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Text Guido Ferrini (delegato AIS Pisa), Paola Rastelli (delegato AIS Livorno), Antonio Arrighi (delegato AIS Elba)

July 20, 2015

The great wines of the central coast of Tuscany

Discovering the world-famous coastal wine-making lands between Pisa and Livorno

Between the provinces of Pisa and Livorno exists a galaxy of macro and micro zones highly suited to winemaking, with the mother of Tuscan coastal wines, Bolgheri, at the centre. Born and bred grape growers,  prestigious winemakers, and all those who have fallen in love with this region and its wines.

Heading south, we pick up our itinerary in the province of Pisa, in the high Valdera, a hilly area between Lajatico, Lari, Palaia and Terricciola exceptionally adapted to vineyards due to the light and winds from the sea and an ideal climate. We are in the areas called DOC Terre di Pisa and DOCG Chianti Colli Pisani, known for Sangiovese, even though Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot are also produced here with excellent results. In the white grape vineyards (we’re also in the DOC Bianco Pisano di San Torpé area), Trebbiano grows alongside Vermentino and Chardonnay. These are the lands of Ginevra Venerosi Pesciolini (president of the association Grandi Cru della Costa Toscana) and the Ghizzano Estate, of Gaslini Alberti (Unipol/Sai Group) in Badia di Morrona, of Andrea Bocelli and younger brother Alberto, producers at the Bocelli family business. An area little known when compared to its explosive potential, but also one that holds big surprises in the future,  many of which are revealing themselves now.

Farther south, we move closer to the beating heart of the Tuscan coast, Bolgheri, with its DOC status of the same name, along with the sub-region Sassicaia. First, however, we stop at the inland area of Montescudaio DOC, a zone currently experiencing a modern-day renaissance. Alongside a good number of traditional producers, also present today are some of the most celebrated names and internationally-known figures in the world of wine. The surface area comprises the Pisan province towns of Volterra, Casale Marittimo, Guardistallo, Montescudaio and Riparbella. The vineyards, generally in hillside positions, benefit from an ideal microclimate and strong light, factors that imbue the wines with fresh aromas of notable intensity, good structure and elegance.

Our itinerary takes us past the vast, hilly vineyards on the Livornese coast, in Collesalvetti, Rosignano Marittimo, Cecina and Bibbona. This sandy terrain with its high iron content is particularly suited to viticulture. To the northeast, the reds are light and mild (to pair with salami, local cured meats, and the wood-fire baked breads of Montegemoli and  Rosignano), while the whites are flavourful, fresh, and aromatic (perfect with local baked fish); to the southwest, on the other hand, the wines have stronger characteristics, from rich aromas to black fruit, full-bodied and suited for pairing with wild game, abundant in the surrounding hills.

Here we are in the winemaking pearl of the Tuscan coast, a DOC zone recognized even by those less in-the-know, which in 50 years claimed a place of honour among the greatest international wine-makers. And to think, before the great challenge Mario Incisa della Rocchetta took on in 1944, the estates of Bolgheri and Castagneto Carducci (in the Livornese Maremma) were known only for wheat and corn, peaches and olives, with the exception of Antinori’s production of an historic rosé, Scalabrone. A revolution that brought the cultivation of Cabernet, turning it into an aging wine just a few meters from the sea, in a zone considered poorly adapted to vineyards, and resulting in Sassicaia (in 1968). This led the way for other producers who, in the course of one decade, launched a winning model of production. The labels were simple red table wines, which came to be called Super Tuscans, a definition that privileged the wine, not the territory. Finally, in 1994 came the recognition of DOC Bolgheri and the sub-region Sassicaia (the only Italian DOC linked to a wine). The rest is history, one not only of great reds (DOC Bolgheri and DOC Bolgheri Superiore, and of course the IGTs, here considered prophets welcome in their hometown), but also of superb whites and excellent rosès. And above all the history of one-of-a-kind wine producers and grape growers.

With two DOCGs, Val di Cornia and Suvereto, this land of great reds, the syntheses of varying percentages of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, from which result intense aromatic masterpieces. The area comprises Campiglia Marittima, Monteverdi Marittimo, San Vincenzo, Sassetta and Suvereto (we are at the final offshoot of the Livorno province). Among the producers in this area of great wine interest are the historic Tua Rita, Petra di Vittorio Moretti (producer of Bellavista in Franciacorta and owner of Andana restaurant in Castiglione della Pescaia run by 1 Michelin Star chef Alain Ducasse), and the biodynamic Bulichella of Miyakawa Hideyuki (president of the Val di Cornia Consortium).

A few hours by boat are needed to arrive at the island of Elba, to appreciate the Elba DOC, in particular the white wine obtained from Ansonica and Procanico (a particular variety of Tuscan Trebbiano that has always grown on this island) as well as great dessert wines, including the recent DOCG Elba Aleatico Passito. Today, inland Elba is witnessing a true rebirth of winemaking, heroic in name and in fact. The dessert wines are a point of brilliance: Aleatico is difficult to produce but results in one of the most fascinating products of this island microclimate, and is one of the few sipping wines with unforgettable pairings, such as chocolate. The vineyards are found throughout the island, often in extremely suggestive landscapes. Aleatico is also produced on the former penitentiary island of Gorgona, with a new project headed by Frescobaldi and an organic producer, La Piana, the only existing producer on the island of Capraia.


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