|CLASSIC pasta||Tuscany - Umbria|
Italy's most famous red wine, which has gone through a metamorphosis from straw-covered flasks to super Tuscans. Made mostly from Sangiovese, with a little white blended in. There are seven delimited sub zones in Chianti country, running from Rufina in the north, through Florence, Siena, (Chianti Classico) etc., to the south.
Basic Chiantis are required to be aged only one year before being sold. Riserva require two years of aging.
The trend is moving towards making quality wines, but there are still plenty of vineyards doing the old-style high-production thing. So Chiantis can be all over the DOC map -- from world-style to quaff. Know your producer or your merchant!
These are the wines produced by the first believers in making their Sangiovese into the highest quality wines. Tignanello, 80% Sangiovese and 20% cabernet sauvignon blazed the Super Tuscan vino da tavola path. (Wines that weren't made strictly according to the rules had to be called vino da tavola, even if they were of much high quality.)
Super Tuscans can now consist of 100% Sangiovese, or predominantly Sangiovese with another grape, such as merlot or cabernet sauvignon. Or, as many wines from the Bolgheri (see below) do, with no Sangiovese.
This is the newest Tuscan wine region, along the coast south of Livorno. It is the home of such great names as Sassicaia (almost all cabernet sauvignon with some cabernet franc) and Ornelliana (same general mixture).
A region north and west of Florence, centered around Prato. Originally it was a part of the greater Chianti designation, but achieved its own DOC status, with the first wines in this group available in 1988. The DOC is the smallest of all Italian districts, with maybe 10 at the most producers. The wines are slightly distinguished from Chianti by having some Cabernet Sauvignon in the mix.
Brunello di Montalcino
South of Siena is this very special wine region, around the ancient hill town of Montalcino. The grape is Sangiovese grosso, and the wines are dense, full-bodied, 100% Sangiovese grosso, and aged for four years before bottling. And then they benefit from even more aging. From the pioneering days of Biondi Santi, the first name in Brunellos several decades ago, the region is now booming -- and booming with quality. Wines to be sought and cellared.
Rosso di Montalcino: personal favorites of ours for a balance between quality and price and current drinkability. The aging requirement is one year, but these are flavorful, polished wines.
vino nobile di Montepulciano
From the district at the southeast corner of Tuscany (east of Montalcino), comes the vino nobile, generally considered to rate between Chianti Classico and Brunello. The vineyards surround the ancient hill town of Montepulciano. Because these wines can be made from a mixture or 100% Sangiovese (called prugnollo) to a mixture of grapes, and can be aged either one or two years, there will of necessity be quite a range of styles associated with the name. Some are more spicy and some with more fruit forward. But most will be excellent.
There is also a Rosso di Montepulciano, a younger and more supple style, and good value.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano (white): a Tuscan white of some renown, made from indigenous grapes grown around this ancient and special hill town. Can be floral and crisp. Can also be fairly insipid.