Tuscany - Bolgheri

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Tuscany is essentially red wine country. Various noble and/or well-funded estates have tried to make copies of white burgundy, Loire Sauvignon Blanc and even condrieu, and there are various nondescript Trebbianos to be drunk strictly within the region itself, but there are few whites worthy of export. The most interesting Tuscan dry white wine is Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG, made from the powerfully flavoured Vernaccia grape around the be-towered hilltop village of San Gimignano. The wines can vary from innocuous through firmly fruity to positively oily. Some benefit from oak ageing; others are overwhelmed by it. Montenidoli and Terruzi & Puthod are two of the most ambitious producers.

All over Tuscany are various small wine zones but the area that has attracted the most serious attention so far this century is the Maremma on the western coast south of Livorno – particularly but not exclusively that around the little village of Bolgheri, itself now a DOC. In the late 1960s, a member of the extended Antinori family first showed at the San Guido estate that the area could produce world-class Cabernet Sauvignon in the form of Supertuscan Sassicaia, and Bolgheri Sassicaia is now, remarkably, a separate DOC. In the 1980s, a younger Antinori made his name with Ornellaia (mainly Cabernet) and Masseto (mainly Merlot), produced almost next door, and there are now ambitious plantings aplenty on the old Appian Way. Many of these are the hobby wineries of rich men, built with every modern appliance that money can buy and designed to produce wines of the stature and, for better or worse, style of the great wines of Bordeaux.

Antinori has been expanding rapidly here and its Guado al Tasso was surely just the start of a major line of expansion. Gaja of Barbaresco has fashioned his Ca’Marcanda winery in an area already proven by the likes of Le Macchiole and Grattamacco. Although it is generally agreed that Bolgheri, along with the Médoc and Graves, Napa and Sonoma, Chile’s Maipo and the Margaret River in Western Australia provides one of the world’s most auspicious areas for ripening subtle, refined Cabernet Sauvignon, Michele Satta has proved that Sangiovese grown here can also be pretty smart.