Valdarno di Sopra DOC, or Val d’Arno di Sopra DOC | Region in part of Arezzo province in eastern Tuscany given its own DOC in 2011. It covers wines of all three colours from an area between the cities of Florence and Arezzo, specifically between the plain of Arezzo and the Florentine hills. This area is known for its Roman roads, and Romanesque parish churches (and bridges) along the pilgrim routes to Rome, as well as dry stone terracing dating back to the Middle Ages, plus medieval villages which featured in the paintings of Piero della Francesca and Leonardo da Vinci. It was also known for its wines in the time of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, and in 1716 under Grand Duke Cosimo III became one of Europe’s first officially delimited wine zones along with what are now Carmignano DOCG, Chianti DOCG and Pomino DOCG (Burton Anderson, 1990, p193).
Ancient history | Numerous sources attest that vine cultivation and wine production were widespread practices in this area since ancient times. Already towards 390/370 BC in Southern and Central Etruria the Etruscan populations were able to make wine. Wine production in the area between Arezzo and Florence is attested in the 1st century AD by Pliny the Elder: in the 14th book of his Naturalis Historia, dedicated to Italic viticulture, the areas surrounding Arezzo are clearly indicated as among the best for the wine production of the time and reference is made to the numerous varieties of quality grapes grown there. No wonder then that even then the Regio VII Augustea, or Etruria, was remembered mainly for the wines that were born in the interior (area of Valdarno di Sopra. In addition to Pliny the Elder, numerous authors refer to the wine production of Etruria (although in the absence of specific indications on the Upper Valdarno): Diodoro Siculo cites it as “A land that bears many fruits, for the care itself that [the inhabitants] put in cultivating it “; Galen mentions its wines as “light, good and to drink young”.
Middle Ages | During the Middle Ages the vineyards were placed predominantly not in the open countryside but on the margins of the villages or next to the monasteries: being a highly specialized cultivation, constant care and regular checks were necessary against the risk of theft and devastation. References that can be connected to the Val d’Arno di Sopra DOC can be found in the Florentine land register of 1427, which is not limited to technical-cadastral and geographical quotations but also presents assessments of the quality of the product obtained in the different areas, on the different qualities of the vine and wine and the various quotations that could have the same, drawing up in fact a ranking of merit and price of the wines of the time.
16-18th centuries | A transformation in agriculture took place in the 16-18th centuries. There was a first passage to specialized or closed vineyards and a more scientific and entrepreneurial viticulture developed. The increase in cultivation is also a consequence of the great demand for some renowned Tuscan wines and in particular in the Valdarno and Valdambra areas. | 1761 The Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo III De ‘Medici, which indicated the delimitation of the Vald’Arno territory, including the areas to the left and right of the Arno situated roughly between the Casentino and the Chianti, this area receives historically the allocation of area for the production of quality wine. The fact that the wines produced in this area could be exported with the indication of the origin shows that since the eighteenth century the area of the Val d’Arno di Sopra, was a full member of those four areas (Chianti, Pomino, Carmignano, Vald’Arno di Sopra) which already at that time constituted a guarantee of quality wines of safe origin (for example ante litteram of denomination of controlled origin).
19th century | After the dark period of oidium, in Tuscany there was a phase of great development by some producers with the experimentation of different and new foreign vines. This began a period of renewal of the wine sector with the birth of various industrial wine groups and farms that bottled to complete a targeted marketing. At the end of the nineteenth century Arezzo viticulture had again reached excellent production levels and most of the quality Tuscan white wines were produced in Valdarno and Valdambra.
20th century | After the First World War in the Valdarno di Sopra area there was another period of brief revival of wine before the Second World War, with the creation of new vineyards and in particular of wine-making factories that still exist today that remain an interesting example of archeology of first oenological industries. Subsequently, starting in the 1970s, wines of recognized excellence were born in the territory and used IGT for their identification. This led in the early years of the XXI century to the birth of the DOC Pietraviva, on which the DOC Val d’Arno di Sopra is grafted for a further qualification of the territory that expressed wines of such great quality, with strong and homogeneous characteristics.
Production zone | The DOC covers land suitable for viticulture in the townships listed below, all of which are in Arezzo province. Vineyards below 170 metres above sea level are excluded. The denomination is divided into two sub-regional groups or sub-zones called Pietraviva and Pratomagno whose names are permitted on labels.
Pietraviva | The Pietraviva zone covers the townships of Bucine, Cavriglia, Montevarchi, Pergine Valdarno, San Giovanni Valdarno, plus Civitella in the Val di Chiana.
Pratomagno | The Pratomagno zone includes the entire territory of the townships of Pian di Scò, Castelfranco di Sopra, Terranuova Bracciolini, Loro Ciuffenna, Castiglion Fibocchi and Laterina.
Terroir | The DOC covers the eastern and western sides of the Arno Valley. Hilly area. The prevailing exposure of the vineyards is oriented to the west-south west. Well ventilated, luminous.
Climate | Continental climate. Temperate cold winters, Mediterranean summers. Hot days, cool nights. The average annual rainfall ranges from 550 to 700 mm. The seasonal distribution of the rains has typically Mediterranean characteristics concentrating for about 70% in the autumn-winter period. SoilsVineyards are found in the foothills area and the alluvial zone.
Soil | The lithologies present are recurrent throughout Tuscany. The reliefs of the area in question are affected by formations belonging to the Tuscan series of the lower Miocene, such as the formation of the boulder, characterized by feldspathic quartz turbiditic [see turbidites] sandstones with small percentage of calcite and phyllosilicates alternated with silty schists [see schist], and the formation of Londa, dominated by silt and schist marls and fine quartz-feldspathic and calcareous sandstones. (A. Scienza and L. Toninato, From the zonation to the land use manual, University of Milan, 2003). Zoning In the province of Arezzo a viticultural zoning study was carried out by the University of Milan under the guidance of prof. Attilio Scienza.
Viticulture | New vineyards must be planted at a minimum 3,300 vines/hectare, Emergency irrigation is allowed.
Wines | The Val d’Arno di Sopra or Valdarno di Sopra DOC permits still wines of all three colours, plus Spumante Bianco, and Vin Santo. Wines are made from Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah, and Sauvignon Blanc. Other permitted grapes include Malvasia Bianca Lunga (‘Montegonzi’), Canaiolo Nero, Pugnitello, Malvasia Nera, and Ciliegiolo.
Varietal wines | Varietal wines labelled Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Sangiovese or Syrah are made from 85-100% of the name variety plus 0-15% other grapes permitted in Tuscany from one of the aforementioned vines.
Val d’Arno di Sopra Bianco | Can be still or sparkling. 40-80% Chardonnay, 0-30% Malvasia Bianca Lunga, 0-20% Trebbiano Toscano, 0-30% white grapes authorised in Tuscany.
Val d’Arno di Sopra Rosato & Rosso | Can be still or sparkling. 40–80% Merlot, 0–35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 0–35% Syrah. 0-30% red grapes authorised in Tuscany.
Val d’Arno di Sopra Passito | 40-80% Malvasia Bianca Lunga, 0-30% Chardonnay, 0-30% white grapes authorised in Tuscany.
Bill Nesto MW & Frances Di Savino, Chianti Classico, the Search for Tuscany’s Noblest Wine, (University of California Press, 2016).
Burton Anderson, The Wine Atlas of Italy (Mitchell Beazley, London, 1990).
David Gleave, The Wines of Italy (Salamander Books, London, 1989).
Disciplinare di produzione della denominazione di origine controllata dei vini Val d’Arno di Sopra o Valdarno di Sopra (2011).
Dr Ian D’Agata, Native Wine Grapes of Italy (University of California Press, 2014), p42-3 (abridged).
Nicolas Belfrage MW, Life Beyond Lambrusco (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1985).
Nicolas Belfrage MW, From Barolo to Valpolicella—The Wines of Northern Italy (Faber & Faber, 1999).
Nicolas Belfrage MW, From Brunello to Zibibbo–The Wines of Tuscany, Central and Southern Italy (2nd edition, London, 2003).
Oxford Companion to Wine 4th edition ed. Jancis Robinson MW and Julia Harding MW (Oxford University Press, 2015).