The best wines from The Tuscan Masters 2020

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.

Old dog, new tricks: Tuscany

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.

Rising stars

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

Company Name Vintage Medal
Banfi La Pettegola 2019 Silver

White Oaked Tuscan

Company Name Vintage Medal
Banfi Fontanelle 2018 Silver

Red Unoaked Tuscan

Company Name Vintage Medal
Querciabella Mongrana 2017 Silver

Red Oaked Tuscan

Company Name Vintage Medal
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
Fertuna Pactio 2016 Silver
Tenuta di Arceno Chianti Classico 2018 Silver
Rocca delle Macìe Famiglia Zingarelli 2017 Silver
Lunadoro Rosso di Montepulciano DOC Prugnanello 2018 Silver
Banfi Aska 2017 Bronze
Banfi Fonte alla Selva 2018 Bronze
Winemakers Club Italia at Monterinaldi RBW Chianti Classico Reserva 2016 Bronze
Tenuta di Arceno Il Fauno 2017 Gold
Tenuta Luce Lucente 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
Banfi Summus 2016 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
Banfi Excelsus 2016 Gold
Querciabella Camartina 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:

The Tuscan Masters: analysis and results in full

An in-depth analysis of the top-performing styles, regions, and producers from the Tuscan Masters 2019 – the only competition to blind-taste all things Tuscan side-by-side, be it Brunello or Bolgheri, along with the blends of Toscana IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica).

Considering how famous Tuscany has become as a holiday destination for travellers from right across the world, it is perhaps surprising that this region’s wine offer is not better understood, or at least, fully appreciated for its diversity. Of course it’s home to some of the globe’s best known denominations – Chianti Classico, Montalcino and Montelpulciano – but such areas are primarily associated with one grape: Sangiovese, and the distinctive reds it yields, with their wonderful combination of bitter-sweet cherry fruit, and firm tannins.

However, Tuscany, and its Toscana IGT official classification for those wines that fall outside the rules of this region’s protected designations, comprises wines made from a broad sweep of grape varieties, and a wide range of styles. Importantly, such wines are individual, delicious, and, in our view, undervalued for their quality. Among such stars are the whites based on Vermentino; the rosés from the Tuscan coast, particularly the Maremma, and the reds based on blends of Sangiovese with French grapes, from Syrah to Merlot.

Nevertheless, we at db wanted to taste-test the stylistic diversity on offer from Tuscany, as well as discover the hot spots for excellence, and, notably, see if the price-to-quality ratio peaked within the great DOCGs of Tuscany, or outside them.

With this in mind, we launched the Tuscan Masters, a tasting designed to assess all styles of wine from this part of Italy using our usual sampling format. This ensures that the entries are judged without any knowledge of their specific source area, or base grape. The wines are arrange according to style, and grouped into price bands, but the aim is to assess the entries according to quality, and quality alone. This could mean of course that a traditionally-made Chianti Classico might be judged alongside a modern-style Merlot blend from the Maremma. But, with both being approximately the same price, the question the judges must ask themselves does not concern typicity, but excellence for the money. And, it should be noted that both entries could be equally good, but offer a different kind of wine.

So what did we find after a day tasting around 100 Tuscan wines? In general terms, Tuscany offers a vast amount for the wine lover. It yields wines of excellence, with a singular style, from light whites to rich reds, taking in a wide spread of prices, from the entry level to top end fine wine. Crucially, it is an area making wines to a very high standard, and, relative the number of entries, Tuscany received more top scores than any other wine region taste-tested through the Global Wine Masters programme. Our Master of Wine judges were enthused by the complexity of this region’s output, and the way the wines are crafted – which sees an emphasis on refreshment, even when the base product is a lower-yielding south facing vineyard planted with the great red grapes of Bordeaux.

And it is Tuscany’s ability to produce wines with a typically Italianate bitter-sweet character, even with international grapes, that makes it so appealing. In other words, the great wines from this area of Italy are wonderful and inimitable.

Also, the best expressions weren’t from one particular area. Indeed, we awarded Masters – our ultimate accolade – to wines from all the major DOCGS of Tuscany, while we also saw excellence in the blends classified as IGT Toscana.

So, as you can see in the lists of results below, our handful of ‘Masters’ from the day’s tasting included reds from Montepulciano, Montalcino, Bolgheri and Chianti Classico, although, notably, the top expressions from Montepulciano and Montalcino actually employed non-native grapes, and hence they couldn’t carry the name of these famous denominations. This meant that our best wines of the day included two IGT Toscana reds: Banfi’s Bordeaux blend called Excelsus – using Cabernet and Merlot from the slopes of Montalcino – and Avignonesi’s Grandi Annate, a pure barrel-aged Sangiovese from Montepulciano. More in keeping with their source region, a further two Masters were awarded to a Chianti Classico Gran Selezione from Cecchi, along with a Cabernet blend by Campo all Sughera, hailing from the home of Super Tuscan reds, Bolgheri – where Bordeaux grapes dominate.

Considering the styles on offer from Tuscany, starting with the lightest, it was clear that Vermentino is well suited to the Tuscan terroir, particularly the coastal part of the region, Maremma, and can be crafted to produce a range of whites, from the fresh, citrusy, light type, to more full-bodied, peachy style.

The latter richer version can also be suitable for barrel-fermentation and maturation, benefitting from the added nutty complexity of such vessels, just as riper styles of Sauvignon Blanc complement a touch of oak influence.

Among the great examples tasted in this year’s Tuscan Masters were a lovely, peachy, bright Vermentino from Cecchi, called Litorale, hailing from the Val delle Rose in the Maremma DOC.

Also delicious, and made in a similar mould – so bright, fresh, unoaked, but with masses of yellow fruit – was Banfi’s La Pettegola Vermentino, which also comes from the coastal part of Tuscany, using grapes grown in both the Maremma and Bolgheri, which is better known for its great reds from Bordeaux grapes.

However, when it came to a more powerful, barrel-influenced white wine, it was a Chardonnay that impressed, with Banfi’s Fontanelle earning praise from the judges for its combination of creamy toasty characters, and intense lemon fruit.

So what about rosé, or rather, rosato? After all, this is the wine world’s most fashionable category, attracting celebrities, not just as consumers, but as investors – even if such stakes are being taken in France, specifically Provence.

Well, we know from other tastings, notably our Rosé Masters, that Tuscany is the source of some great pink wines, with Frescobaldi’s Syrah and Vermentino Tuscan blend called Alie a gold medallist this year.

Banfi too has proved adept with rosato, particularly its Cost’é Rosé, IGT Toscana, which sees Vermentino prove an excellent component for a Sangiovese-based rosé, with the white grape playing a similar supporting role to the Grenache-based rosés from Provence, where Vermentino is commonly used, but labelled under its French synonym, Rolle.

However, in the Tuscan Masters, it was the brand Ventisei (meaning 26), from Avignonesi that took the top marks for its Rosato, using pure, organically-grown Sangiovese to produce a pink wine that was both refreshing and bursting with ripe red fruit.

Back to the reds, and starting with our Gold medallists among those wines enjoying the freedom of the IGT Toscana classification, one name that attracted plenty of praise, picking up three golds, was Arcanum, for its wonderful, structured reds employing Bordeaux grapes.

Using fruit from the southeast corner of Chianti Classico, this brand – which is owned by Jackson Family Wines – specialises in Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, not Sangiovese, hence its wines are classified as IGT Toscana.

All the labels from this name were delicious, but the most impressive was the Merlot-dominated Arcanum ‘Valadorna’ from the 2013 vintage, with layers of fleshy ripe Morello cherry, sweet balsamic, vanilla and plenty of firm tannins to clean the palate.

Beyond Arcanum, two greats classified under the Toscana IGT tag hailed from Banfi, a name more closely associated with top Brunello, but skilled at much more.

Along with the aforementioned Master-winning Excelsus from Banfi, was this producer’s Summus brand, which sees Sangiovese from Montalcino blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah to create something delicious, lifted, but also richer than a classic red from this part of Tuscany.

But Banfi also wowed the judges with its Fonte alla Selva Chianti Classico, and its Aska Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, along with its single vineyard Poggio alle Mura, proving that it can craft outstanding wines respecting the rules of its regions, as well as through more experimental winemaking that breaks them.

Likewise, Avignonesi, which took home a Master for its Grande Annata IGT Toscana Sangiovese from Montepulciano, also gained a top score – albeit a Gold rather than Master – for its Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Poggetto Di Sopra, complete with its fleshy red cherry fruit, leather, spice, orange zest and dry, fine tannins. Another delicious red from this same well-known area was crafted by Lunadoro, offering a layered, refreshing, traditional wine for sub £30.

Further brilliance was enjoyed among the top wines of Castello Vicchiomaggio – both its Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, and its Ripa Delle More, which sees Sangiovese from the same region blended with Cabernet and Merlot, meaning this wine must forego the name its famous source area, and taken on the IGT Toscana classification.

The judges were also delighted to see a Sangiovese from the more obscure Morellino di Scansano DOCG gain a Gold. Found within the Maremma, this outpost for lovely fleshy cherry-scented reds came from Cecchi.

Nevertheless, the greatest number of top scoring wines based on Sangiovese came from Chianti Classico, with Fattoria Astorre Noti in Ruppiano, Rocca delle Macie, Nittardi, and Querciabella all picking up Golds.

So, while Tuscany is one of the world’s greatest areas for wines, crafting bright whites and roses, food-friendly reds, and concentrated complex fine wines too, the Tuscan Masters highlighted something else. This is the quality and value of top Chianti Classico, a famous name that seems to have fallen somewhat out of fashion relative to its Tuscan neighbours – be they the Bordeaux blends of Bolgheri or the pure Sangioveses of Brunello. In other words, don’t forget Chianti Classico in the search for fine wine from Tuscany. Indeed, it may be the source of Italy’s most keenly-priced great reds.

The wines for the Tuscan Masters were judged over the course of one day at Les 110 de Taillevent in London on 11 July by (left to right): Matthieu Longuère MS, Patrick Schmitt MW, Patricia Stefanowicz MW, and Jonathan Pedley MW