Chianti Classico, San Gimignano and some Super Tuscans
By Michèle Shah
This Guide was last updated on 30 March 2010
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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, realising that a higher percentage of international varieties can overpower and take away the character of the main Sangiovese grape. Regular Chianti Classico and Riservas can be drunk from two to eight years. Over the past 10 years Chianti Classico wines have seen an increase in the use of barriques (225 litres) – which if not used correctly will produce over-oaked and over-spiced wines. Sangiovese gives a subtle wine which depending on its extraction and structure can age well in barrique or in the larger, more traditional Slavonian barrels. Nowadays many producers are mixing the use of barrique and Slavonian barrels and are veering towards the tonneau which holds a capacity of 500 litres. There are also producers who use only steel vessels for ageing, preferring the wine to maintain its fresher primary fruit aromas. Ues of the term Chianti Classico Riserva requires a minimum alcohol level of 12.5 and a required minimum ageing of 24 months including three months in bottle. International varieties are widely used in the IGT Toscana, which produces some fine, elegant, structured reds, also known as Super Tuscans.
Tuscany is not renowned for its white wines, which are based on Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia, and the quantity produced is much smaller when compared to the reds. The exception, however, is Vernaccia di San Gimignano, which ismade from a local variety of Vernaccia thought to be unrelated to any other variety of the grape (as grown in Sardinia or Liguria, for instance) and cultivated in sandstone-based soils around San Gimignano. It yields a crisp, dry white wine which is sometimes barrel-fermented to give it more depth and body, with moderate ageing potential.
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 fruit.
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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