Call a friend and open a bottle of wine, as this story is juicy!
Tuscookany serves delicious Tuscan wines, but what is it that makes these wines so special?
During our Tuscan cooking courses we serve a selection of great Italian wines, with an accent on wines from Tuscany, but what makes these wines such a big global success? Is it the grapes, the climate, the knowledge or the love Italians put into producing these wines? One thing is definitely clear; you cannot eat pasta without a glass of wine to accompany it. After Piedmont and Veneto, Tuscany produces the third highest volume of quality wines in Italy. Over the last 50 years the quality and popularity of these wines has risen exponentially.
Types of grapes
Sangiovese grapes are the very soul of Tuscany. The fruity, aromatic fragrance is present in almost all of Tuscany’s top wines. 80% of all wines produced in Tuscany are produced with red grapes, the vast majority of which use Sangiovese as a grape. The white wine is produced using the Vernaccia grape, these grapes are local grapes tend to be hyper-local and are rarely grown outside of Italy. The Sangiovese wines range in flavour from tart cherry-like and jammy strawberry to more vegetal tasting, such as ripe tomatoes and roasted red peppers. After harvesting the grapes during the La Vendemmia (the harvesting of grapes) in September, the grapes are oaked (riserva) in wooden barrels, which start from two years up to ten years.
History of the Tuscan wines
Tuscany is one of twenty regions in Italy, located in the central part of the country. The History of Tuscany is known for the Renaissance including the Medici family, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. The Tuscan grapes were cultivated by the Etruscans nearly 3000 years ago, grown in such wide abundance that they were often sold abroad and quickly became the areas most trusted cash crop. From the fall of the Roman Empire and throughout the Middle Ages, monasteries in the region were the main producers of wines made from these grapes. During the Middle Ages the sharecropping system evolved, also known as Mezzadria, in Italian. The system took its name from the arrangement whereby a landowner provides the land and resources for planting in exchange for half (mezza) of the yearly crop. This resulted in the landowners turning half of their grape harvest into wines, which were sold to merchants in Florence. In the 14th century, an average of 7.9 million US gallons or 30 million liters of wine was sold every year in Florence and in 1685 the Tuscan author Francesco Redi wrote a 980-line poem devoted to Tuscan wines. After World War II Chianti wines became famous all over the world, as Italian restaurants proliferated. It is needless to say that the popularity of Tuscan wines is inherited in our veins.
Tuscany’s location, which contains terrains from the Mediterranean Sea to more hilly parts, is what the wines benefit from greatly. Moreover, the temperature fluctuation due to the typically warm and sunny climate to continental influences the grape’s taste. The regions Chianti, Bolgheri, Montepulciano and Montalcino are well known for their excellent wines. The hills in Tuscany serve as a tempering effect on the summertime heat with many vineyards planted on the higher elevations of the hillside. The grapes perform better when they receive direct sunlight, which is a benefit of the hillsides one can find in the vineyards of Tuscany. The majority of the region’s vineyards are found at altitudes of 500-1600 feet. Moreover, the higher elevations also increase the temperature variation, which helps the grapes to maintain their balance in sugars and acidity, as well as aromatic qualities. So the climate does indeed play a big role in the taste of the well-known red and white wines!
Variation of wines
The high quality, delicious red wines are called “Super Tuscans” and were developed by some Tuscan producers that came to believe that the legal rules governing the production of Chianti were too restrictive and decided to set up a new legal appellation giving the producers more flexibility in the 1970s. This resulted in wines becoming very modern, big and rich and have changed the wine industry in Tuscany ever since. The wines included in the Super Tuscan wines are Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc. The well-known wine regions that apply these regulations are Brunello di Montalcino, Carmignano and Chianti. For Tuscan white wine the most well known types are Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc which are produced from the native Vermentino grape. Moreover, Moscadello, a sweet and sparkling wine, is used as a dessert wine. Not only is Moscato a famous Tuscan dessert wine; Vin Santo is too! The sweeter type of wine known from the red and rose style Sangiovese grape is a perfect paring with a Cantucci biscuit after dinner.
Wines at Tuscookany
All in all, we think it is a combination of the climate, the grapes and the knowledge learnt over the years that makes these great Tuscan wines what they are now. At Tuscookany we serve you the best wines of Tuscany, chosen by our chefs Franco, Laura, Alice and Paola. Every season the Tuscookany chefs carefully pick the best red and white wines to serve to our guests combining old favourites with new and promising wines, matching them with the weekly menu. The accent is of course on Tuscan wines, but we will also introduce to wines from other regions in Italy, both the north and the south, so that you can compare. In this way you get to see how real Italians celebrate their dinner! The white wines are often used for the aperitivo and primi piatti, whereas the red wines are served for the secondi piatti and the Vin Santo is served during dessert. As part of the culinary excursion we offer you will visit one of the best Tuscan wineries, Villa La Ripa. Villa La Ripa has a broad range of wines including red, rosé and white wines for you to taste. As you can see, wine runs deep in Tuscany, woven as it is into the cultural identity of this central Italian region. Therefore it is very important to us that you immerse yourself into this cultural identity. We can even see that the cooking skills are increased with a glass of wine and have therefore changed our 5 ‘O-clock “coffee break” into a “wine break”!!
Are you ready to immerse yourself in these fantastic wines? Come and learn to cook with us and enjoy your meals with delicious wine pairings.
The Tuscookany Team