2018-11-01 / Wine Notes

Wines Under the Tuscan Sun

Robert D. Richards, CSW

The Etruscans sure knew what they were doing nearly 3,000 years ago when they started planting grapes in the region we now know as Tuscany.

Throughout the centuries, the tenacious Tuscan grape farmers fought back scourges ranging from vineyard insects like phylloxera to mildewed grape leaves to the rubble left by World War II. Despite the devastation, replanting was always the plan. After the war it also became clear that introducing the wines beyond the immediate region — to other parts of Italy and abroad — was going to be necessary.

The Antinori family, which has been making wines in Italy since the 1300s, was instrumental in promoting Chianti throughout the new world and today remains at the top of the Tuscan winemaking community.

This region of Italy is known primarily for its red wine production, the vast majority of which uses the Sangiovese grape. The grape has almost magical qualities in that it forms the basis of a wide array of wine styles and flavors despite all coming from the same fruit. This mutation of Sangiovese accounts for the differing flavor profiles throughout Italy, including fruits like cherry, dark plum and tomatoes; herbs like oregano, marjoram and thyme; and other diverse highlights like oak, smoke and flowers.

Sangiovese is planted elsewhere in the world, too — in Argentina, Chile, Australia and the United States. But it is in Italy, and particularly in Tuscany, that the romantic nature of the grape endures. Travelers soak in the scenery and fantasize about living on vineyards there. And while few other than the well-heeled can ever realize that dream, all of us can enjoy the fruits of the Tuscan winemakers’ labors, as these Italian wines are widely available in local stores today. •SCM

Castello Banfi Classico Riserva Chianti
(#4594, $18.99)
The aging in oak barrels imparts hints of vanilla in this balanced Tuscan offering.
Gabbiano Chianti Classico
(#4440, $13.99)
Minerals, bright fruit and low tannins characterize this favorite.
Santa Margherita Chianti Classico Riserva
(#4891, $24.99)
Chianti’s traditional tasting notes of cherries and plums with floral hints come through in this widely available wine.

Robert D. Richards, CSW, is a Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators and has passed the first-level certification of the prestigious Court of Master Sommeliers.

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