Looking for Food-friendly Wines? Head to Tuscany!
Many wine lovers get their first taste of Italy through the wines of Tuscany. From Chianti to Brunello to the gorgeous wines of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, this is red wine country Italian-style. These iconic regions sit in the heart of Tuscany's rolling hills and are responsible for some of Italy's most famous red wines. And let's not forget its wonderful Vermentino and Vernaccia white wines. As the home to some wonderfully accessible wines to suit every budget, Tuscany is one region every wine drinker should get to know better.
Sangiovese – The Foundation of Tuscan Wine
Sangiovese is the main grape of Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and Brunello (although these last two DOCGs are made from specific Sangiovese clones). It's a grape which yields complex wines, full of bright sour red cherry, savoury dried herb, violets, leather, tobacco, and spice. With naturally high acidity, Sangiovese is brilliant for making outrageously food-friendly wines – it's why wines made from Sangiovese are so wonderful with tomato sauces, hearty cuts of meat, and of course, pizza!
There are a few other grapes which crop up in various Tuscan appellations. Classic Bordeaux varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, as well as local grapes Colorino and Caniolo can be found in Chianti and Toscana IGT.
A Glance at Tuscany's Wine Regions
Of all the Tuscan appellations, Chianti is the most famous. Chianti has seven subzones, each of which produces phenomenal examples of this ultra-classic red wine. They are:
- Colli Aretini
- Colli Fiorentini
- Colline Pisane
- Colli Senesi
There are a few different levels of general Chianti - Normale, Superiore, and Riserva. Each category has its own requirements surrounding ageing and alcohol levels.
If you like a little more ageing on your wines before they hit the market, look into Chianti Classico DOCG. Chianti Classico is its own appellation within the broad Chianti region whose communes represent the oldest true Chianti producers in Tuscany. Generally speaking, wines made in the Classico are your premium bottles.
One thing all Chianti has in common is the grape from which its made - Sangiovese.
Brunello di Montalcino looms large in Tuscany. This DOCG is considered one of the best in all of Italy. It's made entirely from the Brunello clone of Sangiovese and is capable of ageing for decades. Compared to Chianti, its flavour profile is more rich, intense, and sees more time ageing in wood and bottle before it hits shelves.
Then, of course, there's Montepulciano. This town has given the world the esteemed Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG as well as the more affordable and still excellent Rosso di Montepulciano DOC.
Picking a Great Bottle of Tuscan Wine
Tuscan reds come in every price range imaginable, from the high-end collector's bottles which will set you back several hundred dollars to more commercial buys which cost under $20. The thing about Tuscany is that there's a serious sweet spot for excellent quality. Chianti is always a good place to look if you're on the hunt for a high-quality bargain, but you'll find some superlative Toscana IGT reds at an affordable price. Brunellos do tend to cost more, but the class of these wines is undeniable. Fortunately, you can still pick up a stellar Brunello for a reasonable price.
Tuscany is definitely a region for red wine drinkers to seek out. Given its rich gastronomic tradition, it's no wonder that the wines here are such fantastic partners for food. Regardless of the occasion, if there's food on the table you'll never go wrong with a Tuscan red.