Morellino di Scansano DOCG

On the south side of the Ombrone river (of which the Orcia is a tributary), south-west of Montalcino, this appellation is the best known of the southern Maremma. The appellation was elevated from DOC to DOCG status with the 2007 harvest.

The appellation’s name is a compound of Morellino – a synonym for Tuscany’s ubiquitous Sangiovese, and so named after the skins of the indigenous Morelli horses whose dark skins reflect the colour of the wine – and Scansano, the small town at the heart of the appellation.

Historically the zone follows the same story of elsewhere in the Maremma: inhabitation and vine cultivation by the Etruschi; then commercial success with the Romans, who exported the region’s wines to the colonies; followed by depopulation and decline into malaria-infested swampland after the fall of the Roman Empire. By the middle ages grape production was limited to family consumption and local trade. With the 18th Century, some advantage arose for Scansano by virtue of the summertime growth of the population by the Grossetani who sought escape from malaria each year.

The appellation is a mix of soil types, largely shallow with rocky outcrops, and grouped, broadly speaking, with sandstone to the west and more complex limestone and clay in the east.

The disciplinare stipulates a minimum of 85% Sangiovese, with 15% of other regional grapes permitted, including Alicante (Cannonau/Grenache), Ciliegiolo and Merlot. Yields are restricted to 90 tonnes per hectare.

With its warm Mediterranean climate, a typical Morellino di Scansano is soft and fruity, with the vines enjoying less dramatic day/night temperature changes as a result of the moderating influences of breezes from the Tyrrenhian Sea; while the Riserva, which must spend a minimum two years ageing, of which one in oak, is fuller in body, complexity and structure.

Bolgheri DOC

A discussion about the Bolgheri DOC in the context of human activity on these soils is very new history. Evidence on the surrounding hillsides dates to 12th century BC. That the Etruscans were making wine here before the Greeks colonised the Italian mainland makes it one of the first areas in Europe to see the cultivation of the vine.

In 1983, the success of Sassicaia encouraged a number of other producers, among them Michele Satta, to create the Bolgheri DOC. At the outset the DOC protected only white and rosé wines, neither of which were seen as especially noteworthy, with red wines, now known as Super Tuscans, falling under the basic Vino da Tavola appellation. It took until 1994 for red wines to be protected under the disciplinare, which allowed for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In 2011 the disciplinare was updated to permit wines from a single varietal of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Cabernet Franc.

Physical characteristics

The Bolgheri DOC occupies a 13km x 7km strip of land in the northern Maremma, between the coast and the inland hills. Most of the vines are on what was uncultivated, malaria-ridden swampland which was only drained in the first half of the 20th century.

Bolgheri Cypresses
Bolgheri itself is a beautiful hamlet which was fortified against coastal raiders in the 10th Century.
A famous 5km cypress-lined avenue runs arrow-straight from the hamlet to the gate of Tenuta san Guido.

The conditions are perfect for the cultivation of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other French varietals, which traditionally grow in the (cooler and more humid) maritime climate of Bordeaux. The sea moderates the surrounding temperature, reducing vine stress and, as Michele Satta puts it, “a more fluid functioning of the secondary metabolism”. Over the course of the growing season, the amount and intensity of sunlight is ideal for the vines’ photosynthesis. This is in part due to the region’s latitude, but also because the sun reflects off the sea: the gentle slope of the land on which the vineyards are planted provides the perfect angle for the plants to capture it. Rain falls most during the vegetative stages, helping the vine to grow, and more sparsely during the period of maturation, prompting it to dedicate its energies to ripening its fruit rather than growing its canopy.

The soils are diverse (Prof. Attilio Scienza identifies 27 units) and include pebbly, gravelly alluvial soils born on rivers from the Colline Metallifere behind; marine soils of clay, limestone and sand from where the area had previously been covered by the sea; and some volcanic soils. The soils are deep, with water-retaining properties which allow the plants’ roots to access water even in periods of drought. Although the growing area is warmer than the inland hills, it is still 1℃ cooler than the neighbouring coastline, by virtue of sea breezes which are channeled through the Tuscan archipelago. This gives the wines elegance and freshness. Winds consistently aerate the vines, reducing humidity and helping to prevent fungal disease.

The red wines of Bolgheri DOC

The typical blend is of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Smaller additions of Petit Verdot, Syrah, Sangiovese and, on occasion, other varietals (Michele Satta, for example, includes 10% Teroldego in his Bolgheri DOC). Increasingly, some winemakers are making single varietal wines of intensity and ageing potential.

The aromas of the reds of Bolgheri DOC are of black fruits, balsamic notes and Mediterranean maquis. Structurally the wines are round and supple, dry with detectable fruit sweetness, and fresh acidity. The tannins are velvety and dense and the finish is long and satisfying.

In the Bolgheri DOC yields are limited to 90 tonnes per hectare with a minimum ageing of one year. Merlot and Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc may be present in any proportion. Syrah and Sangiovese are capped to 50% of the blend; other varieties can represent no more than 30%.

For the Bolgheri DOC Superiore, yields are 80 tonnes per hectare and ageing is a minimum two years, of which one in oak barrels. The composition is the same as for the Bolgheri DOC.

The white and rosé wines of Bolgheri

Although the appellation is now famed for its red wines, traditional production was for whites and rosés: indeed, the initial 1983 disciplinare only allowed for these. The whites tend to be Vermentino-dominated (see Michele Satta’s Costa di Giulia, for example) with Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier as the blending partners. There is very little oak ageing in the Bolgheri DOC: Vermentino is a semi-aromatic varietal and the focus is on ensuring refreshing acidity to balance the richer fruit flavours it presents.

The region’s rosés follow the same methodology.

An introduction to the Italian wine regions: Toscana.

From its earliest pre-Roman settlers, the Etruscans, through to the modern day, wine has played a central role in the economy and daily life of Toscana. Ricasoli, Antinori, Frescobaldi: some of the world’s oldest continuously operating companies – not just wine companies, but companies – are those of the great Tuscan wine families.

Italy - Toscana map

In its position at the beginning of the Italian archipelago, Toscana marks the boundary of what is classified Italy’s Mediterranean climate, where one can measure the mitigating influence of sea breezes on day/night temperature and on seasonality; meanwhile the Apuan Alps in the north protect the region from cold, rainy northern weather influences, keeping it dry and warm. It is a large region, the largest of central Italy, and the range of wine styles it produces is correspondingly broad, as represented by the number of DOCGs and DOCs, in which it is second only behind Piemonte.

Coastal vineyards in the Colli di Luni DOC in the north (an appellation which straddles two regions) and in the Maremma (a large area which includes the famous Bolgheri DOC) in the south enjoy the moderating influence of the Ligurian and Tyrrhenian seas. Here, cooler temperatures mean the grapes can hang on to some of their acidity. Away from the coastline, in the hilly hinterland which accounts for fully two-thirds of the region’s terrain and famous appellations such as Chianti Classico DOCG and Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, summers are hotter and winters colder.

Cosimo III de Medici, grand duke of Toscana, made history when he issued the 1716 Bando, a document designed to protect the integrity of winemaking in Chianti, Pomino, Carmignano and Val d’Arno di Sopra. It was the forerunner to what is now the disciplinare (rulebook) of an appellation.

In the 1980’s, a number of Tuscan winemakers broke away from staid tradition, planting French varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. They hired consultant oenologists and employed new techniques in the vineyard and winery. Thus were born the Super Tuscans, a suite of wines which rewrote not only Tuscan winemaking, but red wine production across the region.

As far as oenological imagery goes, no scene is more iconic than the cypress-lined Tuscan vineyard.

A number of Tuscan appellations, wineries and wines are available from Cuculo.

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