Tuscan wines still claim fame

Renewed recognition for long-time tradition

Editorial Staff
May 26, 2005

May has become the unofficial month of wine in Tuscany. With various festivals, auctions, and events that will conclude with “Cantine Aperte” (Open Cellars) on May 29th, this is one of the best periods of the year to enjoy the wines Tuscany has to offer.


Although Tuscany’s most recent claim to fame in the wine world may be the emergence of numerous “Supertuscan” wines on the international market, other local wines, like Chianti Classico, that the area has always been known for, are still holding onto their popularity.


In fact, it seems that interest is growing in new demographics; recent data shows that an increased number of younger people and of women aspiring to join the ranks of professional sommeliers in Tuscany. At last count, sommeliers in this region had reached 3,500. And, as of last week, this group includes a member of the regional government. At a wine-tasting competition held in Florence last weekend, Vice-President Riccardo Nencini was awarded the title of Honorary Sommelier in recognition of his support of quality wines and his acknowledgement of the difficulties related to wine making in Tuscany.


The national wine festival “Alla Corte del Vino,” held each year in San Casciano Val di Pesa, opened last week with a benefit auction of some of the best wines from all over the country. And in another tribute to Tuscan wine’s continued popularity, the top seller was a 2002 Sassicaia, which sold for a hefty 5,000 euro. Other Tuscans that managed to earn top bids at the benefit auction were a double magnum 1999 Ornellaia, which sold for an impressive 1,300 euro, and a 5-litre Sassoalloro by Jacopo Biondi Santi, which went for 1,000 euro.


The annual Open Cellars Celebration, which opens winery doors to the public on the last Sunday of May, originally began as a Tuscan wine event, and because of its success, has now expanded to every region in Italy.


Nevertheless, not everything is rosy for the Tuscan wine industry.


Disturbing news has come from regional health officials who recently discovered the presence of the parasite “Flavescenza dorata.” Once the strain has invaded, it ultimately destroys 90% of an infected vineyard. In an unprecedented attempt to block the spread of this dangerous parasite, officials have ordered vineyard owners to treat their grapevines should they find any trace of the organism. Some areas of Tuscany, like Massa Carrara, have been obliged to treat plants even though the parasite’s presence has not been verified.


“Flavescenza dorata” was brought to Europe from the United States in 1966 and has slowly made its way through France and northern Italy, until finally reaching Tuscany this year. Though the parasite is very aggressive and destructive, hopes are that this preventive treatment will impede damage to one of Tuscany’s most prospering and important industries, that of wine.

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