Tuscany’s tasty white wines often get overlooked due to the international glory this region’s reds enjoy. But whilst the full-bodied reds are perfect for the winter months, things change when the balmy heat of summer starts to arrive and nights sat on a bustling piazza beckon. Then, the fresh, cool, crispness of a delicious white is called for, and the tasty whites of Tuscany are gaining in popularity by offering a surprisingly high amount of variety, style and quality.
So, what tasty whites are on offer?
The main grapes native to this region are Vernaccia, Vermentino, Trebbiano and Malvasia. Whilst Vernaccia di San Gimignano is a DOCG, most Tuscan whites come under a DOC, or, the more exciting IGT classification. Indicazione Geografica Tipica means that the only requirement to be be met is that the grapes are grown within the region. Tuscany has readily embraced the concept of creating high quality IGT wines, and the lack of restrictions associated with this classification has enabled winemakers to be experimental in their expressions, resulting in creative bursts of flavor personal to each winemaker, as well as allowing non-native grapes to be grown and used on their own or in blends.
Which Tuscan white wine is best for me?
- Vernaccia – Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG is one of the most well known white wines of this area. It follows typical Tuscan protocol; beautiful rolling vineyards surrounding a stunning medieval hilltop town. The grape itself creates wines of crisp acidity with tart apple and refreshing citrus flavours and a mineral finish. A deliciously, drinkable, good-value for money style of wine this really is perfect for a hot summer’s day.
- Vermentino – often grown near the coast, this is where the grape excels and expresses its floral and fruity flavours with a balanced and tasty intensity. The best Vermentinos often have a long finish with a grapefruit like bitterness left momentarily in the mouth, balanced perfectly by the soft acidity and its citrus and salty overtones, coming from its maritime influence.
- Trebbiano – one of the most vastly planted varieties, it is often seen as quite a bland grape with high acidity and lacking any defining or outstanding aromas, making it extremely suitable for blending, which is where, more often than not, it ends up. However, there has been an upward trend of late for experimentations with this grape variety
- Malvasia – a grape used primarily for sweet wines, or blended with Trebbiano to impart flavor. As a dry white it is a crisp, fresh, distinctly floral wine with notes of apple and pear. There are good, full-bodied dry examples, but it’s at its best in Tuscany’s most famous sweet wine, Vin Santo.
- Vin Santo DOCG– a sweet wine comprised of a blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia. The grapes are dried for months in hot attics, creating varying levels of sweetness dependent on how long they are left there for. The longer the drying period, the higher the resulting sugar content and therefore the sweeter the wine will be. Natural fermentation occurs in small casks and can take as long as four years. This is a delicious sweet wine with notes of orange zest, honey, caramel and apricot. Suitable to accompany most desserts, it is traditionally served with cantuccini. Known best as biscotti outside of Italy, the mixture of this bitter almond biscuit and the sweet wine is delicious.
And let’s not forget the others…
Due to the versatility of the IGT classification, many non-native grapes are also grown. Over recent years Chardonnay has become increasingly popular and a lot of producers are releasing high quality and tasty white wines. Not generally as buttery as their French counterparts, the results are often fresh and fruity whilst retaining their minerality and acidity, with some extremely delicious examples being released. There are many other non-Tuscan plantings, including a Pinot Gris/Incrocio Manzoni blend as well as an organic Chenin/Sauvignon Blanc (herbaceous and floral with some creamy honeyness) Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc. The result of so many varieties being planted is the choice of some amazing blends, meaning that not only is this region starting to create some really inventive and tasty whites, there is also guaranteed to be something to suit everyone’s palate.