Spin the Bottle
Your ultimate guide to the glorious Tuscan wine region
At the foot of a sunny slope divided into neatly combed rows of vines stands a handsome stone farmhouse. Wayfarers dawdle outside, tempted, presumably, by the farm’s sideline in good local food and wine. Welcome to Tuscany – almost seven centuries ago.
The bucolic scene is part of Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Effects of Good Government on the Countryside fresco, painted circa 1338, which still adorns the walls of the council chamber in Siena’s Palazzo Pubblico. Now, as then, this glorious medieval edifice is the city’s town hall. And now, as then, vineyards dominate the Tuscan landscape.
Tuscany currently ranks fourth among Italy’s 20 wine regions in terms of area dedicated to viticulture but only Piedmont challenges its global fame. The area’s rapport with fermented grape juice goes back a few years. A winemakers’ guild was founded in Florence, Tuscany’s capital city, in 1282; landowner Giovanni di Piero Antinori, the ancestor of a family that is still one of the region’s leading producers, joined it in 1385.
Names sure to set a wine buf’s pulse racing among Tuscany’s more than 50 “controlled origin” DOC and DOCG wine zones include Brunello di Montalcino, Montepulciano and the coastal strip of Bolgheri. But it’s the Chianti area between Florence and Siena that best flies the flag for the region – particularly its Chianti Classico heartland.
A 72,000-hectare paean to sangiovese, the sinewy, savoury local red grape variety, Chianti Classico is a living fresco of vinedraped hills, hilltop villages that seem to be carved from the rock they’re built on and dense, truffle-rich woodlands. An age-old meeting of vine, nature and man, it proves Lorenzetti’s point – that vines in a landscape are as much about culture, ethics and social living as they are about land use.