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Miriam Gude wins the XVth Italian Thomas Dempster price 2009  

Tuscany Wine Tasting- Wine Tours & Trips in Tuscany Italy

If you think about Tuscany or wine from Italy you might imagine colorful hills and wineries surrounded by cypress trees as far as the eye can see. The owners of these Tuscan wineries are very hospitable and will always welcome you to come in and enjoy some of their Tuscan wines.

After returning home from a nice holiday in Tuscany it can be a real pleasure to uncork a bottle of Tuscan wine you might have brought home. Once the Tuscan wine hits your taste buds you will instantly be reminded about the lovely truffle meals served by many of the local restaurants. Nowhere in the world is the unity between a regions wine and its food culture as great as it is in Tuscany.

When you say wine in Tuscany you might as well just say Chianti. This wines has undergone a true transformation in the past 25 years and has evolved from a ‘moderate’ wine into a true ‘Classico’. Other grape varieties have also been able to build up formidable reputations, like for instance the San Giovese and the Carmignano. Of course there’s also the excellent Brunello di Montalcino or the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. All of the wines mentioned above have the Italian Appellation classification DOCG,  better known as the Denominazione di'Orgine Controllata e Garantita.

The wine production in Italy got started in the South and was later taken over by the northerners. After the Roman empire fell the wine production in the south of Italy stagnated. During the Renaissance the production of wine in Tuscany returned to normal. Rich traders brought different kinds of grape with them from France and laid the foundation of Tuscany’s long wine traditions (the oldest wine traditions of Italy). In those days wine was generally seen as an important nutrient.

The second half of the 19th century was a period of modernism in Italy which gave the Tuscan wines a new incentive. Thanks to many improvements new wines like the Brunelle and the Chianti were created. Wine became more and more a product people produced to enjoy and not only for the nutrient purposes.

After the 2nd  world war the farmers started with the mass production of wine and Tuscany became well known for its Chianti. You might recognize this wine by its very large shaped carboy. This wine was sold in large quantities, but unfortunately lacked in quality. Later in the mid 80’s a so called ‘second wine renaissance’ passed by the Tuscan wineries close to Firenze and Siena and new production techniques were introduced. Wine wasn’t stored in large oak barrels any more, but instead was kept in smaller barrels. This caused much less loss of fruitiness. The wine that came from these smaller barrels was much more full of flavour, juicy and of higher quality.

Because these wines weren’t made in accordance with the DOCG standards, they were only allowed to put Vino Da Tavola on their labels. However experts and wine enthusiasts were able to spot the high quality of the wines and nicknamed them the ‘Super Tuscans’. This caused the prices to sky rocket an eventually laws needed to be amended. Most wines are since sold under the name ‘Chiani Classico’ and a portion of still under Vino da Tavola.

The Chianti is the most famous and popular wine in Italy. The wine is made from the Sangiovese grape, which needs a lot of sun and is resistant against temperature fluctuations. The most important Chianti zone is the Chianti Classico region near Castellia and Ruffina.

Brunello di Montalcino and Rosso di Montalcino
The Brunello di Montalcino is a classic wine from the region south of Siena. This wine is also made from the Sangiovese grape and gets aged for several years in large wooden barrels followed by a few years in bottles. Only then does the wine reveal its characteristic flavors and aroma. De Brunello is a strong spicy wine with quite some tannins in it. De Rosso di Montalcin is a little bit cheaper and more easy to drink in general and has a shorter ripening period.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Near Montalcino lies the city Montepulciano. This beautiful city is wel known for its Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. This wine is also made from the Sangiovese grape and has been described as the king of all wines. In 1980 it received a DOCG classification. The vino Nobile is very flowery and full of flavor and fits well with a steak (bistecca fiorentina) from the Val di Chiana.

The Carmignano is produced west of Florence and deserves some special attention. The wine might be much less known than its predecessors, but is most definitely a great wine. You could compare its flavor with the Brunello. The Carnignano was the favorite wine of the famiglia di Medici and was the first to receive a DOCG classification back in 1716.

Vernaccia di San Gimignano
The best wines in Tuscany are the red wines. The white wines generally don’t tend to do as well in this region. One exception is the Vernaccia di San gimignano. It is a dry white wine and also carries the DOCG classification. The wine has an aromatic taste and sometimes tastes a little of nutmeg. The San Gimignano goes well with pasta and fish dishes. On the labels there is always a drawing of the very recognizable towers of the town.

Vin Santo
De Vin Santo is a sweet and sometime dry wine and is the pride of many wineries. It shouldn’t be confused with the Trentino, also from Vino Santo. The wine is made from dried white grapes like the Trebbiono, Malvasio and the Cannaiolo. Traditionally the grapes are hung from the gutters to dry, but in more modern wineries they are dried with hot air. Then the grapes get squeezed and are eventually stored in small wooden barrels for a period of four to six years. People often drink this wine with hard almond biscuits called cantuccini. Originally (and still) the local priests drank the Santo (holy wine) during the mass symbolizing the blood of Christ.