Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Virtual Visit to Tuscany

( Colline del Chianti  )

I’ve started hitting the geography books, wine geography that is, in preparation for the introductory sommelier exam sometime in 2011. The first exam isn’t about tasting or serving wine, it is about how it’s made, but primarily WHERE it’s made. But I digress.

I started with Italy because I know the least about it's wine and winemaking. As I was reviewing central Italy, Tuscany stood out. While I have had Tuscan wines before I never took the time to evaluate them. I recall enjoying them, but that just isn’t good enough!

Grape growing and winemaking in Italy and the region of Tuscany go back so far it isn’t really worth putting a date on it. One date you might see be highlighted is 1716, which was when the Chianti wine-area was first defined. Tuscany at large has a long storied cultural history and has been the home to notable historical figures such as da Vinci, Michelangelo, Dante and Galileo to name a few. The regional capital of Florence evokes visions of sculptures, paintings, architectural masterpieces, music and theater. Tuscany is known for its wines with Chianti, Brunello and Montelpulciano being several of the most widely known.

( This is what we were trying to recreate at home! )

With my newly acquired (from the reading) knowledge about the Italian DOC system and the region/sub-regions Tuscany encompasses I thought I might acquire a few under-$20 bottles to sip and review. It also made sense to pair these wines with some Italian meats, cheeses and olives for a broader sensory experience. (Note: we had this tasting on October 6th 2010, the night I started feeling off which ultimately led to my near death and a four day stay in the hospital. I assure you it was not the wine or the food. That event is also why it took me so long to post this, the memory is bittersweet because I knew I didn’t feel well but didn’t think a doctor’s visit was required. Wrong!)

I picked up mixed marinated olives, potato bread, a piece of Il Saggio (aged goat’s milk cheese), a block of Fontina cheese, Prosciutto, Coppa (spicy) and Sopressata at Salumeria Italiana on Richmond St. in Boston’s North End. The shop owners were extremely helpful answering all my questions and they even thought my project was and exciting way to experience the wine and food of different places around the world. My visit ended after tastes of aged balsamic vinegars (one was 25 years old!) and some house olive oils, both of which you can buy directly from them. I added some homemade basil pesto to the mix. It is just so good!

( Get ready to eat! )

I selected the following wines which represent two very different styles of Tuscan wine you can easily find,
  • Castello di Bossi Chianti Classico 2006 (90 pts, $19, available from
  • Villa Antinori Toscana Red 2004 (90 pts, $20, available at NH Liquor stores &

The Castello di Bossi had a nice ruby color and we did note a slight brown shift. At a little under 4 years old my guess would be that it wasn’t well warehoused. The tannins were moderate and we found flavors of dark cherries and a bit of smoke. The aroma of dark fruits was quite obvious when we first approached it. The finish was smooth and had a good length.

The Villa Antinori had a deep red color with a huge aroma of berries. The oak influence was apparent in both the aroma and flavor. We picked up flavors of chocolate and what I said was leather but could have been another combination of earthy flavors. The tannins were potent but not overpowering, and the finish was silky and smooth. The finish lingered and was immensely enjoyable. We have had this wine before and picked it specifically to give it a proper review. I would buy this again and recommend it as a good, accessible Tuscan IGT wine. IGT is a newer designation for wines from Italy that was specifically created so that the Super Tuscans, blends of Sangiovese and typical Bordeaux grapes, would have a category for quality control and marketing.

Because I wasn’t feeling so great my notes on the wine and food pairings are very light and don’t make good sense.. My vague recollection is that both wines paired well but not necessarily with the same foods. The cheese pairings were excellent and of course the meats when paired with the wines offered all sorts of nuances.



Picture citations


(3,4,5) Our own


Elizabeth said...

This post made me happy. I spent three months on a farm and winery in Tuscany. I was able to visit Montalcino, Brunello and other famous wine towns. Your tasting sounds wonderful.

Jill Colonna said...

Great post! Making me wish was there right now. Love your descriptions. I've had the Antinori wine and your tasting notes just take me right back to when we opened that bottle (or 2 ;-)
Good luck on the studying! (someone's got to do it)...

Jason Phelps said...

@Jill - Thank you. The studying is fun when paired with a bottle of wine. Tomorrow night I am going to take a look at a few regions in Germany and a couple of Rieslings. Can't wait!