10 Wines from a Tuscan Region Ripe for Experimentation

Monte Argentario peninsula for Maremma Toscana red wines
Monte Argentario coastline in Maremma, Tuscany/Getty

Tuscany’s wine prestige comes from the iconic appellations of Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino and Bolgheri. But few American wine lovers realize that located south of Bolgheri is the area’s third-largest Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC), Maremma Toscana DOC. The region extends from the southern Tuscan coast, inland to the Montalcino border and Mount Amiata. In the southern wooded foothills, towards Lazio, are the famous thermal baths at Saturnia.

One reason Maremma doesn’t get the attention of regions to the north is that the land itself is new. Most of Maremma consisted of brackish swamps that were drained numerous times before being reclaimed in the mid-20th century. Viticulture was introduced to the region in the 1800s, but didn’t take off until the late 20th century. This is when producers, some with estates elsewhere in Tuscany, began to invest in Maremma.

Formed in 2011, Maremma Toscana DOC’s signature grapes include the Tuscan classics: Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc for red wines; Trebbiano Toscano and Vermentino for white wines.

Sangiovese is the base variety for two Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCGs) found within Maremma’s boundaries: Morellino di Scansano and Montecucco Sangiovese. Like many places in Italy, producers are permitted to make bottlings for both a DOCG and the Maremma Toscana DOC.

The flexibility of Maremma’s wine regulations makes it stand apart from Tuscany’s other big names. The region is becoming an experimental playground for producers interested in lesser-known native Italian grapes like Canaiolo Nero, Ciliegiolo, Colorino, Pugnitello and Ansonica. Winemakers also explore different fermentation and aging vessels such as amphorae and concrete.

Ciliegiolo, or “little cherry,” is famous for being a parent grape of Sangiovese. Its name comes from the rich cherry flavor found in its low-tannin red wines. Not suitable for aging, Ciliegiolo is perfect for those seeking out fresh, quaffable bottles. Check our other Maremma Toscana recommendations below.

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Le Mortelle 2016 Poggio alle Nane (Maremma Toscana); $70, 91 points. Made with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carménère, this opens with dark berry, Mediterranean scrub and leather aromas. It’s savory and balanced, delivering blackberry-jam, tobacco and cooking-spice flavors alongside fine-grained tannins. Enjoy 2021–2028. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. —Kerin O’Keefe

Prelius 2018 Maremma Toscana; $18, 91 points. Made with organically grown grapes, this Cabernet Sauvignon opens with inviting aromas of cassis, underbrush and mint. The savory, polished palate features black currant, licorice and tobacco alongside fine-grained tannins. Drink through 2026. Wilson Daniels Ltd. —K.O.

Rocca di Frassinello 2016 Baffonero (Maremma Toscana); $240, 90 points. This Merlot opens with aromas of ripe dark fruit, cedar and mocha. The structured palate reflects the nose, offering ripe blackberry, espresso, coconut and plum jam alongside fine-grained tannins. Vias Imports. —K.O.

Basile 2015 Comandante (Maremma Toscana); $25, 90 points. Made with organically grown Sangiovese (95%) and Merlot (5%), this opens with aromas of cedar, ripe dark-skinned fruit and underbrush. The elegantly structured palate offers dried black cherry, licorice and white almond alongside polished tannins. Golden Ram Imports. —K.O.

Casteani 2017 Marujo (Maremma Toscana); $45, 90 points. Fermented and aged in terra-cotta amphorae, this Syrah opens with aromas of black-skinned berry, scorched earth and cooking spice. The savory palate offers ripe black currant, licorice and tobacco alongside fine-grained tannins. Drink through 2025. ID Beverage Group. —K.O.

Fattoria Mantellassi 2016 Querciolaia (Maremma Toscana); $26, 90 points. Made entirely with Alicante, this shows aromas of rose petal, red berry and Mediterranean scrub. The bright palate offers red cherry, star anise and clove alongside velvety tannins. Drink through 2023. Total Wine & More. —K.O.

La Selva 2015 Maremma Toscana; $26, 90 points. Aromas of red berries, violet and leather lead the nose on this medium-bodied red. Made entirely with organically grown Ciliegiolo grapes, the juicy palate offers raspberry preserves, clove and cinnamon alongside pliant tannins. Omniwines Distribution. —K.O.

Mazzei 2016 Belguardo Tirrenico (Maremma Toscana); $30, 90 points. Made with 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Alicante, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot, this opens with aromas evoking dark-skinned berry, underbrush and vanilla. The savory palate offers cassis, mocha and black pepper alongside chewy tannins. Taub Family Selections. —K.O.

Podere San Cristoforo 2018 Carandelle (Maremma Toscana); $30, 90 points. This organically farmed Sangiovese has aromas of red berry, cedar and cooking spice. The savory palate offers sour cherry, tobacco and toasted oak alongside fine-grained tannins. Drink through 2024. Planet Wine. —K.O.

Tenuta Moraia 2016 Maremma Toscana; $32, 90 points. Forest-berry and violet aromas shape the nose on this bright blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Alicante. On the smooth, medium-bodied palate, polished tannins and fresh acidity offer lithe support and balance for raspberry, black cherry and a hint of star anise. Foley Family Wines. —K.O.

Published on April 3, 2020
Topics: Wine and Ratings