Now that you know about where Tuscan wine comes from and how it is made, you’re probably anxious to taste some of it for yourself. But since Tuscan wines can be tricky to shop for (especially for those of us who can’t read Italian), we have some tips for navigating the wine shop and finding the perfect bottle.
Unlike New World wines, the name of the varietal isn’t always listed on the bottle’s label, so there are some terms you should be familiar with to ensure you are really buying the wine you want.
Chianti Classico Riserva refers to wines within the Chianti region that must contain at least 80% Sangiovese. This wine is a DOCG (the highest quality), and the word “riserva” means that it has been aged for at least 2 years.
Toscana (Rosso) is a sort of all-encompassing term for wines that did not fit into traditional Tuscan guidelines, like the “Super Tuscans.”
Brunello di Montalcino is actually the name for a clone of Sangiovese (“brunello” meaning “little brown one”) that comes from the region of Montalcino. These wines are always made from 100% Sangiovese and must be aged for at least four years.
Terminology aside, there are also some key producers to keep an eye out for when shopping for or ordering Tuscan wine. Although white wines are certainly produced within Tuscany, the reds are really the ones that stand out.
If you’re in the mood for a classic taste of Chianti, opt for Ruffino, one of the leading producers of traditional Chianti. If you’re reluctant about buying Chianti, try Ruffino’s Chianti Classico Riserva. It strikes the perfect balance of citrus, berry and earthy flavors with a velvety texture. These wines are also very reasonably priced and have great value.
Sassicaia is a fantastic producer of Super Tuscan wines that blend Sangiovese with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Although these wines tend to be steeply priced, with proper aging they can rival any top Bordeaux. But you don’t have to break the bank to sample a classic Tuscan blend.
Antinori is an Italian producer that dates all the way back to 1385. This producer played a major role in the 1970’s when the Super Tuscans were making their name, and was one of the first wineries to impress critics with their signature Tignanello blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. This wine can be both refined and powerful with rich berry flavors and soft tannins.
Vin Santo is a sweet Tuscan dessert wine made from blends of white grapes and Sangiovese. Originally drunk during Mass, this is now a common after-dinner drink. Oak aging and slow fermentation result in a delicate, creamy, honey-roasted flavor with a vivid yellow hue to the wine. Barone Ricasoli makes a classic vin santo at a moderate price.