Spin the Bot­tle

Your ul­ti­mate guide to the glo­ri­ous Tus­can wine re­gion

Qantas - - Contents - Story by PE­TER BOURNE & LEE MAR­SHALL

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.

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