Maremma Toscana DOC – making Tuscan wine easier to understand

Wine consumers find it difficult to navigate their way around Italian wine.  

  • Is Brunello a place or an unknown grape variety? Neither of course!  It is the name for Sangiovese in the Montacino region of Tuscany.  
  • Why is Vino Nobile di Montepulciano not made with the Montepulciano variety?  – because the latter is a variety from Abruzzo (a region to the south of Tuscany) while Vino Nobile is principally made from Sangiovese.  
  • What is one to make of the DOC name Montereggio di Massa Marittima, never mind how do you pronounce it?  I love this last named region and its wines. But was it really sensible to name the DOC after a castle which no longer exists appended to the name of the principal town and end up with a DOC with 11 syllables? 

These are a sample of the quandaries in Tuscany which make for befuddlement for non-Italians and probably Italians too.  

As a result, some of the new DOCs, for example Sicilia DOC, aim to cut through the confusion. They are an attempt to make the consumer’s life easier in the hope, of course, of selling more wine.  Similarly, Maremma Toscana DOC was introduced in 2011.  And to state the most important point first, Maremma Toscana DOC does have the word ‘Toscana’ in it which should make it easy for consumers to understand where the wine comes from. Hopefully the name will also carry something of the prestige of Tuscany with it too.  

Maremma Toscana DOC

The rules for the new Maremma Toscana DOC were set out in 2011.  The new DOC is well constructed and suitably flexible.  It recognises that the Maremma – here regarded as co-terminous with the province of Grosseto – is a land of vinous experiment. For every local variety planted there is a similar number of international varieties. In other words it may be that in twenty years time Viognier is as important as Vermentino, Syrah as Sangiovese.  The DOC is very comprehensive but the largest categories are ‘red’, ‘white’ and then multiple varietal wines.  The current rules for these categories are: 

Rosso – minimum 40% Sangiovese plus any red variety/ies permitted in Tuscany in any proportion

Bianco – minimum 40% Vermentino or Trebbiano plus any non-aromatic white variety/ies permitted in Tuscany in any proportion 

Any of the listed varietal wines – in line with the EU-wide standard, a minimum 85% of that variety 

The named varieties for this last category make for interesting reading. For white wine alongside the local Vermentino, Trebbiano and Ansonica, there is Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Viognier. Similarly for the reds, Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Ciliegiolo are accompanied by Alicante, Cabernet [Sauvignon], Merlot and Syrah.  Alicante is actually Garnacha/Grenache but it has been here for 200 years and as such is regarded as a local variety.  These lists reflect what has been grown historically and the French varieties which have flourished here in the last quarter of a century.  Thus you can see that there is flexibility in the DOC. But also by naming these varieties there is a recognition of what does well here. This is a nod towards to terroir – the climate, the soils and the whole package of things that make the Maremma Toscana a region with a developing identity.  

But the DOC does not stop there. It also makes provision for a range of specialist wines – for Vin Santo, for sparkling wine (spumante – bottle or tank-fermented) and for sweet wines made by either the traditional dried-grape method (passito) or as late harvest wines (Vendemmia tardiva).  Unless you plan to make a fortified wine or rather less probably an ice wine, this covers pretty much every option.   

Maremmachevini 2017

The Consorzio of the DOC has now begun to promote itself. They were kind enough to invite me to the second edition of Maremmachevini which we would translate as something like ‘Great wines from the Maremma!’ Last year it was in the principal town of the province, Grosseto, this year in a delightful seaside resort hotel, Roccamare.  41 producers showed their wines, there were about 40 wine journalists present and they were hoping for about 300 wine lovers to come to the tastings on the two evenings.  As is now the fashion, the event was part tasting and part celebration of the Maremma and its wines.  I would like to acknowledge the support of the Consorzio and of the Roccomare for making it possible for Janet and me to attend Maremmachevini on 11-12 June 2017.  

Producers visited

41 producers showed their wines at Maremmachevini 2017.  In addition to a press conference and a walk-around tasting, I was able to visit four of them on the second day of the event: 

Tenuta La Badiola, Castiglione della Pescaia – the Maremma’s new ‘drinkable water’

Pepi Lignana, Il Casalone, Orbetello – trials and triumphs in southern Tuscany

Monteverro – French savoir faire in Capalbio

La Selva, Manciano – German organic farming in southern Tuscany

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