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.