A Taste of Tuscany
December 22, 2007
I don’t know if any other wine place in the world is as famed and glamorized as the Tuscany region of Italy. Countless movies, books, and travel guides have been dedicated to this region, where wine seems to flow like the blood of romance.
The wines of Tuscany are, however, not in most cases the way you might perceive them. You know, old ladies picking grapes by hand, walking them slowly by donkey to the winery where a team of young boys awaits to crush the grapes with their feet. While that reality is long since nonexistent, the region still looks like a place of fables. Old towns with stone streets that seem to glow red in the sun look over rolling hills of vineyards. As far as the wines go, it is extremely hard to peg them down, as the styles are diverse and the wines are incredibly variable in quality.
Tuscany’s most prolific wine comes from the Chianti region and can be both vile and blessed. Chianti is, of course, the wine known for its wicker basket, light fruity flavor, and thin body. In fact, most Chianti wines made in this style are blended with white wine to make them lighter and easier drinking. This reputation of cheap quaffing wine is, however, not consistent throughout the region. Some of the best wines from Chianti come in the form of powerful, spicy, and rich wines. They are usually either from the Classico region or the Rufina (not to be confused with the Ruffino house), and can rank among the best and most intriguing wines in the world. The Antinori Chianti Peppoli 2003 is shockingly good for $20.
Tuscany’s reds then lean to pure tradition where the famous wines of Brunello di Montalcino reign as king. These are some of the most classic styled wines in Italy and at their best are packed full of smoke, spice, and ripe fruit. It is not generally recommended to drink them in their youth (under 15 years old!), but in a ripe vintage they can express outstanding fruit and approachable character when decanted. The Capanna Brunello Riserva ’01 ($66) is not only a wine that will make even the pickiest big-red lovers weep, but will also stand the test of time and is a great wine to put in the cellar for a couple of years.
And as is the style in Tuscany, juxtaposition is the theme. Aside Italy’s most classic wine lies its most modern and daring. The category called Super Tuscans, long the rage in Italian wine, will often offer the most consistent and quality-focused bets on the shelves. These wines are often blends of France’s cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, and Italy’s sangiovese and the product is a seductive and rich wine of often stunning character. One of my faves is the La Massa ’03 ($32) which is a cab merlot blend that is unusually rich and packed with cedar, smoke, and ripe red fruit.
Hope I gave you some good Christmas gift ideas. There is nothing better than a good bottle of wine for the holidays. Happy Holidays and remember: Drinking and skiing is dangerous, however, a glass of wine and skiing is fun!
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Zev Rovine is the sommelier and resident cheese monger at the Spotted Frog Bookstore Cafe and Wine Bar where he teaches weekly wine classes. His wine education comes from the American Sommelier Association in New York City. He tries his very best not to spill the pinot on the bestseller section. If you have any wine queries or comments, he is easily contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .