They say that in Tuscany, you can’t drive more than five minutes without finding a vineyard. Just recently, I had the pleasure of shadowing Massimo Cenci, a sommelier and wine lover during a scouting trip for the upcoming Anteprima Vini della Costa Toscana wine fair in Lucca this May 7–8.
I asked Massimo what he liked about his job: “We all know the big names but this is a chance to put the spotlight on the small producers, the people trying new things or rediscovering our heritage. It’s a chance to spend time with people who have a passion for making wine, and I get to try some pretty incredible wine!”
Massimo is right. Tuscany certainly isn’t lacking in big-name producers, whose wines grace Michelin-starred restaurants around the world. But with many vineyards so close to Florence, there’s an incredible number of winemakers out there who are hand crafting wine with a close eye on making it exciting while also integrating new ideas about sustainability and the environment.
The vineyard we are off to visit, I Giusti & Zanza, is one of this new wave of winemakers. Set in the beautiful hills of Fauglia, only 45 minutes outside Florence, Paolo Giusti and Paola Carella have carved out a stunning place in which to make their wines. Their vines are planted in an old-fashioned way, close to one another, something more commonly seen before the war or in France. In so doing, Paolo makes the vines compete with one another, which concentrates the grapes and causes the roots to reach deeper into the soil, a benefit during the hot Tuscan summers. His commitment to taking care of the land he works is impressive—they’ve been certified organic for several years, and the vineyard is carbon neutral.
At I Giusti & Zanza they produce a mix of wines made from international grapes as well as from the local Sangiovese. Paolo believes that 50 percent of a wine comes from the terroir, soil, climate, vine management and the cantina’s traditions, but that the other half is down to the producer’s style. For Paolo it’s important that all his wines, whether they’re made from Syrah or Sangiovese, communicate clearly that they are from Tuscany.
Ninety-five percent of I Giusti & Zanza’s wines are sold abroad, which has become more common amongst smaller producers since the economic crisis. As a result, many small producers have had to look outside Italy to sell their wines. It strikes me that it’s a real loss to the region that so much of the interesting wine produced here is unable to reach the local people, which is just more of a reason to visit local vineyards and wine festivals.
Massimo remarked, “This is one reason that events like the Anteprima are so interesting. It’s often the only chance locals have to try some of the wines made right on their doorstep.”
From this tasting alone it is clear that the lesser-known Costa Toscana is offering up some fascinating wines and that a trip to the Anteprima in May offers a great chance to restock your wine racks with some real gems.
Types of wines tasted
Nemorino White 2013—a blend of Trebbiano and Semillon and one of my favourites of the day; a pleasing blend of ripe body with good acidity
Belcore 2014—a Sangiovese and Merlot blend from a difficult vintage, meaning that grapes usually destined for the Grand Cru ended up here; surprisingly elegant with hints of violet
Perbruno 2013—Syrah; a surprisingly fresh Syrah with a strong spicy, green pepper finish
Dulcamara 2012—Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot; a ripe, reasonably high in alcohol wine that still retains a surprising amount of freshness to it
Vigna Vecchia 2011—old-vine Sangiovese bottled only in magnums; an elegant yet intense wine that is a true love letter to the traditions of wine growing in the region
Anteprima Vini della Costa Toscana
Il Real Collegio di Lucca
piazza del Collegio 13, Lucca
Tickets cost 20 euro. Open from 12 noon to 10pm.