Imagine you’re in Tuscany, and you’re sitting on the veranda of your lush villa where the view gives way to an expanse of rolling hills, gleaming under the warm Italian sun.
And you are enjoying the view with a sip of Trebbiano from a chilled wine glass – complete and utter bliss. In Tuscany, this dream can very much become a reality as Italy’s central gem is home to a number of diverse and world-renowned wine regions from Florence to coastal villages.
Why? Because of the region’s perfect landscape that never gets too dry or too wet in the sunny hillside, which is crucial for growing, maintaining and picking grapes in the hopes of creating high-caliber wine.
It’s as if Tuscany grew from Italy’s roots purely to produce some of the world’s best wine.
And here’s a guide on how to enjoy Italy as a connoisseur, and have the ultimate Tuscan wine holiday:
The History of Wine Making in Tuscany
First things first, it’s important to understand the history of wine’s evolution in Tuscany in order to better appreciate the immersive experience that is wine tasting.
Just like everything else in Italy, wine making comes with a deeply rooted history dating back to the Romans, Middle Ages and the Renaissance. When the harvesting of grape vines first evolved in this central area of Italy, the Etruscans utilized their abundance to sell them in markets overseas, therefore kickstarting one of the major contributors to Italy’s economy today.
The cultivation of wine has been a part of Tuscany’s economy for nearly 3,000 years, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon.
The Grapes That Grow
Tuscany is a large expanse of land, and thus has a diverse selection of grapes to harvest. Although the two that dominant are the red varietal Sangiovese and the white varietal Trebbiano.
The red grape Sangiovese is crucial for the production of Italian wines like Chianti. And interestingly enough there are quite a few clones of this specific grape once again depending on the town and region. Beyond Sangiovese, canaiolo, mammolo, colorino and malvasia nero are the other red grapes ripe in the Tuscan region.
And while Sangiovese typically reigns when it comes to the reds, there is a bit more variety when it comes to white grapes. Vernaccia is known for giving the region its first Denomination of Origin, which simply means it natively comes from Tuscany. And Trebbiano is used to make Vin Santo, the ‘holy wine.’ For other white wines, you will also find the use of malvasia and vermentino in various regions and wines.
The Essential Tuscan Regions for Wine-Tasting
While you can go almost anywhere in Tuscany for a wine-tasting experience, these regions and wines are bucket list-worthy for any kind of traveller, fine palette or not.
Chianti is as traditional Italian as the Catholic Church and pasta, and it’s one of the first wines to ever be exported.
The best place to taste the savoury and smooth red is near Florence. Actually, in general, Florence is a great central point to call home base as you travel to all of the different wineries in Tuscany.
But here you will definitely find the Chianti region and the Chianti Classico sub-region. It’s here where the sangiovese grapes are harvested to age the highly acidic, cherry sweet wine that is medium bodied with subtle hints of wild herbs and tobacco.
And as organic farming continues to grow, the Chianti wine continues to evolve into a savoury sensation and a more sustainable export.
Do you prefer the sophisticated hues of reds rather than the sweet tint of whites? Then head to the hillish town of Montalcino in Siena, a southern region of Tuscany, where you can try and buy the Brunello di Montalcino and other dry sangiovese wines.
Although Brunello di Montalcino is the whole sangiovese experience as its the only wine made entirely of the acidic grape. And because of its uniqueness and four-year aging process, it’s pure qualities make it purely expensive.
Other wines to try from this region are Rosso di Montalcino and Moscadello.
Close in vicinity to Montalcino, Montepulciano is also a must-visit wine tasting destination, as it’s nestled in between hills and vineyards alike.
Montepulciano is known for its ‘nobile wine’ and incredible Renaissance churches that dot this little Italian town.
When you’re here you must try the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano for a dry, full-bodied and delicious vintage red wine experience. This wine is rooted in Italy’s vast history as it was only enjoyed by the nobles, and it’s made from the cloned Sangiovese grapes known as dry prugnolo gentile grapes. And for an added hint of detail, it’s aged in oak barrels to make the experience come full circle and please the taste buds.
The details are everything when it comes to wine, and Montepulciano pays particular attention throughout the wine-making process.
Head southwest from Florence to get your taste of white wine in the vineyards just outside of the quaint San Gimignano village.
San Gimignano is known as Italy’s first producers of white wines with Vernaccia grapes, which adds a mild sweetly succulent and fruity flavour.
While in the area you might as well try a whole slew of wines that populate this region, like Vin Santo, a dessert wine and San Gimignano Rosato, a tasty and light rosė.
Super Tuscans, which is a nickname for their more official label as Indicazione Georgrafica Tipica (IGT) wines, are making quite the splash along the coast of Tuscany as these wines rose to prominence in the early 80s and 90s for not following DOC/DOCG regulations.
What are DOC/DOCG regulations? Well first these acronyms stand for Denomazione di Origine Controllatta (DOC) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). And they represent the Italian Ministry of Agriculture’s classifications and regulations for the wine Italy is producing.
Italy takes its wine so seriously that they have an entire regulatory committee to keep the level of product up to the highest standards – the Italians set the bar high, and your expectations will still be exceeded as you explore the Tuscan wine landscape.
And essentially, Super Tuscans don’t follow the laws of wine as producers of these elixirs add your commonly known cabernet sauvignon, syrah and merlot to their grape blends, or they even create wines from grapes not native to Tuscan regions. Although, some of the most famous Italian wines are Super Tuscans like Tignaello, Sassicaia and Redigaffi, and by association they are also labeled Vino da Tavola, which is the lowest classification of wine according to the DOC system.
Even though Super Tuscans walk the line opposite of most traditional wines, the new age tastings are all a part of the wine experience in Tuscany, and a must try.
The Best Wineries Around Tuscany
And these wineries are bound to whet your appetite and give you a cultural experience as you taste the very best regional wines in Tuscany.
Antinori, Chianti Classico
Follow the taste of Chianti to Antinori Chianti Classico winery in Central Tuscany, a close neighbour to Florence.
As a relatively new 2013 winery, it features modernity in the details and wine tours but offers wine right from history as the Antinori family has been involved in wine making since 1385. Their 600-year background is boasted in their onsite wine museum, book shop, art and tasting rooms.
Here you will find some of Italy’s most popular wines in Tignanello and Solaia.
You can also find Capezzana in Central Tuscany just beyond Florence, in the direction of Prato, sitting on an estate dedicated to wine and olive oil since 804.
And as guests can feel this winery’s age in its incredible architecture and expansive vineyards and olive groves, wine-tasters can also feel trendy at Capezzana’s onsite wine bar, La Vinsantaia.
Be sure to eat here and join a cellar tour to experience the vintage wines on display from the Carmignano DOCG. And of course, take a sip of the Vin Santo alongside your favourite dessert as you peer out to Florence’s Duomo from the simple, but elegant terrace.
Castello di Nipozzano
Make the trip to Northern Tuscany to buy the vintages of Castello di Nipozzano’s that date back to 1864. Or just enjoy knowing that you’re tasting wine in a 1,000-year-old castle that has been frequented by artists like Michelozzo Micelozzi. While the original structure was mostly destroyed in 1944, you can still feel its age in the original cellar at the Renaissance villa.
As much of a wine-tasting experience as a walk-through time, Castello di Nipozzano also hosts an entire functioning farm including olive trees and cows.
Come to Castello di Nipozzano for so much more than wine.
Castiglion del Bosco, Montalcino
Castiglion del Bosco, Montalcino is a Southern Tuscany staple with 12 wine tour experts, two restaurants, its own truffle forest and in the middle of a UNESCO World Heritage site in Orcia Valley.
And what’s even better is you can actually stay in this staple from 1100 as it is apart of an estate that includes a resort and golf course as well. Castiglion del Bosco also houses a 13th century church and accompanying frescos.
Castiglion del Bosco epitomizes Italy in every detail, wine-taste and picturesque view, and you have to experience it for its entirety during your Tuscan holiday.
Col d’Orcia, Montalcino
Head south for a taste of Col d’Orcia, Montalcino’s Pinot Grigio, Sant’Antimo and the famed Brunnello.
This winery has a family feel as its old-fashioned details and dedication to organic farming spill over to the tasting room’s quaint dining room table. The Cinzano family and the owners of this tasteful winery in the outskirts of Montalcino make all the guests feel like they’re at home, while sipping on some of the finest wines in all of Italy.
Le Macchiole, Bolgheri
Follow the lure of the coast and the sound of the sea to Le Macchiole, Bolgheri in Tuscany. Here is a quintessential place to try Super Tuscan wines in a more relaxed and intimate setting than most Italian winerys. Here you can try Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot straight from the organic vineyards, while admiring the hard to miss street art decorating this winery.
You can take a small private tour of the farms and cellar, followed by a tasting of some of the finest wines.
Livernano & Casalvento
Make the trek to Central Tuscany’s Livernano & Casalvento for the Chianti Classico wine, and stay for one of the most personal experiences you will ever have at a winery restored from a Estrucean hamlet.
The rags to riches owner, Bob Cuillo and Gudrun Cuillo, migrated from Bronx, New York to restore the old Livernano village into a country resort, restaurant, and of course, a winery. And they make sure you feel welcomed as you explore the many sweet and savoury sips.
Salcheto, Montepulciano is nestled in the south of Tuscany welcoming wine-tasters with stunning views and IGT wines harvested from an organic farm.
It’s also one of the first self-sufficient wineries in all of Europe. How? They utilize renewable sources and recycled materials as well as solar panels for the cellar and wine tanks. And as you tour the estate, guides will give you an inside look at these technologies and how they impact the very wine you’ll be tasting.
Be sure to try the newly created wine that sets the senses off with the ‘all fruit experience,’ as you look out from an overlook the beauty of Montepulciano’s entire town.
And you can always feel good about contributing to Salcheto’s mission as you sip your wine, marvel over the views and live your Tuscan dream.
To discover more about Tuscany and the rest of your Italian holiday, check out Italian Breaks for where to go, where to stay and what to do.