Novices, connoisseurs, and wine collectors alike can all agree on one thing: It’s impossible to not love Tuscany. Known for rolling hillsides laden with vines and carafes of deep, fruit-forward red wines that go down almost too easily, this magical Italian region makes it quite simple to fall in love with the world of viticulture and vinification.
It’s also the home of the Super Tuscans, built on blends of Bordeaux varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Subzones of Tuscany
Chianti and Chianti Classico
Chianti is undoubtedly Tuscany’s most well-known subregion. Known for its easy-drinking reds produced from Sangiovese or Sangiovese-dominant blends, this beloved region offers wines across the entire flavor, and budget, spectrum, from easy-drinking table wines to longer-aged, more cellar-worthy Riserva bottlings.
Sangiovese lovers are no strangers to the wonders of Montalcino. This hilltop subregion is known for its staggering vineyards, soaring altitudes, and unique microclimate, all of which work together to create some of the greatest — if not the greatest — expressions of the grape in the world. The area’s longer-aged, more cellar-worthy bottles go by Brunello di Montalcino, whereas shorter-aged, more approachable bottlings are known as Rosso di Montalcino.
Montepulciano is undeniably Tuscany’s most confusing subregion. Contrary to popular belief, wines produced here — called Vino Nobile di Montepulciano — are actually not crafted from the Montepulciano variety, but rather Sangiovese. These wines are generally medium-bodied, high in acidity, and known for their flavors of black cherry, plum, and earth.
Situated just north of Siena, San Gimignano is Tuscany’s most famous white wine producing area. Although Trebbiano dominates a vast amount of Tuscan vineyards, here, the crisp and high-acid variety of Vernaccia reigns king. Expect bright, dry wines noted with flavors of citrus, white flowers, and almond skin.
Maremma is Tuscany’s famed coastal region that spans a variety of wine styles and grape varieties. While Sangiovese is planted here, the international varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and beyond are also cultivated. For white wines, Vermentino and Trebbiano di Toscana are the key varieties. Contrary to the areas of Chianti and Montalcino, Maremma is quite humid and marshy, with a Mediterranean climate.
Located south of the city of Livorno, Bolgheri is one of Tuscany’s most unique subregions, as its vineyards are planted mostly in French varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah — however, Sangiovese is also cultivated here, too. This subregion is where most of the area’s famed Super Tuscan wines are produced.
Now taste Tuscany for yourself:
Montenidoli Vernaccia di San Gimignano Tradizionale 2020 (~$24)
Although Tuscany is by and large for its red wines, Montenidoli is best known for their whites. While the majority of Vernaccia di San Gimignano is meant to be consumed in its youth, Montenidoli’s high-quality expressions are made to withstand the long haul. Their classic Tradizionale is produced from organically-farmed fruit and vinified in glass-lined concrete vats. The wine is rich, dry, and laden with floral-tinged notes of citrus and almond. Drink now, lay down, or best of all, do both.
Castello di Volpaia Prelius Maremma Vermentino 2019 (~$22)
Prelius is the Maremma-based project of Castello di Volpaia, one of Chianti Classico’s most influential and long-standing estates. Here, the Mascheroni family farms a handful of grape varieties in the region’s marshy, coastal conditions, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Vermentino, and more. This crisp and zesty Vermentino is produced from organically-farmed fruit grown in clay-sand soils. Expect saline-tinged flavors of stone fruit, green apple skin, and under ripe pineapple. Prelius gets its name from an ancient salty lake that the Etruscans, followed by the Romans, formerly used to breed fish and harvest salt.
Ampeleia Bianco di Ampeleia IGT Toscana White Blend 2020 (~$25)
Although many Tuscan white wines see some form of skin contact, few wines are actually made in a macerated orange style, rendering this wine unique in its own right. Crafted from a blend of Trebbiano, Ansonica, and Malvasia, this skin-macerated field blend is co-harvested and co-fermented prior to spending seven to ten days on its skins. The wine is then bottled after six months of lees aging in concrete. Ampeleia first produced this wine back in 2016, and today, produces about 12,000 bottles annually.
Istine Toscana Rosato 2020 (~$19)
Located in Radda in Chianti, Istine is a family-owned estate that is best known for their single-vineyard expressions of red wines from Chianti, however, their rosato is not to be missed. Produced from 100% Sangiovese, the wine is vinified in cement tanks so as to preserve its natural fruit-driven flavors and natural acidity. Expect a savory, food-friendly wine loaded with bright acidity and a mineral-forward finish. Enjoy with a variety of foods, from Mediterranean-inspired mezze to roast poultry main dishes to simple snacks and beyond.
Fontodi Chianti Classico 2018 (~$39)
Located south of the village of Panzano in Chianti Classico’s famed Conca d’Oro — that’s golden shell, in Italian — Fontodi has been producing benchmark bottles of the region’s eponymous wine at the hands of the Manetti family since 1968. Now spearheaded by the talented Giovanni Manetti, who also serves as the president of the local consorzio, the estate’s wines continue to be produced in a traditional style, with terroir focus at the heart of every cuvée. Their signature Chianti Classico is everything that a Sangiovese lover could want — it’s balanced, it’s fruit driven, and it’s laden with savory undertones of leather, tobacco, and spice.
Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2018 (~$33)
Castello di Volpaia’s rich history dates back to 1172, but its modern-day story begins in 1972 with the Mascheroni family. Now spearheaded by the vibrant brother-sister pair Federica and Nicolò, this traditional estate produces regional wines crafted from 113 acres of organically-farmed grapes, situated at some of the highest altitudes in all of Chianti Classico. Fruit for their Riserva comes from sandstone and clay soils and ages for 24 months in a combination of Slovenian and French oak prior to bottling. The wine is structured and more refined than their easy-drinking Chianti Classico, making it an excellent candidate for the cellar — or with a hearty meal in the present day.
Fèlsina Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2009 (~$50)
Vin Santo, which translates to holy wine, is just about as sacred as it sounds. This luscious sweet wine is produced from raisined grapes that were late harvested and hung to dry throughout the winter. This process allows sugars to concentrate within the berries, and in turn, creates smaller amounts of very sweet juice. Fèlsina’s expression is crafted mostly from Malvasia and Trebbiano with a smattering of Sangiovese thrown in for good measure. Expect a sweet-yet-balanced wine that is perfect for drinking now or laying down in the cellar. Pair with fruit-based desserts, biscotti, or simply serve as is, and let the wine be the star of the course.
Biondi-Santi Rosso di Montalcino 2018 (~$100)
In the realm of Montalcino wines, Biondi-Santi sits at the top of the throne. While their ethereal Brunellos cost a pretty penny — and take quite a bit of time to soften up in the cellar — their Rosso di Montalcino offers the perfect gateway into what the estate is all about. The wine is produced exclusively from estate-grown fruit and aged for 12 months in Slavonian oak. Expect a traditional, fruit-forward expression with layers upon layers of depth and complexity. Fair warning, starting with Biondi-Santi is essentially starting at the top — while other great Rosso expressions can definitely be found, this one is an absolute gem.
Casanova di Neri Tenuta Nuova Brunello di Montalcino 2016 (~$75)
Casanova di Neri has been a pioneering estate in Montalcino since its founding back in 1971. Nearly two decades after its creation, the Neri family began seeking out new locations to plant Sangiovese and ultimately stumbled upon the Le Cetine vineyard, where they began planting vineyards back in 1988. Today, the estate still produces world-class Brunello from this historic site. Fruit for Tenuta Nuova grows in organically-farmed, galestro-based soils — the rocky, clay soil found in Tuscany’s best vineyards — and is fermented with native yeasts before 48 months of aging prior to release. The resulting wine is an approachable and remarkable Brunello that promises to please in both its youth and decades down the line.
Maria Caterina Cantina Dei Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2018 (~$24)
The Dei family first set up camp in the historic subzone of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano back in 1985. Since 1991, the dynamic Caterina Dei has been at the head of the estate, and has since become a leading figure in putting the wines of Vino Nobile on the map. At Dei, all 148 acres of vineyards are farmed organically and are spread across the local crus of Bossona, Cervignano, La Piaggia, La Ciarliana, and Martiena. This exquisite Vino Nobile is produced from 90% Prugnolo Gentile — the local name/clone of Sangiovese — rounded out with 10% Canaiolo. After native yeast fermentation and 15 to 18 days on the skins, the wine ages in oak casks for 24 months followed by six months in bottle prior to release. This wine is a textbook expression of what excellent Vino Nobile should be: dark, deep, and enticing.
Val di Toro Reviresco Maremma Toscana 2019 (~$23)
Although many Maremma-based estates have taken to planting international grape varieties, Val di Toro has kept their Maremma Toscana Rosso bottling as 100% Sangiovese. Crafted from organically-farmed fruit, this bright-yet-robust red wine shows flavors of sour cherries, scorched earth, and a touch of pepper. Despite the region’s hot and humid climate, the wine remains balanced and zesty, marked by well-integrated tannins and prominent acidity.
Ca’Marcanda Bolgheri Promis 2019 (~$40)
Founded by Angelo Gaja, Ca’Marcanda is the Super Tuscan-focused project of the renowned Barolo-based winemaker, established in 1996. Promis is the family’s Merlot-dominant wine, rounded out with 35% Syrah and 10% Sangiovese. Fruit comes from Bolgheri and the neighboring village of Bibbona. After fermenting and macerating separately, the wine is aged for 12 months in slightly used barriques prior to resting for a few months in bottle. Expect a plush, full-bodied wine with flavors of dark fruit and spice. Fans of Right Bank Bordeaux and New World Merlot-blends will absolutely take delight in this cuvée.