Verduschia (w). | Vermentino Nero (r). | Vernaccia di San Gimignano (w). | Verucchiese (r). | Volpola.
Wine production: 2010 2,854 million hl. | 2011 2,495 million hl. | 2012 2,098 million hl. | 2013 2,657 million hl. | 2014 2,778 million hl. | 2015 2,825 million hl. | 2016 3,025 million hl. | 2017 1,901 million hl. Down 37% on 2016 and 30% below the historical average (Italy was 15% down overall). The DOC and DOCG regions were down -36% in volume.
Dr Ian D’Agata, Native Wine Grapes of Italy (University of California Press, 2014.
Dr Ian D’Agata, Tuscany Part 1: Chianti, Vino Nobile and Supertuscans (Sep 2014) | Vinous
Native Grape Odyssey, Europe. Quality. Wine. Vol 1. (2019, Positive Press).