Italy: Tuscany

Tuscany was first inhabited by the Etruscans in the 8th Century BC. Most of our knowledge of their civilization is derived from archeological findings in Tuscany and across the Apennines in neighboring Emilia-Romagna. The Romans conquered the region in the mid 4th century B.C. Eventually, Tuscany became part of the papacy lands, causing a long-lasting strife between popes and emperors.

In the late Middle Ages and throughout the Renaissance, Tuscany was a center for the arts and of learning. The Tuscan spoken language became the literary language of Italy after Dante Alighieri, Petrarch, and Boccaccio used it instead of the traditional Latin to create profound works that are still read today. Under the Medici, the ruling family of Florence, Tuscany became a grand duchy in 1569, and so a powerful political and economic force in addition to being one of the main intellectual and artistic centers in Europe at the time.

Tuscany's winemaking industry counts on one of the most noble and ancient traditions that predates the universally known Chianti wine that often springs to mind when this region is discussed.

Long before the first Etruscans made their appearance, wild vines grew in abundance all over the sunny rolling hills of Tuscany. The Etruscans are believed to have domesticated and bred the forbears of such grapes as the Sangiovese and the Lambrusco from those early feral grapes. No matter where or how the first vines originated, grapes and the much sought after wines they were made into have been celebrated in local literature throughout all historic times of the region, and even further back to the paintings and pottery decorations of those original ancient Etruscans.

Tuscany accounts for over thirty DOC and half a dozen of DOCG wines. In addition to the great, well-known and appreciated reds, the local production includes a few distinguishable whites.

Some wines from this region are "Super Tuscan" which is considered the rebel wine of Tuscany. An emerging wine style since the 1960's, they were originally experimental and often a result of the winemaker's curiosity. They are classified as IGT, which are table wines, but they also might use "unapproved" winemaking methods such as aging in small, nontraditional oak barrels. Also these wines might use nontraditional varietals in the blend, such as Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. While the styles vary, most of these wines are small production with intense, rich fruit and thick texture.
 


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