Toscana

Italy

Centuries saw this eponymous area of Italy controlled by the Etruscans, the Apennine Peninsula's pre-Roman inhabitants.  The first lattice-work of infrastructure and major cities were established during Roman rule (Pisa, Lucca, Siena, and Florence).  During the Renaissance, the cities of Siena and Florence were constantly in contention for cultural, political, and artistic influence.  Ultimately, Florence became known as the major seat of the Renaissance.  As with the whole of Italian history, the years between the Renaissance and modern Italy were characterized by invasions.  Tuscany joined the Italian Republic in 1860 and remained a member since.

To recount Tuscany's cultural achievements would, at the very least, prove a tall task.  Home to artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Botticelli, and Rafael, Tuscany has been home to some of the world’s most famous artists and artworks.  Dante Alighieri's Inferno used the Florentine population as a backdrop for Hell.  Tourists flock to Tuscany from across the world to see the grand menagerie of masterpieces in Florence, Siena, and the Tuscan countryside. 

Central to the cuisine of Tuscany is a sense of staying local.  A popular dish is Pappa Pomodoro, a bread and tomato stew  served with a side of polenta.  Also popular is a succulent dish made of roasted rabbit stuffed with fennel leaves.  The land outside Siena not planted under grapes grow olives and lemons.  The olives become olive oil and the lemons become either limoncella or lemon syrup which is then drizzled on local pecorino cheese.  With the sheer amount of delicious food made in Tuscany, it's of little surprise that people try to emulate Tuscan kitchens.

Tuscany claims the third-most DOCG's in the country totaling 11.  Some of the DOCG's are esoteric (Suvereto, Val di Cornia, Montecucco Sangiovese), however, some are world-famous and highly sought-after (Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti, Chianti Classico). 

Chianti comes from the center of Tuscany in the area between and surrounding the cities of Florence and Siena.  It is made predominately from the Sangiovese grape and remains the iconic Italian table wine.  While the general conventions of Chianti are of baked red fruits, dusty tannins, and Chianti can take many forms, and to reflect this, it is broken further into 7 sub-zones to embody a sense of regionality and quality.  Chianti coming from the hills around Siena (Colli Senesi) traditionally tends to be a more earthy and rustic style; however, Chianti coming from the northern part of the Chianti region (Colli Fiorentini or Rúfina) tends toward a more refined, velvety, and elegant version.  The area between Siena and Florence is known as Chianti Classico and is generally seen as the truest and highest-quality, deepest, and most ageworthy expressions of Chianti. 

While Sangiovese is the principal grape in Chianti, it is the sole grape permitted for Tuscany's most illustrious DOCG, Brunello di Montalcino.  To the west and overlapping slightly with the southern area of Colli Senesi, Brunello is often viewed as the finest and purest example of Sangiovese in the world.  Brunello's notes of spice, meaty black fruits, and leather is often underscored with high tannins, acidity, and a sense of longevity. 

In the 1970's, winemakers began to experiment with the cultivation of international varieties; however, DOCG regulations did not permit them to blend these into any of the top-quality wines of Tuscany.  As the winemakers tried to add more roundness and body to the often-austere Sangiovese grape, they ran further and further afield of the regulations.  As a protest and sign of their dissatisfaction with the appellation system, winemakers released high-priced blends of international varieties as vino da tavola, Italy's most-lowly designation.  Soon, the movement took root and the idea of Super-Tuscans was born.

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