Tuscany has a distinctive culinary tradition and the region is certainly famous for its wines.
In Tuscany wine is usually the highlight of the meal and the food and wine go so well together. Sangiovese is king. Tuscan wines are typically reserved for meats whether in the form of sausages, salami, pepperoni or different cuts of beef, pork or lamb. A big juicy porterhouse steak, slow cooked short ribs, marinated ox tail, or game such as wild boar is normality. It's great food wine!
In addition, bean soups, hearty stews, acidic salads and antipastos; large portions are the standard too; sort of like the ‘American-way’; very straight forward.
It’s fair to say Tuscany is considered the origin of the Renaissance being the home of the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Dante and Galileo. Tuscany has been admired for its wines for over a thousand years. It’s a major part of the fabric. There is loads of tradition and a lot of rulemaking.
Tuscany is an enormously diverse area and there are four key regions of importance when thinking about wine and food: Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and the Maremma. All make a smashing combination with food with plenty of acidity and dry earthy and juicy flavors with deep aromas that keep opening up to different levels of layers and textures.
In a country with about 1500 different indigenous grape varieties, Tuscany won’t present the sheer varietal diversity of Campania, Piedmont, Sardinia or Veneto; yet it gives back in a major way with the deliciousness, the nuances and what seems to be a measureless number of choices in wines.
For instance, In Tuscany, the ‘Chianti Classico’ appellation was created only in 1966. It was created because the heart of the area produced the better wines(hence the word Classico). Yet there are seven surrounding subzones that produce fantastic Chianti.
In 1966 the Tuscan Government also made the recipe of Chianti into law which had to contain 50 to 80% Sangiovese, 10 to 30% Canaiolo Nero, and Malvasia and Trebbiano at 10 to 30%. Over time this did not sit to well with some winemakers which led to the birth of the Super Tuscan wines which blend in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah with the Sangiovese grape. Eventually room was officially made for these wines on the Tuscan stage because these Tuscan wines are among the greatest. Yet there is still plenty of debate. Because now people are asking… What really is a Super Tuscan? What really is a Chianti Classico? In fact it’s in Maremma an immense area bordering the Tyrrhenian Sea is where many Tuscan producers started blending in the late sixties and early seventies making great wine and forcing classification changes. It’s on going. Try a producer like Antinori and Castelli Di Bossi.
Which leads us to Brunello di Montalcino; Brunello is a wine that’s been made in Montalcino since the early 14th century and the feelings there were that its wines were above all others in Tuscany. The wine which is made from 100% Sangiovese that is darker, richer and more powerful than the Sangiovese in Chianti region and can age for decades. It’s a little more expensive that Chianti as well. During meals the Brunello is usually the focus. On the other hand, the simpler Rosso di Montalcino(Rosso meaning red wine) appellation was carved out Montalcino only recently in 1983 to allow declassified lots to make a tasty alternative to the Brunello. These ‘Baby Brunellos’ are great for their early drinkability and more affordable. Try Antinori, Caparzo and Poggio Antico
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano ( not to be confused with Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo) is made primarily from the Sangiovese grape and the town was already in existence way back in the 3rd Century BC. In this area of southern Tuscany the wine is aged a minimum of 2 years with an additional year for Riserva.
Montepulciano is a very proud area that is constantly tinkering with their wines and only recently in the last 10-15 years taken note of the modernistic wine world and has realized that it doesn’t matter what you’ve done in way back in the past. They are resisting the modern blending though and pushing for the new identity. Its’ potential is to be a sturdy and substantial wine that can outlive Chainti Classico’s. It’s more compared to a Brunello in that respect. Yet, preferably its profile has attributes of both Chianti and Brunello. It has the violet minerality of the Chianti with the muscle and structure and aging of the Brunello. Avignonesi, Bosscarelli and Valdipaiatta ones worth seeking out.
Now go enjoy some Tuscan’s and a hearty meal!