Italy: Tuscany

Between San Gimignano and Siena

Chianti Classico, San Gimignano and some Super Tuscans
By Michèle Shah

This Guide was last updated on 30 March 2010
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Main appellations

Chianti Classico DOCG

The Classico is Chianti’s heartland, stretching south of Florence as far as Siena, the DOCG’s historical centre. In 1924 a consortium for the protection of the Chianti Classico wine was founded. The identification mark is a black rooster or Gallo Nero, the same mark used by the traditional Lega del Chianti. In 1967 the entire Chianti region was granted the DOC appellation which delimited the exact area of production of Chianti Classico as identified in the territories of Castellina, Radda, Gaiole and part of the neighbouring villages. In 1974, Chianti Classico wine was granted the DOCG the highest quality status. Over 7,000ha of plantings are used to produce over 20 million bottles . Currently, Chianti Classico must have 80% to100% Sangiovese in the blend. The additional varieties (for wines not using 100% Sangiovese) may include the traditional Canaiolo or Colorino, for instance, or the international varieties Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.

Chianti DOCG

Chianti covers much of central Tuscany and the zone extends from north of Florence to well south of Siena. Chianti is based on Sangiovese and Canaiolo, with optional small quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to give additional fruity roundness. The 10,500ha of Chianti vineyards are split into seven sub-zones, each with distinct terrains and microclimates: Chianti Colli Fiorentini; Chianti Colli Senesi; Chianti Colline Pisane; Chianti Colline Lucchesi; Chianti Montalbano; Chianti Montespertoli; and Chianti Rùfina. This micro-region includes Colli Senesi in the countryside around Siena.

Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG

This is Tuscany’s most famous white wine and at its best it can show characterful, classy elegance. Diversification has crept in, with many producers making several versions: ‘straight’ Vernaccia (with 100% of the variety); Vernaccia with Chardonnay (exploiting the 10% of ‘other’ varieties permitted under the DOCG) and Riserva  (often oak fermented). The Riserva  is aged for 16 months. There are just 770ha of vineyards.

Vin Santo del Chianti DOC

This is made from Trebbiano Toscano and/or Malvasia.

Vin Santo del Chianti Classico DOC

Grape use is the same as for Vin Santo del Chianti DOC above, but grown in the Classico district.

Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice DOC

This rosé Vin Santo is made in several Tuscan zones, from minimum 50% Sangiovese grapes with other local varieties.

IGT Toscana and ‘Super Tuscans’

The IGT classification, which applies to the whole of Tuscany, allows a liberal number of grape varieties grown within the area of production to be used. Many of these wines are termed Super Tuscan wines. Some background to Super Tuscan wines: in 1968 Azienda Agricola San Felice produced the first-ever ‘Super Tuscan’, called Vigorello, and in the 1970s Piero Antinori decided to make a richer wine by eliminating the white grapes from the Chianti blend and adding Bordeaux varieties (namely Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) instead. The result was a Super Tuscan which he named Tignanello, after the vineyard where the grapes were grown. Other winemakers started experimenting with Super Tuscan blends of their own shortly thereafter. Because these wines did not conform to strict DOC(G) classifications they were initially labelled as Vino da Tavola, meaning ‘table wine’, a term ordinarily reserved for lower-quality wines. The creation of the Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) category helped to bring Super Tuscans back into the fold from a regulatory standpoint.

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