If you want to narrow the Tuscan experience to a single defining element, it is light. This central region basks in distinctive sunlight, a soft golden glow that inspires all the things we celebrate here: from the chiaroscuro painting techniques of the Renaissance masters, to cream-colored alabaster abbeys, to rolling fields of giant sunflowers, to vibrant farming and culinary traditions.
The intensity of those special wavelengths vary only slightly as you move throughout Tuscany. Florence, Europe’s premier città d’arte, is the gateway to greater Chianti and the white wine region of Vernaccia di San Gimignano. The curvy Chiantigiana connects Florence to historic rival Siena and showcases idyllic panoramas of vineyard-lined hills and cypress-framed farmhouses.
These are the rural holding of Tuscan nobility, where vineyard extensions are larger, towering castles grander and that glossy veneer of aristocratic sophistication shines brighter.
To the south of Siena, the landscape succumbs to long sunsets and open fields scattered with golden rolls of hay. The southern end of the province is crowned by the hilltop hamlet of Montalcino, home of one of Tuscany’s most distinguished wines, Brunello di Montalcino.
However, the most outstanding expressions of light radiate off the Tuscan coast. The areas of Lucca, Pisa, Livorno, Bolgheri (home to legendary super Tuscan wines), Scansano and Grosseto all glow under its splendor.
Tuscany is driven by a fierce sense of independence, territory, tradition and an especially sharp sense of humor. Across the spectrum, from first light to dusk, it is the region that most closely embodies an international ideal of Italian excellence.
(“Holy Wine”), a Tuscan dessert wine, owes its name to its supposedly divine healing powers: It is said that a friar from Siena in the 14th century would use the Vin Santo left over from Mass to cure invalids.
“Sangiovese” means “blood of Jove” – the grape may have been cultivated in Tuscany as early as the 6th and 5th centuries B.C. by the Etruscans.
The first literary mention of Sangiovese comes from Giovanvettorio Soderini in 1590, in which he writes that the Sangiogheto grape produces great wine in Tuscany but can risk turning into vinegar if left unattended.
Common Grape Varieties
Trebbiano: A workhorse white variety, Trebbiano is one of Italy’s most planted grapes. In Tuscany, it often forms the base of delicious Vin Santo dessert wine.
Vernaccia: This white variety shows special pedigree in the area of San Gimignano, where it produces fresh, crisp wines that pair with simple Mediterranean foods.
Borrowed from Abroad: Thanks to key wine innovators, Tuscany is a second home to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, all of which feature in many super Tuscan blends. Syrah shows promising results near Cortona.
Sangiovese: No variety articulates Tuscan winemaking more coherently. Famously finicky but prone to great majesty, Sangiovese is a homebody grape that shows its best results in its native region. Synonyms are Brunello and Prugnolo Gentile.