Tuscany (Toscana in Italian) is only responsible for around 5% of Italian wine production, but it is by far the most famous region internationally and is dis-proportionally represented on wine lists around the globe. This is perhaps mostly a relic of the importance of the region, both culturally, economically and politically throughout the medieval and renaissance periods and the fact that this has led it to be a tourist destination of worldwide repute, helping cement awareness of the local wines. Its reputation has also been helped by the (relatively recent) abundance of truly fine wines made here. It is the most red region of any in the country with a whopping 87% of production being either red or rosato (double the national average) with most of its iconic wines being made wholly (or mostly) from Sangiovese, which covers 62% of the vineyard area.
The viticultural history of the region dates back to the Etruscan Empire which ruled this part of Italy from the 8th Century BC until it was absorbed by Rome in the 3rd Century. The importance of Tuscany as a cultural and political centre was firmly established in the middle ages and Florence was a key centre for the trading of wine (and not just local wine). By the 14th Century, much of the production was white and often sweet, with the finest wine of the region made in San Gimignano. It is around this time that the acidic variety Vernacchia, still associated with this hilltop tourist trap, first appears by name. Chianti is also first mentioned around this time, but it was a white wine. Right up until the 1950’s, the region was dominated by a few huge estates, owned by the church or local merchant families that were farmed on a share-cropping basis. As this system collapsed after the Second World War, investment ceased and the vineyards fell into a state of disrepair. By the 1970’s, outside investment had begun as plots were bought up, but sadly the clones planted were often chosen for volume, not quality and whilst Chianti gained worldwide fame, the product could not be called a quality one. Throughout the 1970s, 1980s and into the 1990s, Tuscany saw an overhaul in almost all areas: the creation of new DOC and DOCGs, including their expansion and refinement; the planting of French varieties; outside investment in properties; and, a general increase in quality across the board.
There are 41 DOCs and 11 DOCGs in Tuscany, many of which are insignificant and rarely used, with many producers preferring the IGT Toscana for wines not from the more recognisable areas. Those considered to be of greatest importance are: Chianti DOCG/Chianti Classico DOCG; Brunello di Montalcino DOCG / Rosso di Montalcino DOC; Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG / Rosso di Montepulciano DOC; Morellino di Scansano DOCG; Bolgheri DOC / Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC; and, Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG.