Italians make wine with passion. The boot-shaped country is the world’s largest wine producer, and second-largest exporter (France takes first place). There are over 2,000 varietals of Italian grapes, at least 350 different producers, and, at last count, 20 regions. The export market is worth over €6 million. But in this plethora of regions, one really stands alone: Tuscany. With its rolling hills, muted colours, and superior terroir, it is unsurprising that Tuscan has joined the elite of Italian wine regions, standing head and shoulders amongst the rest.
With Tuscan wines outperforming Bordeaux in the last five consecutive years (2016-2021) while investing in Tuscan wines might not always be the popular choice, it can often be the right one. Read on to learn more about these Italian gems before rushing to invest in them through your wine investment app.
Brief History of Tuscan Wine
The region has been synonymous with winemaking since the Etruscan times. It all began in the 8th century when Etruscan settlers came to the region. With them, they brought vines from Asia. Planting them in the fertile soil bore extraordinary results – the grapes grew wild and strong, with ripe fruit perfect for pressing. The cultivation of grapes thus became an integral part of the Etruscan economy; both vines and grapes were sold to travelling merchants that arrived from overseas.
It is worth noting that when the Romans arrived in Tuscany, they kept the name. Historians believe this is a sign that the Etruscan agriculture was so strong, it didn’t need “renaming” as they had done with so many other parts of the country. This was about the time that different varietals of grape were tested – many of the grapes that are part of the Tuscan wine heritage such as Chianti, Brunello, Trebbiano, and Vernaccia can be traced back to these early days. Fast forward to the Medieval period, where there is documentation of Tuscan wine being used as a commodity. Local wine merchants formed a guild in 1282 in an attempt to promote and regulate their trade.
There then follows a long period of quiet for the region’s wine. It was known and drunk in Itlay but had yet to travel over the border. Much of the winemaking in the region focused on quantity over quality. The abolition of the monarchy in 1946 and post-war reconstruction meant that many of the great estates that belonged to “nobile famiglia” were sold off to the private owners, notably rich non-Tuscans (and in many cases, non-Italians). This made way for a rebirth of Tuscan wine, opening the doors for the premium quality regional wines that are world-renowned today.
What Is the Climate & Geography of the Tuscany Wine Region?
By far the most picturesque winemaking region of Italy, Tuscany is poetry to southern Italy’s prose. Set in the west-central of the country, the region has been blessed by the Gods when it comes to both climate and geography. Beautiful azure seas lap at its coast, while the blend of gently rolling hills reverberate with endless rows of vines. Sharply peaked mountains make it both unique and diverse. Additionally, its climate is perfect: the cooling breezes from the Tyrrhenian Sea offer a welcome respite in the hot summer months prior to harvest. Its sandy-clay terroir is ideal for strong, structured wines that are full-bodied and rich in colour (thanks to the iron percentage in the soil).
Tuscany is the second region to produce the highest ratio of DOC wines (after Veneto). The region’s Sangiovese from the Chianti Classico region is what put it on the map, and is what keeps it there. Any wine produced within the holy trinity of Chianti, Montalcino, and Montepulciano can carry the Sangiovese application.
Which Are the Main Wine-Growing Areas of Tuscany?
Not really a region per se, but more a vast collection of villages, and above all an Italian winemaking term describing the DOCG wines produced from Arezzo, Florence, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato, and Siena. An excessively good-looking, mountainous region, found in the centre of the region.
Learn more about the wonderful Chianti.
A sub-region of Chianti is located about 80 km south of Florence in the province of Siena, Because of the hot, dry climate, wines from the area are known to be denser, and more muscular than the generally leaner and more angular ones made in the cooler Chianti region.
The Tuscan Coast
Located along the Tyrrhenian coast, this part of Tuscany is famous for the brilliant region of Bolgheri found in the northwest province of Livorno. Planted to mainly Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, this area is responsible for the phenomenal Sassicaia, an investor’s favourite. Estates such as Tenuta San Guido, Ornellaia, Le Macchiole and Grattamacco aslo have their home here.
Which Are the Most Common Grape Varieties Grown in Tuscany?
If there was one grape that could sum up the Italian wine history, it would be the Sangiovese grape. It is the best known and probably most loved of all the Italian grapes. Blue-black in skin, it is synonymous with wines from Tuscany but is also found in other regions such as Umbria, Campania in Southern Italy, and Romagna, where the grape is known as Sangiovese di Romagna. Sangiovese accounts for about 10% of Italian wine production. The grape is far subtler than say Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir, but is always fruit-forward in taste, with notes of cherry flavour and tertiary tastes of tomato.
Also called Ugni Blanc, Trebbiano is one of the world’s most popular white wine grapes. Used in everything from balsamic vinegar to brandy, this grape often gets a bad reputation due to its industrial usage. But Trebbiano should not be overlooked. The grape produces bright, refreshing, and very drinkable wine. Trebbiano might be most widely celebrated in its homeland, but it is also heralded in French wine, where its acidic bite and low sugar make it very popular.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano
Another of Tuscany’s finest white wine grapes, this varietal produces wine with the same name. The village is not only picturesque – perhaps one of the most beautiful in the region (and there are many to choose from). Wines are bright, citrusy and crisp, and lend a slightly bitter note on the finish. Vernaccia’s primary flavours are apple, pear, lemon, and almond, while the taste profile is dry and medium-bodied. Cellars for around three years.
A very flavoursome grape is used in many fortified wines such as port and Madeira. However, the Tuscan Malvasia is balanced, with sweet, slightly aromatic notes. Although often thought of as a blending wine, pure Malvasia holds its own on the Tuscan wine stage. The nose is fresh, floral, and fruity. Hints of small white flowers such as hawthorn and peach blossom, along with white fruit (green apple, white peach) and basil are complemented by the tertiary taste of acacia honey. A high alcohol content (13.5-15% ABV) means Malvasia cellars well for 10 plus years.
Super Tuscan Varieties
While Sangiovese wines are certainly part of central Italy’s national heritage, certain savvy producers in the 1970s took to experimenting with French grapes such as Cabernet and Merlot and created the Super Tuscan. Exceedingly popular whether you are an investor or an aficionado, Super Tuscan wines carry the IGT label. Whiles some (very few) wines have 100% Italian grapes, the original blends were made with French grapes – typically Bordeaux (or “noble”) varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. However, it’s not all about the red: white wines produced with Trebbiano (Italy’s most popular white grape) are popular in Tuscany with certain producers releasing stunning vintages that have great appeal for both primary buyers and the investor market.
Tuscany Wine Region Appellations
Tuscany’s appellation system includes three tiers of classification. There are 58 appellations in Tuscany, including 41 DOC and 11 DOCG spread out across the region’s ten provinces.
Indicazione Geografica Tipica
The acronym stands for “Indicazione Geografica Protetta” – and was created to recognise the increased quality of notably Super Tuscan wines. An IGP wine is not quite in the same realm as a DOP or DOCG but is stunning nevertheless. This is used for wines made with non-Italian grapes (such as Bordeaux-style wines that use Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot).
Denominazione di Origine Controllata
Much like the French AOC, the Italians use DOC, (or DOP), which stands for “Denominazione di Origine Controllata” or “Denominazione di Origine Protteta” and is a label of quality assurance – expect to see it on everything from cheese to honey. DOC wines are made with Italian grapes and the producer will have taken out all the lower quality grapes used for making vinegar or cooking wine, thereby elevating his source product (and charging prices to match). Liv-ex and investor’s favourite Tenuta del’Ornellaia is a DOC.
Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG)
DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) are the holy grail of Italian wine classifications. These wines (there are just 75 in the country) follow very strict quality control and are analysed by a government-approved panel prior to release. These are wines that wear their status with honour; a status label and serial number need to be visible on the neck of the bottle – pink for reds, green for whites.
While there is no foolproof formula to say whether investing in Tuscan wines will make your fortune, low yields such as in the notable producers often go hand in hand with skyrocketing prices. Producers such as Gaja, Bruno Giacosa, Giacomo Conterno, and Poderi Aldo Conterno are usually considered safe investments.
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