What Makes Tuscan Red Wines So Special?

Like the art of the Renaissance, Sangiovese-based wines are woven into the cultural identity of Central Italy. Most people hear Sangiovese and think Chianti Classico or Brunello di Montalcino, but there are so many wonderful blends from Central Italy and the Tuscan zones worth getting to know.

A good majority of red wines from this region are going to have a decent percentage of Sangiovese. The Sangiovese grape is incredibly versatile and makes up over 10% of all vineyard plantings in the entire country of Italy. Because so many red wines from this region share that commonality, it is often hard to mistake a tuscan red wine as anything else. The name “Sangiovese” derives from the Latin words Sanguis Jovis, which means “blood of Jupiter.” So what are some of the common characteristics that these fantastic wines share?

Tannins and Acidity

Sangiovese is a thick skinned grape. What does that do to the wine? It means a common trait is astringent tannins. It makes your tongue pucker the same way it would if you put a bag of tea leaves on it. Also, it has a higher level of acidity that will cause you to salivate after a sip! A good balance of acidity and tannins make for fantastic ageing potential. Depending on the blend and the producer, a bottle may have an ageing potential of anywhere from 10 to 40 years!

Body, Aroma and Color

Wines from this region will often have a vibrant ruby red color in appearance. Younger wines will typically be more vibrant in color and have characteristics of sour cherry, violet, plum, and blueberry on the nose. Aged wines from this region will take on a bit more of a rusted ruby red color or garnet, and can develop notes of coffee, spice, mushroom, tobacco and leather as tertiary notes. Wines from this region are often medium bodied, which refers to the viscosity of the wine in your mouth, or the weight of it on your tongue.

With these specific characteristics to be on the lookout for, it is typically pretty hard to mistake a Tuscan red wine for anything else. I highly recommend starting with Carpineto’s Dogajolo Toscano Rosso, which is a young Super Tuscan blend made up of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. This bottle is incredibly food friendly with medium body and a nice balance of acidity and tannins. On the palate I get flavors of sour cherry, bright red berries, and bold spice from the Sangiovese, with a hint of vanilla and oak on the finish.

If you haven’t explored the red wines of Tuscany yet, give this one a try and start to identify some of the key characteristics yourself!