Italy: Tuscany

Montalcino and Montepulciano

Heartland for classic reds from Sangiovese
By Michèle Shah

This Guide was last updated on 28 April 2011
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Main wine styles


The trend of adding an allowed percentage (15-20%) of international varieties to the Sangiovese base is still popular. However, producers are beginning to return to the practice of adding more indigenous complementary grape varieties to the Rosso of Montalcino and the Nobile and Rosso of Montepulciano, realising that a higher percentage of international varieties can overpower and take away the character of the main Sangiovese grape. International varieties are widely used in the Sant’Antimo DOC, which produces some fine, elegant, structured reds. Brunello di Montalcino, ranks as one of Italy’s most prized and most expensive wines. Depending on the quality of the vintage, Brunello di Montalcino can age for between 10 and 30 years and is capable of austere grandeur. These wines mature into a warm, amply flavoured wine of deep ruby to brick-red colour and with a richly complex bouquet. The wines of Montepulciano stand in a class of their own. This is due to the special conditions of soil and climate on slopes facing the Chiana valley and the presence in the blend of Canaiolo, which softens Prugnolo Gentile’s inherent vigour, and Mammolo, which lends a notable bouquet of violets. Vino Nobile does not need as long as Brunello to reach its peak, usually four to seven years, although a little longer is required for the Riserva.


Tuscany is not renowned for its white wines and the quantity produced is much smaller when compared to the reds. However, Tuscany’s dry whites can be good, and have improved in quality in recent years.


Very few rosé wines are produced in Tuscany, although with an increasing market demand for rosés recently, some estates have started producing them from Sangiovese. These wines show distinct character, with red-berry aromas and flavours ranging from raspberry to cherry. They tend to be delicate and elegant, but with plenty of fruity quality.

Vin Santo

Vin Santo, a traditional Tuscan dessert wine, is produced in small quantities using age-old methods. The grapes are picked at the end of September and hung in a well-ventilated room where they dry for about two months. The dried grapes are pressed and the must is put into small oak barrels, which are not filled up to the top, thus allowing oxidation to occur. The barrels are then sealed airtight and the Vin Santo is left to ferment and age in the same barrel for a period of between five and ten years.

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