Italy is synonymous with its amazing food and wines, and Tuscany is the heart and soul of Italian gastronomy. Nothing compares to savoring fresh pasta and sipping local wine on a piazza as you watch the people go by. Eating (and drinking) well is a priority on my tours, so you’ll get your fair share of fine food sourced locally and prepared by excellent chefs.
We will be featuring a different Tuscan wine in each newsletter for the next few months, from classics like Chianti to the evolving super Tuscans and local vineyards. Let’s begin with an introduction to the region.
Grapes were cultivated by the Etruscans as early as 3,000 years ago. They grew so well that they quickly became a reliable cash crop and were often sold overseas. 80% of Tuscan wines are made with red grapes, and most of those use the Sangiovese grape. These grapes can range in flavor and are high in acid and tannin, which makes them very versatile for winemakers.
Reading the labels
You’ll notice different classification codes on bottles of Italian wine. In 1963, a group of Italian winemakers got together to find a way to raise the quality standards for Italian wines and classify regional wines according to local wine-making traditions. Their goal was to provide a way to gauge the quality of a wine and determine if it was made in a consistent style and quality. There are four wine rankings.
DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata (Denomination of Controlled Origin). The DOC designation for wines was introduced in the early 1960s. The regulations for each DOC wine delimit the production area, wine color, permitted grape varieties and proportions, styles of wine, minimum and maximum alcohol levels, as well as permitted or mandated viticultural, vinification and maturation techniques.
DOCG stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin). The DOCG wine designation was created in 1980 to differentiate the top Italian wines. The regulations are tighter and more restrictive. For example, most DOCG rules reduce the allowable yield of grapes to produce the wine and require longer aging periods. Most importantly, a DOCG wine has to pass an analysis and a tasting by government-licensed personnel before being bottled.
IGT stands for Indicazione Geografica Tipica. An IGT-classed wine is “typical” of a particular geography or local region. Most IGT wines are simple, made from grapes grown locally and intended to be consumed young. The big exception to this is the super Tuscan wines, which can’t be given a higher classification because they often blend non-indigenous grapes (Learn more about super Tuscans in a future newsletter).
VdT stands for Vino da Tavola, or Table Wine. Wines marked with a VdT on the label tells you they’re made in Italy, and that’s about it. These wines are basic, local table wines – cheap, but pretty simple. You find these mostly in local trattorias and osterias in Italy.
Tours to Italy
Interested in sampling some of these local wines in situ? Join us on one of our upcoming tours.
Essence of Italy – A 9-day tour with stops in Rome, the Cinque Terre, Pisa, Volterra, Siena and Florence.
2018: June24-July 2, September 16-24, October 14-22.
2019: April 7-15, May 5-13, June 30-July 8, September 22-30
Best of Italy – A 13-day tour. All the destinations of the Essence of Italy, plus Venice, Lake Como and Milan.
2018: June24-July 7, September 16-29, October 14-27.
2019: April 7-20, May 5-18, June 30-July 13, September 22-October 5
Tuscany Villa Vacation – Enjoy a relaxing stay in a Tuscan villa with day trips to Volterra, Siena, San Gimignano and Lucca. Begin and end your tour in Florence.
2019: May 24-June 2, September 13-22
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