Winefriend by David Way

Writing about the wines of Piemonte, Italy and France

Vineyard plantings in the Maremma

What grows where in the province of Grosseto?

One of the highlights of Maremmachevini 2017 was the initial presentation by Luca Pollini, the director of the Maremma Toscana consorzio as he gave an overview of vineyard plantings in the Maremma for the new Maremma Toscana DOC, launched in 2011, in the context of Tuscany as a whole. He presented the statistics of hectares planted and volumes of wine produced. This sort of statistical overview is surprisingly difficult to access and is always revealing.  If one was tempted to think that the Maremma is all Cabernet or Viognier, one should read on.  So what did we learn?  

Maremma Toscana DOC is a big deal

Maremma Toscana DOC is at the very least quantitatively significant: a lot of wine is produced in this denomination. At one level this is not surprising as it could include all the vineyard land in the entire province of Grosseto, at 4,500 square kilometres itself the largest of Tuscany’s 10 provinces. Of course there are other DOC(G)s established here, notably Morellino di Scansano. The new DOC is already being used for 1,760 hectares of the 8,700 hectares of registered vineyard in the province.  As such it has overtaken Morellino in size. And in Tuscany as a whole it only stands behind the behemoth of Chianti (14,300), Chianti Classico (6,600) and Brunello di Montalcino (2,000). This is a slightly invidious comparison of course as these last three denominations basically have one wine each. By contrast Maremma Toscana offers every wine style that a Tuscan winemaker might like to make. But even so the figures are impressive for a new DOC.  And if you want to play the statistical game, you can nudge Maremma Toscana above Brunello into third position by looking at the litres produced in 2016 … 

There are only two big denominations in the province of Grosseto

Within the province of Grosseto the new DOC is top of the pile. Only it and Morellino are large, 1,760ha and 1,370ha respectively.  Second placed Morellino is at least five times bigger than any other DOC(G) in the province. Next up are Bianco di Pitigliano and the Sovana DOCs (over 250ha), then the two Montecucco DOCs (190ha for Sangiovese, 180 for the rest of Montecucco).  Montereggio di Massa Marittima just about gets to 100 ha and the others are tiny: Parrina, a single estate DOC of 23 ha, Ansonica Costa dell’Argentario (13 ha) and the tiddly Capalbio of 1.5ha!  More paper work than grapes perhaps?  

Sangiovese continues to rule! 

Because all the noise on the Tuscan coast is about international varieties and white wines, it would be easy to overlook the fact that Sangiovese still accounts for half of the hectares under vine in the vineyard plantings in the Maremma and its province of Grosseto (48%, 4,200ha).  That is a whopping five times as much as the next variety, perhaps not surprisingly Cabernet Sauvignon at 10%.  In a region which grows more than 26 varieties of any volume, the only other ones which account for more than 5% of hectares planted are Vermentino (nearly 8%), Merlot (nearly 7%)and good old Trebbiano Toscano at just over 5%.  The fanciful notion that there is a lot of the fashionable tribes of Syrah (3.6%), Petit Verdot (2.1%), Alicante/Garnacha (1.3%) or Viognier (1.2%) is just wrong.  The much heralded Pugnitello only squeezes in at 0.2% or 13 hectares.  

Tuscan wine is overwhelmingly DOC(G) wine 

Looking more broadly I was surprised to learn that nearly 70% of the vineyard area in Tuscany produces grapes for DOC or DOCG wines.  IGP (the old IGT) is now about a quarter and unclassified vino just 5% of the hectares under vine.  It is difficult to know what to conclude about this except that it shows a serious level of ambition.  I have not tasted many poor DOC(G) wines – I have not tried that hard! But I would surmise that with the possible exception of some Chianti DOCG there is very little poor wine made in Tuscany any more.  The Tuscan brand has pulled up standards compared to a generation ago.  

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