Tuscan Grape Varietals

Tuscan wine is considered as one of the best types of wine in the world, and its unique and outstanding flavor is attributed to the grapes used to make it. There are different types of grapes that are utilized to make Tuscan wine, and each type would often present a different flavor profile. Here are some of the most popular grapes for Tuscan wine.

Red Grapes

Sangiovese

You cannot talk about Italian wine without giving credit to the most popular of all Italian grapes: Sangiovese. Literally translated as the “Blood of Jove,” the Sangiovese is the most widely planted type of grape in all of Italy. It is a high-yielding and late-ripening grape that grows best on well-drained limestone soils on south-facing hillsides. The hot and dry climate in Tuscany provides this type of grape an excellent home to thrive, although it has been grown all over Italy. It is not just the sole grape variety that is used for Brunello di Montalcino wine, but it is also the main ingredient for the blends of the Chianti, the Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, and the ever growing “Super-Tuscan” category of wine that breaks from tradition by adding other grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot into the mix.

Because Sangiovese is very thin skinned, the juice would produce a rich, alcoholic, and long-standing wine. The wine produced is known for being fruity and naturally acidic, but the aroma is non-aggressive, which makes it the best partner with the excellent cuisine of Italy. Sangiovese’s natural acidity matches well with vegetables and fruits like tomatoes and citrus, and it is also able to cut through rich dishes like rabbit meat, duck meat, or tomato based pastas.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Although the Cabernet Sauvignon variety of grapes is best known as the ingredient for the wines coming from Bordeaux, France, it actually plays a large part in Italian winemaking scene as a blending agent. You will often find Cabernet Sauvignon blended in very small amounts with Sangiovese in order to make the contemporary “Super Tuscan” style wine. You will also find Merlot grapes in those blends, although Cabernet Sauvignon is often the most used. This type of grape is arguably the greatest of the dark-skinned grapes out of all, and its dark appearance make is look appealing for winemakers.

The Cebernet Sauvignon grape has a very distinct blue skin that contributes to the heavy pigment that it applies to the wine, which would turn into a lush and elegant burgundy color. Because of the thick skin of the grape, the wines would become highly tannic that if beneficial for the great amounts of aging in the oak barrels. Once the wine is in a bottle, it would have great longevity thanks to the Cabernet Sauvignon.

The wines that have this grape as an ingredient are highly aromatic and have a violet and cedar color characteristics. In addition, the wine would also have distinct flavors of chocolate, mint, and tobacco. Because of its relatively dense body, the wine pairs well with creamy cheese, smoked meat, pizzas, barbecue, and rich meat dishes.

Merlot

Merlot wine

Similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, the Merlot grape is used as blending agent for the “Super Tuscan” style wines out of Italy, but it is also found in some modern Chianti wines. Merlot has been a popular blending agent for hundreds of years because of it ‘”calming” quality that makes the wine easy to drink. The grape itself buds, flowers, and ripens early, and because of this attribute, Merlot has a full body with lots of bright aromas and flavors while also having hints of chocolate and violet, which is very much similar to Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot is great with all tomato-based pasta dishes, heavy seafood like salmon, and smoked meat.

Canaiolo Nero

The Canaiolo Nero grape was once critical to the thriving economy of the Chianti region, as it was used in almost every Chianti wine blend, and the wine that region produces would sometimes jave about 30-50% of the Canaiolo in the mixture. It is still used in Chianti wine today, but it definitely takes second fiddle to Sangiovese today since the latter is a more flavorful type of grape. The flavors found in the Canaiolo Nero are soft, neutral, slightly bitter, which make it a rather bland grape if not blended correctly for winemaking. Chianti’s reformed DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) laws today allow only 10 percent of the Canaiolo Nero in a Chianti blend. The best Canaiolo Nero grapes can be a nice match with very ripe strawberries that can often be leathery in taste and smell, but the worst of the variety are used to soften Chianti wine.

White Grapes

Trebbiano

Trebbiano grapesTrebbiano is the most common white grape variety in Italy, and it accounts for around a third of all of Italy’s white wine. Some of the sub-varieties of the grape found in Italy include Trebbiano Toscano, Trebbiano Romagnolo, Trebbiano Gallo and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. The wine itself is crisp and very neutral in flavor. It is sometimes called “bland” and its wine can be somewhat overly acidic and flavorless. It requires great skill to make Trebbiano into a desirable table wine. However, the high acidity of the grape does make it useful in making brandy, which is usually made in the Cognac and Armagnac regions. It is best paired with meats like chicken, turkey, pork and light-tasting fish, such as sole and catfish.

Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio is probably is the best-known “white” variant-clone of the Pinot Noir (also known as Friuli) grown in the northeastern corner of Italy. Although the wine made from the Pinot Grigio is consumed all around Italy, it is not widely planted outside this region, as it is much more compatible on the cool breeze of the Adriatic Sea and the elevation of the mountains. You can find some plants of the grape cropping up in Tuscany, but they are not many.

This variety of grape is delicately crisp and fragrant with mild floral notes and hints of citrus. Depending upon its ripeness at harvest and the applied winemaking technique, Pinot Grigio can be tangy and light or rich, round, and full bodied. If it is made in an appropriate style of winemaking, it is a dry white wine that can age well in bottles. The Pinot Grigio is best enjoyed as an aperitif or paired with seafood, light pasta, or cheese & cracker combinations.

Moscato

Moscato is seen almost exclusively in the northern parts of Italy, particularly in Piedmont where the Moscato d’Asti wine is one of the most well-known leisure wines in the area. Moscato is the same grape as the French Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains and is an ancient grape that has many flavors and aromas. It produces a fresh, fragrant, and sweet wine that is often carbonated, much like in the cases of sparkling Asti and Moscato d’Asti wines. The flavors are very fruit-driven, and it would usually have notes of peach and orange zest. Because of its sweet and sparkling nature, Moscato-based wines are phenomenal desert partners and are highly enjoyable with semi-sweet chocolates with fruit flavors.

Malvasia

Malvasia and Trebbiano grapes

Malvasia is the name widely used for a specific set of grapes. This variety of grape mainly produces white table, desert, and fortified wines, but it is also found in red blends such as Vin Santo. Thought to be of Greek origin, Malvasia produces high-alcohol wines with residual sugar. Malvasia was once extremely popular in the Venetian Republic to the point that wine shops in all over Venice were called “Malvasie.”

White Malvasia Bianca is the largest produced wine for Malvasia and is widely used in Tuscany, Latium, and Umbria. The grape produces a round, lushly, and fruity flavor and a plush texture. Most wines with this grape have a clean and crisp finish, and those aged in small oak barrels have light tannin flavors and hints of vanilla. Malvasia typically pairs well with seafood antipastos like scallops, shrimp, and calamari dressed with lemon and oil.

Vernaccia

Vernaccia is one of the finest white wines produced in Italy and was also the first wine to get the DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) appellation. In addition, it is the only white wine in Tuscany today to follow the DOCG laws.

Its fame is rooted in its rich history, as its use goes back to the end of 1200, when it fueled the imaginations of Renaissance poets, artists, and even popes. It is produced predominantly inside the territory of the commune of San Gimignano (Siena). The Vernaccia is a light and fragrant white wine that is easy to drink and is often herbal in aroma and taste. It may sometimes come off as bitter, although when well paired with the right food, its bitterness will disappear. Vernaccia is excellent with seafood, herbal salads, and often pairs very well with parmesan cheese.

Those are the most popular types of grapes that are used to make Tuscan wine. These varieties would usually offer different flavors, which make it hard for wine enthusiast to make objective reviews of each Tuscan wine. The best wine would often differ for each wine connoisseur, so it would be difficult to tell which variety of grape is considered the best. Have a taste of each Tuscan wine and see which one is the most suitable for your tastes.