4 Tuscan wines that should be in your wine cellar

Posted on 02. Mar, 2011 by in Food and Wine

I’ve mentioned in the past that I go to the Florence area a couple of times a year. It’s beautiful, historic and you just can’t beat the food. Since I love pasta and hearty food, Tuscany has become a favorite of mine over the years.

It’s hard not to drink wine when you’re in Tuscany (not that I try very hard). When I’m home in Colorado, drinking good Italian wine reminds me of great trips I’ve had there. And, when I say great wine, Tonya and I don’t drink expensive wine very often and I’m far from being a wine expert. But, I try to pay attention when I’m in Italy so we can then buy some of those wines and drink them at home. Today, I thought I’d share four of my favorite Tuscan wines–and a few great Italian dishes to pair them with:

Chianti

Probably the best known Tuscan wine to us in America. As with almost all wines from this part of Italy, it’s made from Sangiovese grapes along with Trebbiano, Canaiolo nero and others that are approved to be used in the production of Chianti.

Character

Chiantis have improved greatly since their down market reputation of the early 70s. Their dryness and acidity make them easier to drink with food than by themselves. Choose a Classico or Riserva for the best quality. It’s an ideal match for pizza, pasta with red sauce, chili con carne or flank steak.  Since it’s not heavy, it’s great for summer as well.

Brunello di Montalcino

From the province of Siena south of Florence, this wine is made from 100 percent Brunello grapes, which is the local name for Sangiovese. These wines normally come onto the market six years after harvest.

Character

Brunellos are darker and considerably more powerful than typical Chiantis.  They are sometimes confused with the more common and less expensive Rosso di Montalcino, Brunellos are aged much longer and have enough tannins to be very long-lived. They’re slightly earthy and are a good pairing for Osso Bucco, wild boar (not so easy to find where I live) or most any hearty meat dish.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Again made primarily with Sangiovese, this ancient wine can also contain Canaiolo nero as well as others. Nobile comes from the fact that since the 1300s it was mostly produced by royal families. Unlike the others listed here, this wine cannot contain foreign-grown grapes.

Character

The Nobile falls between Chianti and Brunello. Bigger than the Chianti without quite the tannic structure of a Brunello, this is really a nice choice.  This wine shouldn’t be confused with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo which is made from a different grape in a different region. Again great with meat, the Nobile is also perfect for pasta with wild mushrooms or truffles. And, if you can ever make it to Tuscany during truffle season, it’s worth the trip.  They really celebrate the season and serve all kinds of foods flavored with this very particular delicacy.

Carmignano

This wine comes from the province of Prato, just northwest of Florence. My agent and good friend Sandra Santi grew up in what was, for a few hundred years, the home of the archbishop of Prato until the church sold it to her father. She introduced me to this wine, which is by far the least common of the four mentioned here. There are fewer than three hundred acres devoted to it and only about a dozen producers. It’s also a Sangiovese blend, and can  contain Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon or Trebbiano. It can also contain up to 10 percent white grapes. This should really be considered the first Super Tuscan–the term given to Sangiovese blends that don’t conform to the strict rules of blending specific wine appellations, although it had been around for centuries before that term was ever coined.

Character

I’m very fond of this wine, although it probably has something to do with how scarce it is and the fact that it comes from Prato, a place where I spend a lot of time.  It’s medium to full-bodied and great with all the foods I love: roast beef, ribs, fried chicken, duck and any kind of grilled steak.  It’s a bit hard to find, but definitely worth the search.

If you’ve concluded that these wines are quite similar, you’re right.  Brunello is the least like the others–heavier and more expensive and more worth holding. And, as I’ve noted above, they all go well with Tuscan fare.

What about you? What Tuscan wines do you prefer? I’d love to hear your favorites—after all, I’m always looking for a new wine to taste on my next visit to Tuscany.

Note: Tuscany image courtesy of Giampaolo Macorig via FlickR Creative Commons.

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One Response to “4 Tuscan wines that should be in your wine cellar”

  1. Mike

    29. Mar, 2011

    Scott, thanks for the Italian wine update.
    I brought back a bottle of Pian delle Ligne 1998
    which is from Brunello Di Montalcino.
    Maybe it’s time to open that one.
    mike