It may be one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, but Tuscany boasts some of the most forward-thinking winemakers out there, as our annual taste test of this Italian region proved. We bring you the medallists from 2020’s Tuscan Masters.
In the heart of the Old World there’s an ancient area of wine production that has the sheen of something modern. It’s been home to vineyards for centuries, and it’s the source of a famous, fine, and demanding grape, but it’s a region displaying a new-found dynamism, and as a result, drawing in a fresh set of drinkers. What am I referring to? Tuscany.
This part of Italy, encompassing the historic DOCGs of Chianti Classico, Montalcino and Montepulciano, and bastion of the brilliant-but-troublesome Sangiovese, is on trend. It’s cool, exciting, and developing, with a contemporary image that somehow seems at odds with the venerable regions found within its boundaries. Yes, Toscana – to use the correct Italian description of the area – is sexier than the long-established DOCGs it houses. Why is that? After all, the IGT Toscana classification came into being almost 30 years ago, although the Maremma Toscana DOC was formed in 2011 for the coastal part of the region. The reason relates to the freedom IGT Toscana offers producers, and the fact that we are seeing now the high-quality results of past experimentation. The finest wines of such trials, the so-called Super Tuscans of the 1970s and ’80s, now fit within legal regulations, while we are witnessing a wave of brilliant white wines under the Toscana label, along with excellent pale rosés, similar to the pinks that are so popular from Provence.
But the classics offer thrills too. Be they Brunello or Chianti Classico, the standards are higher than ever, with the former retaining its position as one of the world’s great fine wines, and the latter re-establishing its reputation with a new top tier for the greatest expressions, called Gran Selezione.
Toscana may have a trendy ring to it, and encompass a wide range of wine styles, but its sub-regions are reliable go-tos for delicious, ageworthy drops, including the DOC Bolgheri, created in 1994.
With such a variety of DOCs and DOCGs, and a range of grapes, as well as wine styles, some quality guidance is important. This is why we launched the Tuscan Masters, to blind taste the full gamut of wines hailing from this administrative Italian region.
Before we consider the stars of 2020, it is worth nothing that the wines of this part of Italy have a distinctive stamp. Whatever the grape, and notable in the reds especially, is an appealing brightness, as fine dry tannins mix with fresh acidity, even when the wine showcases ripe, fleshy, dark berry fruit flavours.
One of the rising stars of this region are the white wines. Often based on Vermentino, they mix a touch of peach with notes of pink grapefruit and bitter almond to yield something gently oily and palate-cleansing. In keeping with Toscana winemakers’ tendency to play with well-known French grapes, this area can craft wonderful barrel-fermented Chardonnays, like Banfi’s Fontanelle.
Regarding the reds, it would be wrong to single out one variety or source area as being better than another, as the quality levels are high from the classic and modern, although the expressions differ. Proving the value inherent in the Sangioveses of Chianti Classico, the sole Gold medal in the £15-£20 price band this year went to this region – the producer was Contessa di Radda. Not far behind this, however, in the same price category, was a Sangiovese from the Maremma, called Pactio, and a lovely one from Montalcino made by Ciacci Piccolomini.
Between £20 and £30, it was clear that the newer blends incorporating international grapes yielded wines with different tastes but similar high standards as the classics using Sangiovese. It’s why you see Arceno’s Il Fauno gaining a Gold with a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon, and Lucente also picking up the same hard-to-achieve medal with a mix of Sangiovese and Merlot, while the third Gold in this price band, for Lunadoro’s Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, showed the brilliance of Sangiovese in this classic area of Tuscany.
Moving up to the finest wines of the day, ones at over £30, many of the top-scorers were made with the native grape of Tuscany. Be it Arceno’s brilliant, pure Sangiovese Strada al Sasso or Banfi’s always delicious Poggio alla Mura Brunello, which showed better than the same’s producer’s Summus. While the latter is a remarkable wine, because it uses Cabernet and Syrah blended with Sangiovese, despite sourcing all the grapes from Castello Banfi’s estate in Montalcino, it is a Toscana IGT – Brunello must be 100% Sangiovese.
We were also impressed by a pair of top Montepulcianos from Lunadoro, which enticed with their aromas of mandarin, cherry and cedar, and delivered so much appeal on the palate with flavours of stewed red berries, plums, and leather, along with a bright, zesty character, and fine dry tannins.
It was not until the retail price of wines surpassed the £50 barrier that we awarded our first Master. This went to Le Bolle, a Chianti Classico Gran Selezione from Castello Vicchiomaggio, which, once more, showed the wonderful combination of Sangiovese and the top sites of Tuscany, impressing the judges with its ripe cherry and cedar characters, and bright plummy finish.
Powerful but balanced
But, for all the excellent wines created using the native grapes of Tuscany, we had some stars with French imports, in particular Excelsus from Banfi – an expressive, creamy, powerful but balanced red using Cabernet and Merlot grown in Brunello country, even though it cannot state that on the label.
Similarly delicious was a Merlot-dominant Bordeaux blend called Arcanum, by Arceno, using grapes from the great southerly sites of Chianti Classico, to yield a wine with cassis, vanilla and notes of sweet balsamic and cigar box.
Therein lies the excitement of Tuscany. Just when you thought the star wines used Sangiovese from the classic areas, one comes across something remarkable using a set of grapes alien to Italy. But whether the variety is native to the region, or from outside the nation, there’s a Tuscan taste to all the wines.
That is based on something powerfully flavoured but bright, where the fruit is sweet and the tannins dry, the texture is fleshy and final impression taut. Such combinations are rare in the wine world, but prevalent in Toscana.
Please see the tables below, which feature all the medallists from this year’s competition.
White Unoaked Tuscan
White Oaked Tuscan
Red Unoaked Tuscan
Red Oaked Tuscan
|Tenute Piccini||Collezione Oro Chianti Riserva||2017||Silver|
|Agricoltori del Chianti Geografico||Contessa di Radda Chianti Classico||2016||Gold|
|Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona||Rosso di Montalcino||2015||Silver|
|Tenuta di Arceno||Chianti Classico||2018||Silver|
|Rocca delle Macìe||Famiglia Zingarelli||2017||Silver|
|Lunadoro||Rosso di Montepulciano DOC Prugnanello||2018||Silver|
|Banfi||Fonte alla Selva||2018||Bronze|
|Winemakers Club Italia at Monterinaldi||RBW Chianti Classico Reserva||2016||Bronze|
|Tenuta di Arceno||Il Fauno||2017||Gold|
|Lunadoro||Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG Pagliareto||2017||Gold|
|Tenuta di Arceno||Chianti Classico Riserva||2017||Silver|
|Rocca delle Macìe||Ser Gioveto||2016||Silver|
|Tenuta di Arceno||Strada al Sasso||2017||Gold|
|Banfi||Poggio alle Mura||2015||Gold|
|Lunadoro||Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG Gran Pagliareto||2016||Gold|
|Lunadoro||Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG Riserva Quercione||2016||Gold|
|Querciabella||Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva||2016||Silver|
|Campo alla Sughera||Arnione||2015||Silver|
|Rocca delle Macie||Sergio Zingarelli||2016||Silver|
|Tenuta Licinia||Lucinda Riserva||2016||Silver|
|Castello Vicchiomaggio||Le Bolle||2016||Master|
|Tenuta di Arceno||Arcanum||2015||Gold|
|Tenuta di Arceno||Arcanum Valadorna||2015||Silver|
About the competition
With high-quality judges and a unique sampling process, The Tuscan Wine Masters provides a chance for your wines to star, whether they hail from the great vineyards of Europe or lesser-known winemaking areas of the world.
The 2020 competition was judged over two days in November at the Novotel London Bridge Hotel, and was judged by David Round MW, Simon Field MW and Patrick Schmitt MW. The top wines were awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze medals according to their result, and those expressions that stood out as being outstanding in their field received the ultimate accolade – the title of Tuscan Wine Master. This report features the medal winners only.
Please visit The Global Masters website for more information, or, to enter future competitions – giving you the chance to feature online and in print – please call: +44 (0) 20 7803 2420 or email Sophie Raichura at: [email protected]