When it comes to Tuscan wines, everyone has heard of Chianti. The big, bold and characterful Italian reds are known for their cherry and violet flavours as well as bags of acidity and tannins. What you probably didn't know is that the region of Chianti is also split down into sub-regions such as Chianti Classico and Chianti Ruffina.
The latter is one of the regions that the Tuscan wine consortium is promoting as an emerging terroir.
Unveiled at Anteprima di Toscana recently, the emerging terroirs are intended to showcase what the region could achieve and help consumers look beyond the Super Tuscans that became infamous in the 70s and 80s.
So just what are these new Tuscan wine regions that we haven't heard about?
Well the Tuscan wine consortium has identified 10: Carmignano, Bolgheri, Elba, Val di Cornia, Montecucco, Morellino di Scansano, Cortona, Chianti (and its sub-regions of Chianti Colli Senesi, Chianti Colli Fiorentini and Chianti Rufina), Valdarno di Sopra and Terratico di Bibbona.
The 10 regions are spread out all over Tuscany, which, along with the varying blends of grapes, give wildly different styles of wines. The mountainous regions produces more mineral wines while the coastal regions offers a fresher style with higher acidity, for example.
Why the new regions?
Of course, as you may well have spotted, Chianti, that incredibly well known wine region, has been thrown into the mix.
In fact, several of the regions have been making wines for hundreds of years. Some, like Valdarno di Sopra and Carmignano claim to have adopted the protected-origin status in 1716, a quantifiable demonstration of quality that's now the basis for the DOC and DOCG classifications in Italy.
But how can they be an emerging terroir?
Well many of these regions are actually incredibly small in size - some only have a handful of producers. As such, they never had the marketing power behind them to stand out. In the case of Chianti, while the region is relatively large, the individual areas are often lost in the crowd.
Over the past few years, with the economic downturn, Italy hasn't always fared so well. However, wine, along with food, has been one of the industries that's seemingly recession-proof for Italy. It seemed natural for major investments to be made in wine and this has in turn allowed the smaller regions to make themselves known for the first time.
The taste test
It's all very well to speak of the smaller regions but are any of the wines any good? I tasted through a selection of the recently released wines, which will be on their way to the shelves later this year.
Tuscany's wine production is mainly focused on the red wines but if you're looking for white wines, there are some excellent ones from Bolgheri. It's a region to the north of Italy with the coast to one side and steep hills on the other, offering dramatic micro-climates.
As far as its status as an emerging terroir, Bolgheri was already known for its Super Tuscan wine Sassicaia so perhaps not so new after all. What is new is the region's relatively recent DOC status.
In terms of red wines, there were again a smattering of lovely examples around the emerging terroirs. The region that stood out for me was Morellino di Scansano, a region to the south of Tuscany that was once better known for its cowboys than for its wine.
Morellino di Scansano had previously been at the DOC status before being upgraded to DOCG in 2007 reflecting a change from the fruity and ready to drink style of wine to something that had greater potential to age.
The wines I tasted, some aged and others not, were filled with rich, plummy fruit with lots of dark cherry notes showing through. With age, some began showing more chocolaty notes that's not too dissimilar to a well-rounded Rioja.
I'm not entirely convinced by the "newness" of these emerging terroirs but if it means that more of the quality wines from smaller regions can come to market, then I'm all the more for it.