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: Super Tuscans

 

Sassicaia

Tuscany is known throughout the world for its rich indigenous red wines, including Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti Rufina. The regulation of these wines is very clear-cut, unambiguous and has his own history.

However, there is a category of Tuscan wines that is not recognised in the Italian DOC/G classification system. These wines are released as IGT (Indicazione geografica tipica) wines or even vino da tavola (table wine).

Even though unofficial, some wines of this category are superstars in their own right as much as the above mentioned ‘big fish’. These wines are collectively known as Super Tuscans.

The history of the Super Tuscans dates back to the 1940s when Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta settled with his family on a horse ranch in Bolgheri on the Tuscan coast. At that time, the Marchese della Rocchetta was not interested in producing wine for the market, but only for his own family consumption. He experimented with many French grape varieties and fell in love with Cabernet Sauvignon. Over the years, the Marchese Rocchetta produced better and better wine on his estate of Tenuta San Guido. The wines were mainly produced from Cabernet Sauvignon, which was a huge change to the Tuscan and Piedmont tradition of Sangiovese or Nebbiolo based wines.

The wine was called Sassicaia, the pioneer of the Super Tuscan movement.

Between 1948 and 1967 Sassicaia was only produced for family consumption at Tenuta San Guido.

In 1968, Sassicaia was commercially released thanks to the advice and support of a relative, Piero Antinori. It was an instant success. In 1978 Sassicaia won a tasting in London, thereby establishing its international fame.

In 1994, Sassicaia was even granted its own DOC (Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC) as the only single winery DOC in Italy.

The Marchese Piero Antinori inspired by his uncle’s Sassicaia, he started his own experiments on his Chiantis.

Marchese Antinori began to produce its Chianti using 100% Sangiovese, which was not permitted at that time.

In 1971, Antinori released his new wine called Tignanello, which was made using only the Sangiovese grape and aged in smaller French oak barriques; it is now generally considered as the first Super Tuscan wine.

Many other Tuscan producers saw the success of Tignanello and others still thought the legal rules of Chianti were too restrictive, so they began their own experimentation.

By the 1980s, the trend of making high quality non-DOC wines had spread in Tuscany. Most Super Tuscan wines contained Cabernet or Merlot, and many of them had Sangiovese, some Syrah or other varietals. However, one of the main common attributes is the high pricing.

By the late 1980s, the Super Tuscans had a great reputation, and producers started to create their non-DOC wines in other regions in Italy, such as in Piedmont or Veneto.

In Italy, a new classification – IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) status – was introduced partly in response to the phenomenon of the Super Tuscan non-DOC wines.

Also, due to the extension of the Chianti DOC regulation, many of what were Super Tuscans initially can be labelled as standard DOC or DOCG Chianti.

Today, Super Tuscan means a red wine out of DOC regulation that is made in a more international style, but is yet still deeply Italian within.

Sassicaia made with Cabernet Sauvignon and some Cabernet Franc remains one of the Super Tuscan superstars, along with Tignanello, which is a blend of 80% Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

 

Pictures:

Flickr