Archive for the Trebbiano Category

Wine In Tuscany Part VIII, The Mediterranean Coast

Tuscany, Northern Coastal Wine Growing Areas:

Colli Apuani, Colline Lucchesi, Collina di Montecarlo, Bolgheri, Montescudaio, Terratico di Bibbona, Val di Cornia, San Torpè, Terre di Pisa, Elba.


Northern Coastal Area

This includes the Colli Apuani and the Lucchesia, the latter takes in the Colli Lucchesi and the hills around the small town of Montecarlo.  

The Colli Apuani (200 hectares of vineyard) between Massa and Carrara (the source of white marble for Michelangelo’s sculptures) produces Candia dei Colli Apuani DOC, a white wine made principally with the vermentino grape and available in semi sweet (amabile) and dry versions.

The Colline Lucchesi in the Lucchesia area (of Lucca) produces wines that are 100% sangiovese and merlot as well as sangiovese blended with colorino, canaiolo and ciliegiolo. The Colline Lucchese Bianco DOC allows for 100% sauvignon blanc, 100% vermentino or a blend based on trebbiano.

Collina di Montecarlo produces simple fruity whites based on trebbiano toscano, often blended with sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio and pinot bianco, sémillion, vermentino and roussane. Montecarlo Rosso DOC is a blend with sangiovese as the base.

Livorno (Leghorn) and Pisan Coast

The wine growing areas of Bolgheri, Montescudaio, Terratico di Bibbona, Val di Cornia, San Torpè, Terre di Pisa and Elba.

Bolgheri Bolgheri Sassicaia is the only wine from a single estate (called Tenuta San Guido) in Italy to have its own DOC. It is made from cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc and was originally produced for family consumption. In the 1970’s it became a cult wine, one of the first Super Tuscans, the vineyard’s position close to the sea, low altitude and soils comprising a stone/clay/sand mix give Sassicaia a similar quality to the great wines of Bordeaux. The number of hectares planted with vineyards in Bolgheri has increased massively, from 260 hectares in 1990 to 1140 hectares in 2014 and fifty producers. These other producers can label their wines as Bolgheri DOC, but only wines from the single estate, Tenuta San Guido, can be labelled as Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC, probably to be upgraded to DOCG shortly. 

There are three sub-zones within the Bolgheri region: the area in the hills; close to the sea and the intermediate areas (between hills and sea). The hills have soils derived from old alluvial (deposited by river) deposits, the intermediate area has alluvial soils with a high level of iron oxides (this area is the location of the Sassicaia vineyards) and the area nearest the beach has recent alluvial deposits mixed with sand from the beach. Bolgheri runs parallel to the coast, it is protected from cold northerly winds by hills and the summer heat is mitigated by sea breezes.


The Bolgheri DOC allows red and rosé wines to be produced as 100% varietals made from cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot. If the producer chooses, up to 50% syrah or sangiovese can be added to the blend and a small amount of petit verdot. 

In general Bolgheri wines have a deep ruby red colour, they are able to age for a long time and have intense aromas of mature dark berries, Mediterranean herbs and spice. They are elegant wines, powerfully alcoholic, soft, fresh (thanks to a good acidity) and tannic. You can find a limited amount of white wine from Bolgheri, generally made with vermentino and sauvignon blanc.

Terratico di Bibbona lies to the north of Bolgheri. In the north of the area the sandy soils have found favour with both local and international grapes. The centre (close to the town of Rosignano) is noted for powerful sangiovese blends that use international grape varieties. The south (around Bibbiona) is the closest to Bolgheri and produces similar wines, I’ve never tried these but it would seem like a good place to look for quality wines without the Bolgheri price tag.

Val di Cornia lies to the south of Bolgheri. Val di Cornia DOC allows for a wide range of wines which blend sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and syrah. You will also find 100% varietals and whites made from ansonica (inzolia) and vermentino. Val di Cornia also has a Val di Cornia DOCG, a blend of 40% sangiovese and the rest 60% merlot and cabernet sauvignon. The area around the town of Suvereto (in the centre of Val di Cornia) has its own Suvereto DOCG, which allows for varietal wines of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and sangiovese as well as blends of cabernet and merlot.

Colline di Montescudaio is just inland and adjacent to Terratico di Bibbona (north of Bolgheri). Whites are generally made with vermentino and reds with sangiovese, cabernet and merlot.

San Torpè is a large wine growing area around Pisa that produces simple whites from vermentino and trebbiano.

Terre di Pisa almost overlaps entirely the San Torpè region. Reds produced here are sangiovese or sangiovese blended with international grapes.

Elba the island of Elba has 300 hectares of vines, famous for sweet wines from air dried grapes (the passito method) Elba Aleatico Passito DOCG is a sweet wine made from air dried aleatico grapes, it has a concentrated smell of blackberries, fruits of the forest, red flower petals and sweet spice. L’Elba Moscato Passito is made from moscato grapes and unsurprisingly, L’Elba Ansonica Passito (citrus and peaches in syrup aromas)  is made from ansonica grapes. Dry white wines are made with vermentino, ansonica and procanico (the local name for trebbiano). You will also find rosé made from sangiovese and reds made from sangiovese blended with canaiolo, ciliegiolo and syrah.


Tuscany, Southern Coastal Wine Growing Areas:

Morellino, Montecucco, Monteregio di Massa Marittima, Parrina, Capalbaio, Pitigliano and Sovana. 

La Maremma and Grossetano (Southern Coastal Area)

La Maremma, the southern coastal area of Tuscany is the new frontier in Tuscan winemaking and has two DOCGs, Morellino di Scansano and Montecucco DOCG. The Maremma has a mild climate due to its proximity to the Mediterranean and plenty of sunny days.  The Maremma wine zone includes the towns of Grosseto, Massa Marittima, Scansano, Pitigliano and Capalbio. Once famous for cowboys called butteri, much of the coastal area is now a national park. The Maremma DOC includes wines made from the entire Grossetto region, the wines released under the DOC are whites made from a trebbiano blend and reds made from a sangiovese blend. Within the Maremma, the winemaking areas are Morellino, Montecucco, Monteregio di Massa Marittima, Parrina, Capalbaio, Pitigliano and Sovana.

Morellino di Scansano DOCG is the most famous wine from the region, Scansano itself is inland and at at 500 metres above sea level, but the DOCG region extends quite close to the coast. In general the area has low rainfall and a warm climate, providing ideal conditions for ripening of the local variety of sangiovese, morellino. The DOCG permits a minimum of 85% sangiovese blended with international varieties or alicante bouschet (a cross of petit bouschet and grenache), canaiolo, colorino and ciliegiolo. There are two styles of Morellino di Scansano, the wine released from the previous year, aged in stainless steel and usually using a blend of local varieties, in which fruit dominates both the nose and flavour. Aged Morellino di Scansano usually has a high percentage of sangiovese, the wine is aged in oak for up to 12 months, and, in the case of the most structured wines, has a long maceration (the period that the wine is left on the skins) to extract more polyphenols.

These wines tend to be alcoholic and tannic with notes of cherry, menthol and spice. A Riserva is aged for 2 years in large oak barrels (botte) and has more intense fruit and spice aromas.

Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG the area where this hard to find DOCG wine is grown lies between Morellino di Sacansano (to the south), Montalcino (to the north) and the west facing slopes of Monte Amiata (to the east). The DOCG sangiovese wines have good structure and minerality. DOC wine from Monte Cucco are sangiovese (reds) and vermentino (whites).

Monteregio di Massa Marittima In the north of the Maremma, around the towns of  Castiglione della Pescaia and the Colline Metallifere (metallic hills) reds made from sangiovese predominate along with white wines from trebbiano and vermentino. In the furthest north of the region, the red wines have a lively acidity thanks to the chalky soils, Monteregio Rosso, a little further to the south, has galestro soil (crumbly clay rock) and produces wines with surprising structure and tannins.

Pitigliano and Sovana In the south east of the Maremma, Pitigliano DOC is produced around the town of the same name, red wine from the area can be released as Morellino di Scansano DOCG as it falls within the area. The base grape in the blend is trebbiano but the rules permit a variety of grapes such asmalvasia bianco, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. The Sovana DOC applies to red and rosé wines made from sangiovese, merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Also, look out for the sweet aleatico (a moscato grape with darker skin) wines with aromas of rose-hip and raspberry.


Winemaking Areas In The Coastal Regions Of Tuscany

Wine In Tuscany Part II – Vines & Grapes

Vines & Grapes Grown In Tuscany

There are around 58000 hectares of vineyard in Tuscany, vines are mainly planted in hilly areas, 85% of the vines are red grape varieties with sangiovese the main grape. 69% of wines are classified as DOP (DOCG and DOC) and 25% IGP (usually labelled as IGT). For an explanation of Italian Wine Classifications, see my blog post. The percentage shown after each listed variety is the percentage out of total vines planted in Tuscany.

Red Grapes 

Sangiovese makes up 65% of the vines planted in Tuscany, it is a late ripening grape (end of September / early October). It is often blended with traditional varieties such as canaiolo nero, malvasia nera and colorino or international varieties such as cabernet sauvignon and merlot.

There are several varieties of sangiovese: sangiovese grosso (also known as dolce or gentile), sangiovese piccolo (or forte), prugnolo gentile, sangiovese romagnolo and morellino (also known as sangiovese del Grossetano). Sangiovese grosso, used in the famous Brunello wines from Montalcino, has a thick skin that gives the wine more colour and tannin.

DNA testing has shown that sangiovese derives from a cross between the local ciliegiolo and calabrese mantenuovo, a vine from southern Italy that has all but disappeared. Sangiovese excels in Tuscany, thanks to the climate, the soils and the long tradition of winemaking in the area. The high acidity and tannin gives the wines longevity and makes them particularly adaptable to food pairing, it can make interesting table wines along with highly structured, quality wines such as Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Chianti Classico and Morellino di Scansano, all of which have DOCG status.

Sangiovese wines tend to be ruby red with a medium intensity, the typical aromas are violets, cherries and forest berries. With oak ageing it develops aromas of leather, earthy autumn leaves, tobacco and often has background notes of menthol and eucalyptus. In the mouth they have notable structure, a good balance between acidity and minerality, the sensation of alcoholic warming, notable tannin and a finish of fruit and spice.

Canaiolo Nero (4%), Malvasia NeraMammolo, Ciliegiolo (1%), Colorino (1%) and L’Aleatico are all grapes that are traditionally blended with sangiovese to soften its tannins. 

Ciliegolo (1%) is grown predominantly in the Maremma, a costal region in southern Tuscany. It makes wines that are of medium intensity in their colour, and, as the name suggests, have a strong aroma of cherries.

Colorino (1%) when used on its own rather than blended with sangiovese, produces wines that, as the name suggests, are intensely coloured and full of polyphenols. 

L’Aleatico (0.2%) grows on the Tuscan coast and the island of Elba. Between the towns of Pitigliano and Sovano it is used to produce a passito (naturally dried grapes) sweet wine that is rich in colour and smells of forest fruits and nutmeg with a notable tannin in the mouth.

The international red varieties commonly grown in Tuscany include Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc (6%), Merlot (6%), Pinot Nero (noir) and Syrah.

Cabernet Sauvignon & Cabernet Franc The Carmignano region near Florence has grown cabernet sauvignon for over 300 years but in the 1990’s it became commonly used in Chianti and other sangiovese based Tuscan wines. The Bolgheri area on the Tuscan coast makes some of the most highly regarded (and expensive) cabernet wines with refined tannin and herbacious and menthol notes.

Merlot As with cabernet sauvignon, merlot has been commonly added to Chianti and other Tuscan sangiovese based wines since the 1990’s. As a single blend, merlot comes into its own on the Mediterranean coast with intense fruit flavours combined the variety’s trademark softness.

Syrah The Syrah produced around Cortona is considered to be the best example of this wine in Italy, the aroma is of wild cherry, sweet spice with matching tannin and softness. It is also grown on the coast around Grossetto, Lucca, Pisa and Livorno.

Pinot Nero (pinot noir) Tuscany is generally considered to be too warm for pinot nero, so it is mainly grown in specific areas with a cooler climate, the Mugello, Il Casentino and the higher hills around Lucca.

White Grapes

Trebbiano Toscano (7%) is the traditional white grape in Tuscany, in the past it was grown for its high yields but today it is used for simple white wines and the famous Vin Santo a Passito (made from air dried grapes), sometimes together with Malvasia del Chianti (3%). 

Vernaccia di San Gimignano (1.5%) grows around the town of San Gimignano and makes a delicate wine with aromas of crab apple and thyme when young, after ageing in oak it becomes more complex, structured and develops a noticeable minerality.

Vermentino (1.5%) grows along the coast and makes wines with notes of apple, citrus and tropical fruit with aromatic herbs and noticeable acidity. (This is the main white grape in Sardinia and further north along the coast in Liguria).

L’ansonica (called inzolia in Siciliy) is cultivated on the Mediterranean coast and also on the islands of Elba and Giglio. It produces wines with notes of Mediteranean herbs and a decisive minerality.

Moscato Bianco is grown around Montalcino (where it is called moscadello). Production has increased in recent years. It produces a golden, sweet wine with aromas of apricot and peaches preserved in syrup.

Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are also grown across Tuscany and produce some excellent wines.