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Is there a better-known Italian wine region than Tuscany?  The romanticism it exudes, the beauty of its hills,  its myriad of historic towns and of course its food and wine combine to make it at, or at least near the top of every wine lover's list of places to visit. village-of-olena-from-isole-vineyards.jpg

There are three important and distinct regions, or perhaps styles of wine, within Tuscany.  The first is the ubiquitous Chianti, the Sangiovese-based wine produced throughout much of Tuscany.  Chianti finds its highest level of quality within the relatively small (and delimited) Chianti Classico region, based around the hillside villages between Siena and Florence.  Chianti can be up to 100% Sangiovese; may include up to 10% of Canaiolo Nero; and may include up to 15% of other red grape varieties, such as traditional varieties like Colorino and non-indigenous varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon.  

Next comes Brunello di Montalcino, which has only been produced since 1880 (although Sangiovese has been grown here for centuries) and owes its existence to the identification and separation of a distinct clone of Sangiovese that was smaller and more rot-resistent by Ferruccio Biondi-Santi which he named 'brunello' (translating to 'little brown one').  This particular and unique clone of Sangiovese produces a wine richer, more powerful and of darker colour than any Sangiovese from Chianti.  Interestingly the majority of Brunello di Montalcino's production is exported to the United States.  Brunello di Montalcino laws require cask ageing of the wine for at least two years prior to bottling (prior to 1995 it was three years) and for the wine not to be sold until four years following vintage.

rooftops-in-san-gimgnano.jpgFinally comes the so-called 'Super Tuscans', mostly produced in the coastal region of Bolgheri, and wines which are predominantly blends of 'international' grape varieties - generally Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah - although often with a percentage of indigenous varieties, usually Sangiovese, included in the blend.  The 'Super Tuscans' were created in the early 1970s, lead by wines such as Tenuta San Guido's 'Sassicaia' (1968 first commerical vintage) and Pierro Antinori's 'Tignanello' (first vintage 1971) essentially in defiance of regulations about permitted grape varieties and winemaking methods.  The goal was of course producing exceptional, high-quality wines that were different to Chiantis, Brunellos and the like.  The question of how much these wines today taste of Tuscany or even Italy is a valid one, although of course varies tremendously from wine to wine, and few would contest the effect their arrival had on the overall quality of Tuscan wine.

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