Tuscany is located in West Central Italy, and has many of the most famous DOCs and DOCGs in Italy. Tuscany is generally a red wine dominated region. It is home to the likes of Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, and some wines that play by different rules, aptly named Super Tuscans. The one thing that most of these reds have in common is Sangiovese or some famous clone of Sangiovese. Chianti, probably the most recognizable Italian wine is a region, not a grape. The Chianti region is generally located between the hills of Florence and Sienna. Chianti has eight subzones, but the most important are undoubtedly Classico and Rufina. Chianti Classico wines are some of the most long-lived wines in Italy, but Rufinas are just as long-lived and perhaps more elegant. Chianti also corresponds to a certain formula of grapes that can be used and labeled as Chianti. The dominant grape is certainly Sangiovese, but other grapes, including Canaiolo, and a number of white grapes were also allowed. According to many, the amount of white grapes allowed in the original formula lowered the quality of Chianti, producing thin, pallid wines. Many producers wanted the rules changed to improve the overall quality of the wine. Over time, some Chianti producers began to produce wines that did not follow the DOCG regulations. This was the birth of the Super Tuscan. The first Super Tuscan was Tignanello which was made with mostly Sangiovese and some Cabernet. It was not long before most major Chianti houses had a wine that utilized Sangiovese in combination with some international varietals like Cabernet or Merlot in wines that came to be known as Super Tuscans. There are certainly Super Tuscans at many price points, but the finest versions are unlike any other wine; they combine the acid of Sangiovese with the lush character of many international varietals.
Chianti is not the only game in Tuscany, however. Tuscany is also home to Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile de Montepulciano among others. Montalcino is located in the Colli Senesi, a hilly area outside of the heart of Chianti. Brunello, like most of the great wines of the world, began with a man; Brunello's man was Biondi Santi. Santi made wine from the local clone of Sangiovese called Brunello, meaning "little brown one." Brunello was a single varietal wine and was deep, rich, dark and brooding. Originally, it was fermented for long periods of time and aged for years in Slovenian oak for a minimum of four years. The result was a huge, powerful wine with loads of structure. Recent Brunellos are still powerful, but are usually aged for two years in oak and the remaining two years in bottle. Brunello was, and still is capable of aging for long periods of time.
Vino Nobile has similarities with both Chianti and Brunello. Vino Nobile, like Chianti, is a blend. Like Brunello, Vino Nobile is made from a single Sangiovese clone, called Prugnolo Gentile, which has a purple sheen when ripe. Vino Nobile, like Chianti is a welcome guest at many an Italian food and wine lover's dinner table.
Piedmont is located in Northwest Italy, and is home to numerous wine styles, including dry, ageable reds, friendly table wines and even light, fresh sparklers. Dolcetto and Barbera make some of Italy's best red table wines and both come from Piedmont. Barbera is a natural at the dinner table because of its naturally high acidity. Most of the best Barbera comes from Alba and Asti. The Barbera from Alba tend to be a touch more fruity than the Asti wines, which tend to have more minerality. Many of the most highly regarded Dolcettos hail from Alba where it is fleshy and dry with a touch of dust. In addition to these delicious table reds,
Piedmont produces some outstanding sparklers, the two most famous are Moscato d'Asti and Brachetto d'Acqui. Moscato d'Asti is fresh, light and floral with hints of honeysuckle and citrus and a subtle fizziness. Brachetto has raspberry and strawberry flavors along with its fizz and it is a natural pairing with chocolate.
The most famous, ageable reds from Piedmont are made from the Nebbiolo grape. There are various regions that specialize in Nebbiolo: Langhe, Gattinarra, Ghemme, Barolo and Barbaresco; the last two noted are the most famous. Both Barolo and Barbaresco are long-lived wines that exhibit the captivating potential of Nebbiolo. Wine lovers can expect aromas of roses, tar, truffles, dust and earth along with a brick red color that belies Nebbiolo's tannic nature. When Nebbiolo's tannins soften with about ten years of bottle age, its aromas and taste can haunt even the most seasoned connoisseur.
Though are numerous regional wines in Northeast Italy, the wines of Trentino, Alto Adige, Verona, Veneto and Fruili-Venezia Giulia are the most important. The wines of Trentino features many indigenous varietals and makes delicious Vin Santo from Nosiola, fine Muller Thurgaus and light reds made from Casteller. The Alto-Adige's workhorse grape is Schiava, but there are numerous good examples, of Chardonnay, Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and some nice reds made from Pinot Noir, Cabernet and Merlot.
In Veneto we begin to find some famous Italian gems, including Soave, Valpolicella and Amarone. Soave is a dry white produced mostly from Garganega, but some Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco are also allowed. Soave usually tastes of citrus fruits and has the faint aroma of almonds. Valpolicella, on the other hand, is a delicious red that has a charming cherry flavor and smell; its DOC is located close to Soave. Valpolicella is made from the Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara grapes. Valpolicella also has a Classico region that makes higher quality wines; Valpolicella is also responsible for Amarone. Amarone is the result of drying the Valpolicella grapes into raisins, often in an attic, and then making wine. The result is a potent wine that is almost sweet, but certainly powerful, rich and not without a touch of bitterness on the finish. Producers have also subjected mainline Valpolicella onto Amarone lees, resulting in a midpoint of sorts between Valpolicella and Amarone. This wine is referred to as Valpolicella Ripasso.
In the Eastern Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, we find many different wines. One of the most famous wines from this region is Prosecco, Italy's most famous sparkling wine. Many wine drinkers are often shocked to learn that Bordeaux varietals dominate in Eastern Venteto and in parts of Friuli. This region is best known, however, for its whites. White wines in Friuli-Venezia Giulia are cool-fermented and rarely see oak. The most important varietals are undoubtedly Tocai Friulano, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, but Italian producers are starting to focus more on indigenous varietals. These varietals include Ribolla Gialla, Traminer, Malvasia, and Riesling Italico
"Brilliant golden color and a full, ripe palate. The nose delivers floral aromas with ripe flavors of fresh apple, citrus and tropical fruit flavors. This crisp, clean Pinot Grigio finishes with notes of minerals and a lively acidity."
"Very intense ruby-red bone with violet reflections. It opens with lively aromas of raspberries and black cherries, and then proposes plum tones, splendid memories of rose and geranium. Full bodied, yet smooth tannins are trademarks of Barbera. A great food wine to pair up with boiled meats, rich sauces, and pizza."
"Refreshingly dry and sophisticated cuv?e of the noble Tuscan grapes. Enjoy fresh wild-berry flavors with an elegantly crisp finish. Ideal as an aperitif or companion to entr?e salads, grilled poultry, and lighter fare."
"A straightforward, medium-bodied white, with good pear and herbal flavors and a hint of citrus on the finish."
"95+ Points- Wine Advocate. From the second the 2012 Brunello di Montalcino pours into the glass, you know you are in for something special. The wine is darkly saturated and rich in appearance. The quality of fruit is vibrant and rich. This is a healthy, generous and exuberant Brunello with dark density and succulent fruit flavors that are followed by integrated spice and tobacco. The balance is impressive and one thing you get here is fresh acidity. This is one of the year's best Brunellos."
"Intense garnet red color of beautiful hue. Aromas of dried fruit and jam mixed with vanilla and green pepper. In the mouth has a great texture, with noticeable tannins, sweet and velvety. The taste is full, warm and ethereal."
"94 pt Kahn's Staff Rating Boasts notes of peach and melon, with a touch of citrus peel, all matched to a supple texture. Bright flavors of peach and grapefruit, ending with mouthwatering acidity."
"91 WS Plum and spice aromas, with undertones of meat. Full-bodied, with chewy tannins and lots of ripe fruit. Needs time to mellow and come together. Very structured."
"92 Points- Wine Spectator. Luscious blackberry, blueberry and milk chocolate aromas. Full-bodied, with supersilky tannins and a long, caressing finish. A beauty."
"91 Points- Wine Advocate. The nose offers up gorgeously sweet, expansive aromas of melted licorice, black cherries, currants, underbrush, and a hint of camphor. Dense, chewy, full-bodied, and fabulously pure, with a multilayered, textured mid-palate as well as a long, savory, well-delineated, moderately tannic finish."