Tuscany is one of Italy’s most popular regions among visiting tourists and the nearly 300,000 Expats who have chosen to make it their new home. Tuscany has an incredible cultural and artistic history that includes having the honor of being the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, superb cuisine, stunning scenery and an excellent tradition of growing and producing wine.
Tuscany is the 6th largest wine producing province in Italy and has the perfect climate for its cultivation. The region also has ideal soils, topographical elevations and the ancient local knowledge that’s been passed down through the generations to allow the cultivation of a whole range of world class wines.
The region is also famous for its wineries – properties where wine is produced from local varieties of grapes that visitors can visit to taste wine and learn about the traditional production processes. Some wineries are owned by large companies while others are smaller family run operations.
Visiting a winery is a massively immersive experience which will give you an absolutely unique insight into the work of the Tuscan master winemakers who oversee the entire process from harvest to bottling.
What You Need To Know About Wineries In Tuscany.
To discover more about the techniques and expertise that go into making the famous Tuscan wines you can visit a winery. You’ll be able to taste the local produce, learn about the traditional methods of creating the wines while developing an authentic appreciation for the process.
- To book a tour of a winery, you should call at least one day in advance. Wineries do not encourage you to simply turn up on the day because the owners like to manage the numbers of people visiting each day.
- On average, a tour of a winery lasts between one and two hours and generally costs around $10 to $40 per person.
- You may have to pay a separate fee for the wine tasting at the end of the tour. However, if you do taste the wine you are not obliged to buy any before you leave – although the chances are that you might be tempted to leave with a few bottles of the winery’s finest produce!
- If you’re planning to visit several wineries while you’re in Italy, a great town to base yourself in is Siena. Siena is a beautiful medieval city with plenty of great restaurants and is within easy travel distance to hundreds of superb wineries.
The following are the top 5 wineries in Tuscany.
Set on a gorgeous property strewn with cypress trees, incredible views and organic vineyards, the Fattoria La Loggia is located to the south of Florence. The estate was formerly owned by the famous Medici family and was originally established in 1427. It’s made up of ancient towers, walls, cellars and villas and overlooks the picturesque Chianti hillside vineyards of Tuscany.
Fattoria La Loggia hosts wine tasting lessons and tours as well as horseback riding, tennis, mountain biking, golf and even exclusive dinners in their cellars. There are also luxurious apartments on the property where you can stay to experience an authentic Tuscan rural break. If you’re tired after all the activities there is also a heated swimming pool where you can relax and simply enjoy the view!
This stunning winery is Italy’s oldest wine estate and is said to be the second oldest in the world! The incredible estate is based amongst stunning vineyards that specialize in Chianti wines. At the very heart of the estate is the Brolio Castle which was first constructed over 900 years ago.
The estate is managed by the Ricasoli family who offer tours, wine tastings as well as traditional gourmet dinners. The estate also has a private house that is available to rent for a minimum of a two night stay.
This organic farm is scattered throughout the tiny village of Panzano in Chianti. The farm grows around 80 hectares of local vineyards as well as more than 30 hectares of olive groves. The charming winery provides some of the best hospitality in Tuscany and, what’s more, the wine tastings are free!
Fontodi has three small guest houses where you can stay and learn more about life on a traditional Tuscan organic farm. The ideal choice for families or couples who are looking for a relaxing farm holiday in the very heart of Tuscany.
Salcheto winery is named after the old Tuscan word for the willow tree, ‘Salco’. The willow tree played an important part in early vineyards because their branches were used to make the supports for the vines. Salcheto is also the name of a local river that starts at Montepulciano and winds through willow groves and marks the official boundary of the winery’s vineyards.
The estate runs a biodynamically organic farm which is fascinating for visitors to learn about. The estate also won the coveted Gambero Rosso Award for Sustainability in 2014 and produces a lovely selection of wines. The farm has 6 suites for visitors to stay in, located in a 13th Century farmhouse as well as a restaurant, multi-lingual wine tasting tours and on-site shop.
This unique estate was designed by Renzo Piano, one of Italy’s most famous architects. The estate is a joint venture between Italian and French winemakers and is open to visitors for 365 days per year!
Rocca di Frassinello has a total of 90 hectares of vineyards that grow half Italian and half French varieties of grapes. Visitors to the property can spend a few hours on a tour during which you can learn more about the estate and then finish with a guided wine tasting session. The estate also houses some fascinating Etruscan artifacts which illuminate the ancient history of wine making in Tuscany.
Brief History Of Wine Production In Tuscany.
Tuscany first emerged as a wine making region during the period when it was a part of the pre-Roman Etruscan Empire. The Etruscans were the first civilization to cultivate and make wine in Italy by training grapevines to grow on natural supports such as olive, nut and fig trees!
In 351 BC, following the defeat of the Etruscans by the newly formed Roman Empire, the region remained an important producer of wine. During the medieval period Tuscany continued to produce large quantities of wine and grew many of the vintages that are still loved to this day. In fact, Chianti, Brunello, Vernaccia and Trebbiano have been traced by historians to as early as the 14th Century BC!
Following the World War II reconstruction of Italy, from the 1950s to the early 1980s, great efforts were made to increase the wine production of Tuscany for both economic and cultural reasons. During this period the main focus of the efforts were primarily aimed at increasing the quantities of wine that were produced in the region but in recent decades the focus has shifted back to quality and not just quantity.
This has meant that Tuscany has one of the most developed wine industries in Italy and acts as a magnet for tourists, Italian visitors and Expats who travel to the province to explore the wineries and businesses that produce the famous wines.
The restructuring of the Tuscan wine industry has included many local and international winemakers renovating old wine estates to deliver world class wine to their customers, both foreign and domestic.
Geography And Climate Of Tuscany.
Tuscany is a very hilly province with some of the vineyards being more than 500 meters above sea level! Almost a quarter of the Tuscan landscape is mountainous with less than 10% of its land being classified as flat.
Tuscany has nearly 60,000 hectares of land that is dedicated to growing grapes for wine. The main sub-areas of Tuscany for wine growing include:
- The Tuscan Coast.
The Tuscan climate is Mediterranean and has hot dry summers with wet and mild autumn and winters. This makes it ideal for growing wine grapes because the changing conditions help to properly balance the sugars, aromas and acidity of the grapes to create the signature wines of the region.
The varied soil in Tuscany also allows for a wide range of grapes to be grown; something which has led to the fantastic diversity of wines being produced in the province.
What Are The Different Types Of Wine Grapes Grown In Tuscany?
Each year, Tuscany produces nearly 3 million hectoliters of wine which are sold within the province as well as being exported all over the world. Although almost two-thirds of the vineyards in Tuscany are cultivating Sangiovese, the most important Tuscan variety of red wine grape, there is still a good range of other premium varieties being grown in the province. The major white wine grapes that are grown in Tuscany include Trebbiano, Vermentino and Vernaccia.
The 5 important grape varieties are:
This is the most commonly planted grape variety in Tuscany and is used to make some of the region’s best wines; including Vino di Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino and, of course, Chianti. Each year around two thirds of all grapes planted in Tuscany are Sangiovese and these make up over 80% of the wine produced annually in the region.
Sangiovese thrives on hillside vineyards which makes it perfect for cultivation in Tuscany and it is used to make medium to full bodied red wines that have a characteristic black cherry flavor with deep smoky undertones.
Super Tuscan Grape Varieties.
The main Super Tuscan grapes include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah. Super Tuscan grapes produce high quality wines but are made up of grapes that are not traditionally grown in the region. These create lovely smooth red wines that combine the flavors of plum and cherry with nutty hints and aromas.
This grape variety is used to make neutral tasting white wines which are often used to blend with other stronger tasting varieties. Trebbiano grapes make up around 6% of Tuscany’s vineyards. Trebbiano grapes used to be grown more widely to make blended wines with a Sangiovese base however this practice has largely been dropped although it still remains an important Tuscan variety.
Vermentino is a late ripening grape used to produce delicious white wines and although it only makes up a few percent of the vineyards it’s quickly gaining in popularity. Vermentino based white wines have an interesting flavor that combines apple, apricot and peach with a slightly salty undertone.
This is one of Tuscany’s oldest grape varieties and was the very first wine to receive the official DOC status in 1966! In 1993, it was further upgraded to the DOCG status confirming its place among Tuscany’s most historic grape varieties. Vernaccia is grown in around 1.5% of vineyards and is used to create delightfully fresh white wines with refreshingly floral notes.
Other Tuscan Grape Varieties Of Note.
Although grown in very small quantities, the following highly praised varieties are also cultivated in Tuscany:
- Canaiolo Nero.
- Malvasia Bianca Lunga.
- Petit Verdot.
Tuscany Is The Ideal Region For Visitors Interested In Italian Wine.
Tuscany has an ancient tradition of wine making although in recent decades its been evolving fast and setting new trends in the wider global wine industry. Tuscany has been leading the way in biodynamic and organic vineyard practices that are far more sustainable than other modern techniques.
Tuscan growers also put far more effort into maintaining the regional grape varieties and techniques that define the province – a trend that is being rapidly taken up by vineyards all over the world as customers demand more organic and unique produce.
The future for the Tuscan wine industry looks bright. The region is not only upping its game in terms of the quality of wine that it produces but it’s also developing more comfortable accommodation and providing a wider range of additional activities for the guests of their wineries to enjoy.
This makes Tuscany the ideal location for visitors to wineries to experience the authentic wine making processes for themselves or simply to enjoy a farm holiday in some of the most picturesque estates in Italy.