About the Tuscany Region:
Location: Central Italy, Northwest
Notable Reds: Sangiovese, Chianti, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc
Notable Whites: Trebbiano and Vermentino
The history of viticulture in Tuscany dates back to its settlements by the Etruscans in the 8th century BC. Amphora remnants originating in the region show that Tuscan wine was exported to southern Italy and Gaul as early as the 7th century BC. By the 3rd century BC, there were literary references by Greek writers about the quality of Tuscan wine.
From the fall of the Roman Empire and throughout the Middle Ages, monasteries were the main purveyors of wines in the region. As the aristocratic and merchant classes emerged, they inherited the sharecropping system of agriculture known as mezzadria. This system took its name from the arrangement whereby the landowner provides the land and resources for planting in exchange for half (“mezza”) of the yearly crop. Many Tuscan landowners would turn their half of the grape harvest into wine that would be sold to merchants in Florence. The earliest reference of Florentine wine retailers dates to 1079 and a guild was created in 1282.
The region of Tuscany includes seven coastal islands and is Italy’s fifth largest region. It is bordered to the northwest by Liguria, the north by Emilia-Romagna, Umbria to the east and Lazio to the south. To the west is the Tyrrhenian Sea which gives the area a warm mediterranean climate. The terrain is quite hilly (over 68% of the terrain), progressing inward to the Apennine Mountains along the border with Emilia-Romagna. The hills have a tempering effect on the summertime heat, with many vineyards planted on the higher elevations of the hillsides.
The Sangiovese grape performs better when it can receive more direct sunlight, which is a benefit of the many hillside vineyards in Tuscany. The majority of the region’s vineyards are found at altitudes of 500–1600 feet (150–500 meters). The higher elevations also increase the diurnal temperature variation, helping the grapes maintain their balance of sugars and acidity as well as their aromatic qualities. A wine such as the Chianti Italian Wine – DOCG benefits from such an elevation, elevating its flavor and intensifying its characteristics.