Wine and Culture: Suvereto DOCG

Porta_di_Sotto_Suvereto

Suvereto is a beautiful Tuscan town of only 3,000 inhabitants in the southern part of Livorno province. This gorgeous little town is situated in the Val di Cornia (Cornia Valley) on the Costa degli Etruschi (Etruscan Coast) and is the home to the Suvereto DOCG wine, one of the most exciting Tuscan wines.

Even the name of the town is very descriptive and seems to relate to wine; it comes from the Latin ‘suber’ meaning ‘cork’, so Suvereto means cork wood.

The Suvereto wine region developed from the Val di Cornia region, as it was a sub- zone of the latter for some time. The Val di Cornia wine region covered Suvereto, Sassetta, Piombino, San Vincenzo, Campiglia Marittima and Monteverdi Marittimo. The Val di Cornia DOC title was introduced in 1989, from 2000 ‘Suvereto’ could appear on the label next to the Val di Cornia title and in 2011 it earned its own DOCG title.

The Suvereto shares its winemaking history with Val di Cornia and dates back to Etruscan times and to the Romans who developed viticulture in the zone.

In the 14th century, the powerful and noble Della Gherardesca family increased winemaking activities in Suvereto.

In the 18th century, the formation of the Accademia dei Georgofili (Academy of Georgofili) was a major impetus to the region, as the historic institution opened new horizons for agricultural research.

In the middle of the 19th century, new vineyards and wineries popped up, and in 1886 five Suvereto producers participated in the World Fair in Rome.

Thanks to the persistent work of the wine makers of the zone, the Val di Cornia DOC was recognised in 1989 followed in 2000 by the Suvereto as a sub-zone.

Suvereto wine grew out of the Val di Cornia wine region due to the continuous excellent quality of wine producing, though it needed another decade to earn a own DOCG title for its Merlot and Cabernet blend, and for the Sangiovese, Cabernet and Merlot based red wines in November 2011.

According to production regulations, the Suvereto DOCG must be made of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and the Suvereto Sangiovese DOCG, Suvereto Merlot DOCG and Suvereto Caubernet Sauvignon DOCG should comprise at least 85% of the stated variety.

Placing such an emphasis on two Bordeaux varieties in a Tuscan wine is very rare and interesting. But it seems less surprising if we consider the fact that Suvereto is just a few kilometres from Bolgheri, the birthplace of the most famous Italian wines, the Super Tuscan Sassicaia and Ornellaia.

That is one reason why Suvereto is such an exciting and forward-looking Tuscan DOCG wine.

Wine and Culture: Montecucco DOC

Montecucco Cinigiano

The Montecucco wine region is situated in Southern Tuscany between Montalcino the birthplace of the famous Brunello di Montalcino DOCG wine – and Scansano – the home of the gorgeous Morellino di Scansano DOCG.

The Montecucco DOC has the same microclimate as the famous big brother, the Brunello, as the Montecucco wine region is located on the southwest hillsides of the Amiata Mountain, the opposite of the Brunello slopes.

Even though the region has a long viticulture history, which goes back till the time of the Etruscans, the zone was awarded with DOC classification only in 1998.

The Montecucco Sangiovese in 2011 was established as a separate DOCG. From this date the Montecucco DOC classification has been extended also, so not only includes the Montecucco Rosso, Montecucco Bianco and Montecucco Vermentino, but also the Montecucco Rosato, Montecucco Vin Santo and the Montecucco Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice.

The principal red grape varieties of the wine region are the Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo, while the main white grape varieties are Grechetto, Malvasina, Trebbiano and Vermentino.

According to the DOC, styles and wine compositions are the followings:

– Montecucco Sangiovese comes from 90% Sangiovese grape and the aging period is 12 months in barrel and 4 month in bottle, while for for Riserva 24 month in barrel and 6 months in bottle.

– Montecucco Rosso has to comprise of 60% Sangiovese grape, the Rosso Riserva needs to be aged for 12 months in barell plus 6 months in bottle.

– Montecucco White is made by 40% of Vermentino and/or Trebbiano Toscano.

– Montecucco Vermentino comes from 85% of Vermention grapes.

– Montecucco Rosato comes from 70% Sangioves and/or Ciliegiolo grapes.

– Montcucco Vin Santo is made of 70% Trebbiano Toscano and/or Mavasina and/or Grecchetto grapes and aged for 18 month in barrel.

– Montecucco Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice comes from 70% of Sangiovese grapes and aged for 18 months in barrel.

 

Wine and Culture: Morellino di Scansano DOCG

Morellino di Scansano maremma

Tuscany offers us a virtually inexhaustible range of extraordinary wines. The next we will discuss is the Morellino di Scansano DOCG Sangiovese-based red wine, which has not yet received the recognition it deserves. However, though this excellent wine lives in the shadow of some world famous Tuscan neighbours – Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino – it is beginning to gain more and more fans worldwide.

The Morellino di Scansano wine region is located around the medieval village and commune of Scansano, which covers a 25 km square area in the Province of Grosseto between the Ombrone and Albegna rivers.

The name Morellino comes from the local synonym for the favourite grape variety of Tuscany – the Sangiovese.

The viticulture of the Scansano region dates back to Etruscan times. The first document to mention the wine of Scansano dates back to the 12th century in which the high quality of the wine is praised.

The region has been producing excellent wine throughout the years, but it was virtually unknown until a few decades ago. Since 1970, when the Super Tuscan phenomenon appeared first in the Maremma region (Sassicaia, Ornellaia), the Morellino wines have received more attention. The growing popularity of the Super Tuscan wines has drawn more focus to other wines from the Maremma region, so demand for Morellino di Scansano wines increased significantly.

Official recognition came in 1978 when Morellino di Scansano gained DOC status and it achieved a promotion to DOCG recently in 2007.

According to the regulation of production of the Consorzio a Tutela del Vino Morellino di Scansano (Consortium for the conservation of the Morellino di Scansano), the grape used must be cultivated in the Province of Grosseto, between the Ombrone and Albegna rivers. The Morellino di Scansano wine must be made of at least 85% of local Sangiovese grape and it can comprise a maximum of 15% of other black grape varieties.

Morellino di Scansano doesn’t need to age in wooden casks and can be released in March immediately after harvest. The aging period of the Riserva is 2 years, and it has to age in oak for at least one of these years.

It is hard to define in general the flavour, aroma and structure of the Morellino di Scansano wines, as it greatly depends on the ageing and grape varieties used. Usually, the regular Morellino wines are fresh and fruity, while the Riserva wines are more full-bodied and richer.

The Morellino di Scansano is an excellent companion to the typical cuisine of Maremma, either as an appetiser or main course.

The best is to try it out yourself if you happen to be in the region. And please share your views on it with us!

Wine and Culture: Carmignano DOCG

Carmignano

In the previous posts, we mentioned many superb Tuscan wines but there are still so many more worth mentioning.

One such is the excellent Carmignano DOCG Tuscan wine, the favourite of Cosimo III de’ Medici (1642-1723).

The Carmignano wine region is located about 16 kilometres northwest of Florence, around the city of Carmignano.

Wine has been produced in this region since Etruscan times, and it has been noted for the excellent quality of its wine since the Middle Ages.

The first written document to mention Carmignano dates back to 1396, and it pertained to a large order of this great wine.

In the 17th century, Carmignano was also mentioned by the famous poet Francesco Redi (1626-1697) in his ‘Bacco in Toscana’ in which he compliments its quality.

But I think the most interesting fact about this excellent wine is that it can be considered a precursor to the Super Tuscans, as wine makers began to blend the Tuscan Sangiovese grape with Cabernet imported from France by the Medici family from the 17th century onwards. Up until today the Cabernet is still called ‘uva Francesca’ – ‘French grape’ – in this zone.

The year of 1716 was important for Carmignano wine, as this was when the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo III de’ Medici, issued an edict identifying the areas of Tuscany (Chianti, Pomino, Carmignano and Val d’Arno di Sopra) that produced the highest quality wine and determined the boundaries within which these wines could be produced. This edict can be considered a forerunner to the concept of the future DOC classification.

On 28 April 1975, Carmignano wine was awarded an autonomous DOC – as the first case when the use of Cabernet as a blend was officially sanctioned – and in 1990 it was upgraded to a DOCG wine.

According to the regulation of production of the Consorzio Carmignano, a Carmignano DOCG wine must be made of at least 50% Sangiovese grape, and it can comprise a maximum of 20% Canaiolo Nero, 10-20% Cabernet Frank and/or Cabernet Sauvignon, a maximum of 10% Trebbiano Toscano and/or Canaiolo Bianco, and/or Malvasia del Chianti.

The aging period for Carmignano DOCG is 1 year, and it needs at least 2 years for Riserva.

The Carmignano DOC still exists, but it is used for Vin Santo and Rosé wines.

 

Picture:

Camignano, Italy- flickr

Wine and Grape: The Sangiovese

Sangiovese

In the previous posts we discussed at length about Tuscany’s most significant wines – Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Chianti Rufina and the Super Tuscans; now, let’s see the most fundamental component of these superstars – this most excellent grape and Italy’s pride – Sangiovese.

The Sangiovese grape is one of the most famous and most popular grapes in Italy, and is, in fact, the most widely planted grape variety on the Peninsula. It is mainly cultivated from central Italy to Rome and Lazio, and it is the traditional grape variety in Tuscany.

The origin of Sangiovese is uncertain. It is likely that the Etruscans were already familiar with this grape variety and they spread it through their trading routes; later on, it became a cultivated grape for Roman winemaking.

The most popular theory suggests that the name Sangiovese refers to the Roman God Jupiter. According to legend, the name ‘sanguegiovese’ (Sangue di Giove) meaning ‘Blood of Jove’ was given by a Capuchin monk of Santarcangelo monastery in Emilia-Romagna.

However, the first official records dates back to the 16th century, when the Florentine agronomist, Giovanni Vettorio Soderini (1526-1596) identified the grape as ‘Sangiogheto’ in his ‘La coltivazione dell viti’.

The Sangiovese grape only began to gain widespread attention and recognition throughout Tuscany in the 18th century, when it along with other varieties such as Malvasina and Trebbiano became the most widely planted grapes in Tuscany.

In 1872, the late prime minister and wine maker, Bettino Ricasoli (1809-1880) created the first modern recipe of the Sangiovese-based Chianti wine, blending 70% Sangiovese with 20% Canaiolo and 10% Malvasia or Trebbiano.

Other excellent Sangiovese-based wines, such as Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, also began growing in popularity from the end of the 19th century.

The quality of Sangiovese wine was variable, but the quality has increased significantly since the 1980s thanks to improved winemaking techniques; also, the introduction of the DOC classification in 1963 made the regulations clear.

After an interesting historical past, by the 1980s more and more Tuscan winemaker began their own experiments on their Sangiovese wines outside of the DOC/DOCG regulations. We now call those wines Super Tuscans and we can consider them as the Sangiovese’s modern incarnations. Since 1992, the Super Tuscans have been labelled IGT wines, which gives a certain freedom to the winemakers.

The Sangiovese grape was also brought to California in the late 19th century, and it has also now become more and more popular there, partly due to the international success of the Super Tuscans.

Wine and Info: VdT, IGT, DOC and DOCG Italian wines

Valpolicella DOCG wine

If you pick up a bottle of Italian wine, you’ll likely find one of these designations somewhere on the label. But what do they mean?

Back in the 1960s, some Italian winemakers followed their French counterparts and took their first steps towards determining quality standards for Italian wines and classifying regional wines according to the local wine making traditions. Thanks to their efforts, a 4-class wine ranking system was introduced by the Italian Government.

The DOC category was introduced in 1963 – as was the DOCG though it only began to be used from 1982 – followed by the IGT category in 1992.

DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) means controlled and guaranteed designation of origin. DOCG represents the highest classification for Italian wines. It ensures controlled production methods, guaranteed wine quality and geographic authenticity.

There are severe rules to be adhered to in producing DOCG wines such as the grape variety, winemaking procedures and barrel/bottle maturation.

Every DOCG wine is tested officially and the bottles have a numbered government seal across the neck.

There are fewer than 80 DOCG Italian wines; among them we can find some of Italy’s top wines, such as Barolo, Brunello or Chianti Classico.

DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) means controlled designation of origin. Wines marked with DOC are analysed and produced in a specific region in Italy according to the local winemaking rules and traditions.

In Italy, there are around 330 individual DOC titles. Those that are of a consistently high quality become eligible for promotion to DOCG status.

IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) means typical regional wine. The IGT classification focuses more on the wine’s region of origin than the grape varieties or wine style. The IGT designation was created to give a certain freedom to Italian winemakers who couldn’t meet all the DOC or DOCG regulations but were still producing excellent wines. The Super Tuscans are characteristic of IGT wines.

VdT (Vino da Tavola) means Table Wine and represents the lowest and most basic level of Italian wine.

This category had a certain prestige in the 1970s and 1980s, thanks to the experimental and professional winemakers who produced top quality red wine outside of the official classification system, under the VdT title. After the introduction of the IGT category, the VdT returned to its original status in signifying the lowest level of Italian wines.

Wine and Culture: Chianti Region

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As we discussed in our previous posts, Italy is one of the most significant and ancient wine producing nations worldwide. But, besides the wine, Italy is also one of the most significant countries in terms of culture.

Italy is divided into 20 regions and each has his own culture, dialect and cuisine. One of the most ancient and culturally most thrilling of them all, and the one that gave the language to the Peninsula, is Tuscany.

Tuscany is home to some of the world’s most significant wines, such as Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino or Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

The Chianti region is located in the centre of Tuscany between Florence and Siena, and has 8 sub-zones (Chianti Colli Fiorentini, Chianti Rufina, Chianti Classico, Chianti Colli Aretini, Chianti Colli Senesi, Chianti Colline Pisane, Chianti Montespertoli, Chianti Montalbano). The Chianti winemaking zones include the provinces of Prato, Florence, Arezzo, Pistoia, Pisa and Siena.

The area was inhabited from the 2nd millennium BC, but the Etruscans created the first major civilisation there from 800 BC. They created outstanding art, established the transport infrastructure and introduced developments in agriculture, including viticulture.

Later, Etruria was conquered by Rome around the 3rd century BC.

After absorbing Etruria, Rome established the cities of Pisa, Siena and Florence. The Romans conquered the territories of the Etruscans and introduced new techniques and skills. The Roman Empire flourished and so did viticulture.

From the collapse of the Roman Empire and throughout the Middle Ages, the monasteries were the only wine makers in the region.

When the merchant and aristocratic classes strengthened, winemaking and trading began to develop. The first mention of Florentine wine retailers dates back to 1079, and the first wine guild was established around 1280.

The earliest references to Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Chianti wines were in the late 14th century.

In the following centuries, a new cultural and philosophical movement that became known as the Renaissance spread across the known world, with the Chianti region and Florence at its centre.

During the Renaissance, wine reassumed its rightful place in life and also became prominent in art. Renaissance art represented the contemporary wine culture, using themes from everyday life, the Bible and classical mythology.

In 1716, Cosimo III de’ Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, legislated the first official boundaries of the Chianti region, which existed until 1932 when the Italian government extended the Chianti zone. The following expansions in 1967 brought the Chianti zone to the size that it is today.

By the 18th century, Chianti wine was red wine, but the composition of the grape varieties was unknown. The first recipe of the ‘modern’ Sangiovese-based Chianti was developed by Baron Bettino Ricasoli in the 19th century, which consisted of 70% Sangiovese, 20% Canaiolo, 10% Malvasia or Trebbiano.

From the late 19th century, the Chianti regions also suffered from many difficulties. First the oidium, then the Phylloxera epidemic ruined the vineyards of Chianti. Furthermore, following the Risorgimento – the movement for the unification of the states in the Italian peninsula under the Kingdom of Italy – many Italian vineyard workers and winemakers immigrated to escape poverty.

After World War II, in line with the general worldwide trend, the focus of Chianti was more on quantity than quality.

In 1967, the DOC (Denominazione di Origine- Designation of Origin) regulation was introduced, which established the ‘Ricasoli formula’ of a minimum 70% of Sangiovese composition with 10-30% Malvasia and Trebbiano grape varieties. And in 1984, it was promoted to the highest level of Italian wine classification, DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita – Controlled and Guaranteed designation of origin), which requires wines to have a minimum of 80% of Sangiovese.

Italian Legislation also regulates the use of the qualifying term for Chianti Classico wine solely for the wines produced in the oldest and most genuine area of the Chianti region, and they must have a minimum alcohol level of 12% and have been aged in oak barrels for a minimum of 7 months. Chianti Classico is easily recognisable by its pink label with the Black Rooster seal. The qualifying term of Chianti Classico Riserva may only be used for wines that have been aged for at least 24 months, and the minimum alcohol level must be 12.5%.

In the late 20th century, some ambitious producer started to produce wine outside the regulation of DOC in an attempt to create an even higher quality style of Chianti. Those wines became known as ‘Super Tuscans’.

For so many years, Chianti wine was associated with the basic Chianti sold in round straw-wrapped bottles, in fiaschi, which become iconic of the Italian wine industry. Today, however, it is more common to find Chianti bottled in standard shaped tall Bordeaux-style bottles.