One of the first regions we visited, along with Piedmont, was the lovely Toscana. Discovering Italian wines to us was like finding an unexpected treasure beyond each hillside, and somehow we knew Tuscany would not disappoint. Being attracted by my wife Maria's memories of the place (her having attended the Accademia delle Belle Arti some years previous), we ventured south into this land rich in vinicultural history. Many years later, when we officially made Italy our home, Tuscany and Piedmont were the first regions to leap out of Italy, making their names known throughout the world. At that time, however, Chianti Classico was the only well known wine area to produce wines with a good reputation. Taken aback by the territory's tremendous potential – not to mention in need of a portfolio – we decided to take on our very first winery. It was 1971, and ever since then Tuscany has flourished year after year, allowing us to expand our horizons. In 1972 we took on our first Brunello by the name of Costanti, and by 1974 we had added our first vino nobile to our portfolio, produced by the Boscarelli winery. When in 1975 a Tuscan cru was produced for which nobody could come up with a name, I inadvertently invented the term “Supertuscan”. Little did I know how famous the term would become! Over the years, our loyal friends and business partners in the region of Tuscany have been ever-increasing.
Sangiovese Grosso, Brunello, Morellino, Prugnolo Gentile – they are local clones from Montalcino, Scansano, Montepulciano that go into Chianti, Brunello, Morellino di Scansano and Vino Nobile. One of Italy’s most widespread natives, it is on Tuscan soil that Sangiovese truly comes into its own, unfurling full, velvet layers of iris, violet and vanilla aromas – both early charmers and extremely long-living.
On the white front, apart from the traditional Trebbiano and Malvasia, the most famous and ancient variety is Vernaccia di San Gimignano, from vineyards close to the delightful medieval village. Celebrated as early as the year 1000 A.D., we find it cited by Dante apropos of a gourmet pope he placed in Purgatory, on the Terrace of Gluttony… Judging from the grape’s modern renaissance, the Terrace in question is likely to be pretty overbooked by now: the first Italian DOC in 1966, Vernaccia di San Gimignano was promoted to DOCG in 1993 and is better and more stylish than ever.
Tuscans are historically used to mixing with foreigners, and this applies to grapes as well as people: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon (of Bolgheri fame), Pinot Noir alla Pancrazi, Sauvignon and Merlot have found an ideal habitat on Tuscan soil. The latter is even geologically suitable to fine viticulture, with its 66.5% of hills and characteristic “galestro” terrain – rocky and shaly, with excellent draining properties. A good quarter of the region’s surface is mountainous and a tiny 8.4% is flatlands. However, top Tuscan winemaking is mostly associated with those same, breathtaking hillside landscapes we find in da Vinci paintings and modern art photography.