Best Tuscan Wines Guide
If you’re anything like me, you enjoy wine but are fairly uneducated about it and usually forget everything you learn at wine tastings. That’s OK. With this list of the best Tuscan wines, you’ll know what to order in Italy, or at your local wine shop.
This wine list is based on the conversation I had with Toni Mazzaglia on the Tuscan Wines episode of the Postcard Academy podcast. Toni is the founder of the food tour company Taste Florence and you can get 5% off this fabulous experience using the code POSTCARD18. Listen to the podcast to hear our whole conversation (Subscribe on Apple Podcasts | Overcast | Google Podcasts).
White wines to drink in Tuscany
According to Toni, in Tuscany, you’ll find some nice, easy-to-drink whites, and others that are more complex, such as Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
“You can actually find some that are more complex than you would expect because the young ones are pretty simple. Those are going to go with fish; they’re going to go with chicken; but they’re also going to go with things that have more seasonings. They would be great for a Thanksgiving turkey, or holiday turkey, or would be great with things like stuffed mushroom caps. Things that have a little season, so they would also be good for vegetarians.”
Other whites to try:
- Montecarlo Bianco
Red wines to drink in Tuscany
The Chianti Classico is made south of Florence and trying this is mandatory. By the way, Chianti is a wine region — not a town — in Tuscany, stretching from Florence to Siena.
But your list of red wines to try in Tuscany goes well beyond Chianti.
“Definitely try Carmignano,” Toni says. “Carmignano is not a great grape, it's a place about 20 miles west of Florence and it’s a beautiful area. A UNESCO world heritage site is there, and there’s a beautiful Medici villa. I would definitely visit Carmignano if you can.”
Carmignano is a blend of 70% Sangiovese grapes and 30% French grapes, making it a Super Tuscan, though this is up for debate.
What’s a Super Tuscan?
“Super Tuscan is not a type of wine,” Toni says. “It’s not a legal place or anything like that. It’s a name that was given to a category of wines that, 50 years ago, were way too good to be called table wine, but they didn’t have their own category.”
So journalists started calling them Super Tuscans. “If you like blends, look for Super Tuscans.”
According to my friend Alessio, a native Tucan and wine connoisseur, Super Tuscans, such as Sassicaia, Solaia, and Ornellaia, are generally found in and around the areas of Bolgheri, and further away you’ll find the Super Tuscan Tignanello, produced in San Casino.
Other reds to try in Tuscany:
- Brunello di Montalcino
- Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
- Monte Cuco
“If you want a lighter-bodied red that you can actually even have with vegetarian dishes...I would go with Morellino di Scansano,” Toni advises. But make sure you get one that’s made the old-fashioned way because nowadays even they are using barrique because it’s trendy.”
In case you don’t know what barrique means (I did not), they are French-style barrels where the oak is toasted, which Toni says covers up the wine more than the big Italian barrels.
“I’m not knocking barrique. Barrique are good when they’re used properly, but a lot of the time they’re abused to give off vanilla and pepper and things like that on your wine, and when they’re abused like that, you don’t really taste the grape. You don’t taste the terroir. You just taste oak.”
Oak was really hot 10 years ago, but that’s changing, thankfully.
“Things are getting better. There was a patch of time where everything had to be just oak. It was like French-kissing a sauna.” Ha! How gross and true.
If you like natural and biodynamic wines, you’ll find an unusual concentration of producers in Lucca.
Dessert wine to drink in Tuscany
The Italian island of Elba produces fantastic white wine, as well as one of Toni’s favorite dessert wines, Aleatico Passito. “It’s a red dessert wine, so it’s got a little more oomph. You can pair it with chocolate — not many things really truly go with chocolate. This one does and it’s not horribly expensive.” Toni recommends you serve this wine with sachertorte, a chocolate and apricot cake that comes from Vienna and Bolzano, Italy.
If you go on Toni’s Taste Florence tour, there’s a good chance you will stop at Il Cantuccio to try their delicious cantuccini, which are baby biscotti (actually, biscotti is just the Italian word for cookies, but for non-Italians, I think we all think of biscotti as the slender Italian cookies). You will then tip your cantuccino into a little cup of Vin Santo and float off into heaven.
What is Vin Santo?
“Vin Santo is what’s known as a vino passito, a sweet wine…a kind of port wine,” Toni says. “You can have it with cheese. You can have it with dessert. The tradition is to dip your biscotti, your cantuccini, in there, but it’s also really good if you have fruit pie, especially apricot or or apple pie.”
Vin Santo is traditionally made by hanging grapes to dry in an attic for a few weeks or even for a few months. “It depends on the winery and personal taste of the wine maker.”
The grapes are then taken down and pressed and fermented in a small barrel that’s called a caratello, which is a barrel made with different types of wood. “So it’s not a series of barrels, not like port wine where it gets moved around. It’s one barrel that has different pieces of wood.” This could be cherry, chestnut, whatever the winemaker prefers.”
The better, more traditional Vin Santos, are aged for several years, always in one barrel, and get thicker and thicker due to the mother yeast in the barrel.
“It’s not like a red wine that would go bad,” Toni says. “It just stays in there and reduces and gets sweeter and more complex. It’s the kind of wine that, in the bottle, is going to last usually, like, a good 15 or 20 years. It has a lot of longevity because of the way it’s aged.”
Great souvenirs to bring back from Italy
If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Tuscany, you will definitely want to bring home some Vin Santo and a bag of almond cantuccini (the latter will probably only last a day if you open it yourself).
Leave room in your suitcase to pack a bottle or two of wine. If you’re using a only carry on, vineyards will often help you ship it home.
As for other liquid presents, if you listened to the olive oil episode of the Postcard Academy podcast, you know extra virgin olive oil is another great gift to buy (and use right away because olive oil spoils quickly).
And then there’s balsamic vinegar: While the really good stuff is quite expensive, white balsamic, like from Enoteca Alessi, is reasonably priced and tastes great on salad.
Listen to the Florence food episode of the Postcard Academy podcast to hear all of Toni’s best recommendations on where to eat and what foods to try in Tuscany’s capital city. (Subscribe on Apple podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher)
If you found this article useful, please share it, and subscribe to the Postcard Academy podcast. Each week, expats and adventurers share their insider travel tips on the best food, nightlife, and cultural experiences in the most interesting places around the globe. I’m your host, Sarah Mikutel, an American who's spent the last 7 years living in, and traveling around, Europe.