Supertuscans and more: discovering the Altra Toscana

Beyond lofty names like Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti, or Bolgheri, Tuscany offers an intricate puzzle of lesser-known appellations offering dozens of exciting wines for adventurous drinkers.

The last tasting in the Anteprime Toscane week, the Anteprima Altra Toscana offered an overview of these territories. It was also a rare opportunity to delve into the Toscana IGT, a huge region-wide appellation that accounts for about 30 percent of the total production. 

If you consider that sales of Acqua Panna, one of the leading still water brands in Italy, increased substantially after it started sporting the word “Toscana” on the label, then you easily understand why so many producers are so fond of this generic category they are often willing up give DOCs or DOCGs and use it for their top-shelf wines. Few brands are equally successful when it comes to wine, food, tourism, and art. 

Frankly, it would take several days – and a few more articles – to cover this whole galaxy extensively, and we promise to delve deeper into the different terroirs of the “Other Tuscany” in the upcoming months.

Here are we just analyzing two key trends that emerged from the Altra Toscana tasting:

Sangiovese beyond the most famous appellations

The same grape variety that gives Chianti, Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, and Nobile di Montepulciano thrives in most appellations across the region – with the sole exception of the coastal areas.

 Siena continues housing the largest number of DOCs and DOCGs devoted to Sangiovese,including appellations of the “Other Tuscany” like Montecucco and Orcia, which are the less illustrious neighbors of Montalcino, or tinier areas such as Terre di Casole, an enclave in the heart of Colli Senesi where sandy soils contribute to shaping suave and perfumed expressions of the variety. 

The Maremma Toscana DOC also yields a good quantity of Sangiovese-based wine – even though Ciliegiolo, Vermentino, and international grapes from this area in Southern Tuscany enjoy better recognition. 

The most ambitious wines produced in Montecucco, Orcia, and Maremma have long tried to mimic Brunello di Montalcino without achieving the same depth and balance, and we must confess that the overall quality still lags behind. 

Examples drifting away from these models and opening new winemaking horizons are by far the most exciting: Newtown Rosso by Fabbrica Pienza is a case in point, epitomizing an up-and-coming style of unoaked, easy-drinking Sangiovese that is gaining prominence among innovative producers who have acknowledged the importance of attracting new consumers instead of just offering more affordable alternatives to aficionados of top-notch Sangiovese. 

Carmignano deserves a separate discussion as it is one of the four historic wine-growing districts in Tuscany – and the only one where Sangiovese has to be blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and/or Merlot. Bordeaux grapes have been present in this area since the 18th century, and historical Carmignano producers like Tenuta di Capezzana have always used them to craft refined and age-worthy versions – lying somewhere in between classic Sangiovese and Supertuscans. 

However, Carmignano also produces big, bold, and oaky reds that are closer to an ultra-ripe Bordeaux blend than to any Sangiovese-based wine. Such wines cause some confusion and make the appellation stylistically less consistent than it should be.

Reinventing Supertuscans

The name Supertuscan inevitably summons images of critically acclaimed, investment-worthy wines that owe their commercial success to an unrivaled mix of intrinsically high quality, historical relevance, and significant production volumes that ensure wide availability in the international market. This image holds true for pioneering Supertuscans – wines with enduring appeal that rank consistently among the most successful in the Live-ex, the index that tracks the performance of fine wines globally.

But the category of Supertuscans is a broad one and includes dozens of equally ambitious wines with a more limited production that appeal to a smaller niche of collectors and connoisseurs. Among these lesser-known gems, you will find a few trend-setting wines – often containing unusual grapes or reflecting cutting-edge winemaking styles.

Indaco, Nambrot, and the mind-boggling Caberlot by Il Carnasciale are just some of the wines to know. On this occasion, they displayed a newfound emphasis on finesse and restraint, shifting away from the oaky and mouth-filling styles of the past. The fact they are so pure and velvety that they don’t require strong cerebral efforts to be enjoyed in the short run doesn’t mean they won’t perform well in the long haul.

 Unfortunately, we weren’t able to taste a top-notch Cabernet Franc at the Altra Toscana yet the rise of this variety on the coast is another trend redefining Supertuscan production: compared to blends containing larger proportions of Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc-based Supertuscans display more freshness and suppleness, with juicy red fruits allied to refreshing yet unobtrusive herbal flavors. Their success is such that even icons like Masseto have begun to contain a dollop of Cabernet Franc in recent vintages. More on that coming in the next few months. 

Last but not least, Cortona in Central-eastern Tuscany has become the go-to appellation in Italy for Syrah. Cult natural wine producer, Stefano Amerighi, kick-started the rise of the variety from the Northern Rhone in this tiny area in Val di Chiana, followed by a small group of artisans Not all the wines from Cortona are equally compelling but the best ones are extremely distinctive, often blending Tuscan earthiness and raciness with the concentration and the spicy allure the grape is known for.

Check out the best wines from the other Tuscany to taste