Tuscany’s Best Summer Wines
The weather is still warm as we’re creeping up on my favorite season of the year in Tuscany- Fall. There’s just something about the angle of the sun and length of the shadows as the days start to get slightly shorter and the nights get just long enough to allow the earth to cool a little bit. But before we get too deep into fall, when the rain starts and the coats come out, before the grapes get too dark and heavy on the vines, let’s take a moment to appreciate some of Tuscany’s best summer wines.
The first thing you should know is that Italians drink red wine year round. There’s no off season for Chianti. While I respect that and also enjoy a bold Tuscan red any time of year, warm summer days make me think of a nice, slightly chilled (but not overly-chilled) white wine. And there are some lovely white varieties to enjoy.
The picturesque hills surrounding San Gimignano is the locale for the grapes grown for Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Visit the area for the views, of course, but don’t miss out on the crisp, refreshing Vernaccia, which is thought to be the oldest grape variety in Tuscany. Historical records from the 13thcentury include mentions of Vernaccia, and even Dante’s Inferno makes reference to the variety in his description of a gluttonous Pope. So you know it must be good. Vermentino is another popular white wine variety from Tuscany. It grows closer to the ocean and has salt undertones along with its fruity, floral flavor.
No discussion of summer wines would be complete without mention of Prosecco. Not only does the light, dry, bubbly beverage qualify as one of Tuscany’s best summer wines- It is one of the most versatile drinks around, in my opinion. Meeting friends for a pre-dinner cocktail and you know it’s going to be a long night out? Order a Prosecco. Just sat down at your table and the waiter is ready to pour your first glass of the night? Order a Prosecco. Heading to a party and wanting to contribute something fun? Bring a bottle of Prosecco. Although some may think of Prosecco as a poorer version of its French cousin Champagne, I like it better. In fact, I like it enough to have written a blog post a couple of years ago dedicated to its history and some Prosecco fun facts, here.
Even if it’s a cliché and a hashtag, I’m squarely on board with Rosé all day. If you think about it, it just makes sense. Picture yourself on a hot summer day in Tuscany. You’ve spent the morning with a leisurely walk from your villa to town for a cappuccino. Then you drive out to a medieval hilltop village to shop, people-watch and have lunch. What goes perfectly with any Tuscan lunch, whether it be a caprese salad, prosciutto and melon or a hand-made pasta? Rosé. It’s light, not too sweet, and it’s pink. Now it’s time to head back to your villa. The weather is warm and the pool is inviting. What’s the perfect poolside beverage? Rosé. It’s wonderfully chilled, slightly fruity, and for heaven’s sake it’s pink. Perfect.
I should mention that Rosé is referred to as Rosato (Italian for pink) in Tuscany. But it is the same concept. The Florentine recently ran a story about lovely Tuscan Rosato wines here. It gave me the idea to write this article… and made me a little bit thirsty.