Lorenzo Chiappini (delegato AIS Apuana), Andrea Balzani (delegato AIS Versilia), Leonardo Taddei (delagato AIS Lucca)
The discovery of the north coast of Tuscany
A journey through the lands of the Vermentino and the great Lucca reds, through tradition and innovation, local and international vines
Our journey starts at the border with Liguria, an area known for its varied and atypical landscape, consisting of the marble mountains, the Apuan Alps with peaks of 2,000 metres, and the sea that soaks the sandy coastline. Beyond the Apuan Alps there is Lunigiana, a green land, seeped in tradition and history. In the Colli di Luni, as in the neighbouring Candia dei Colli Apuani, the master is the Vermentino. Although it is a land of whites, the first red grape varieties are appearing among the terraces: Merlot and Cabernet, which will accompany us throughout our trip, and some small, interesting, indigenous qualities.
COLLI DI LUNI
We are in the provinces of La Spezia and Massa Carrara (Fosdinovo, Aulla and Podenzana areas) where a heroic viticulture, literally squeezed between the mountains and the sea, offers extraordinary wines: great Vermentini characterised by an unmistakable freshness, fruity aromas and the scents of the Mediterranean coast that make a perfect accompaniment to fish dishes and vegetable pies.
CANDIA DEI COLLI APUANI
The wines of Candia dei Colli Apuani DOC are produced in the municipalities of Carrara, Massa and Montignoso. In middle and high Magra Valley the wines have received IGT (Protected Geographic Indication) status. Here, each side of the valley has its own particular local identity, with varying microclimates. The area is difficult to work, perched on the sides of mountains, with terraces in areas where preparing the soil for new plants is problematic. Candia is obtained from the fermentation of the Vermentino grape (and to a lesser extent, of Albarola, sometimes supplemented by Malvasia and Trebbiano Toscano). It is straw-yellow colour with a delicate, intense and sometimes slightly aromatic smell. The taste is dry, fruity, full and aromatic with a bitter after-taste.
We go almost right onto the beaches of Versilia, where the most expressive wines are the Vermentino and the Sangiovese. The three main companies in the area are: Basile Terre del Capitano and Gardini Ripa di Versilia on the hills facing the sea, and Marika Felli Tenuta di Borbone on sandy soils at 0 metres above sea level, just a few hundred metres from the beaches of Torre del Lago. The Versilia’s wines have a flavour that is linked to the seasonal attributes of the place: fresh, fruity and ready wines. The Vermentino is the perfect accompaniment for all fish dishes in the area (including the local delicacies: clam soup, spaghetti with lobster and traditional fried whitebait) except for the Viareggio fish soup that is best accompanied by the, slightly tannic, Sangiovese Versiliese.
A few miles to the southeast, in the Colline Lucchesi DOC, we can touch first-hand the common denominators of our journey: tradition and innovation, native vines and international varieties. The area’s wines are fruit of more traditional Tuscan blends. However, over the last decade there has been an interesting rise in single-varietal wines, both from white and red grapes. Among the companies of note, there is the Tenuta di Valgiano, producer of the most important Colline Lucchesi cru, who has always been a point of reference for the practice of biodynamic agriculture.
Nestling in the same area, the Montecarlo DOC is an enological jewel, to be discovered and appreciated. The Montecarlo white was one of the first to receive the Italian Denomination of Controlled Origin (DOC), back in 1969. There is a wide selection of vines with many French varieties that have been in Montecarlo for over a century alongside the traditional Vermentino and Trebbiano Toscano: Semillon, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon, Roussanne. For the reds, apart from Sangiovese, there are Canaiolo, Ciliegiolo, Colorino and Malvasia Nera as well as Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Among the companies of note, even just for the size of the company, there is the Tenuta del Buonamico that, through targeted investments, is giving a new impetus to the whole area.