What Are the Best Tuscan Wine Pairings?

Kathy Merchant | Tuesday, Apr 7th 2020
Tuscan wine

What Are the Best Tuscan Wine Pairings with Food?

Tuscan cuisine is based oncucina povera,” a rural style based on seasonal and natural ingredients. These include olive oil, unsalted bread, wild mushrooms, vegetables, and either salt-cured or grilled meats. So what wines do you pair with this rustic cuisine? The region itself offers perfect Tuscan wine and food pairings to share with friends and family.
Here is a recap of our list of best Tuscan wine pairings, with details following the list!
  1. Older Pecorinos are best with a red Sangiovese-based wine. Try a Brunello di Montalcino or Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
  2. Young Pecorino cheese with white Vermentino from neighboring Liguria.
  3. Antipasta selections with red Vino Nobile or white Vermentino, or a Sangiovese rosé.
  4. Soup:  la ribollita and pappa al Pomodoro with Chianti Classico.
  5. Pasta: pici (fat spaghetti) with veal ragu with Brunello, Vino Nobile, or Chianti Classico.
  6. Grilled meats with Brunello di Montalcino 
  7. Game meat with Brunello di Montalcino
  8. Fish with Vino Nobile de Montepulciano
  9.  Dessert with Vin Santo
 

Tuscan Red Wines

Tuscany is best known for its acidic, age-worthy red wines. More than 80% of Tuscany’s vineyard area is planted to red grapes. Although the name of the Sangiovese grape never appears on wine labels, it is the primary grape in Tuscany’s three most important red wines:
 
  • Brunello di Montalcino
  • Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
  • and Chianti Classico
 
These are the names that appear on labels. Super Tuscans are also regarded Tuscan wines. They are based on Cabernet Sauvignon and other international grape varieties.

Tuscan White Wines

The most important Tuscan whites are Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Trebbiano Toscano, and Malvasia Bianca Lunga.
 
  • Vernaccia is an ancient grape, indigenous to the hill town area of San Gimignano. Crisp and delicate, with floral and almond notes, it is not grown to any remarkable degree anywhere else in the world.
  • Trebbiano is the region’s workhorse grape. It is neutral in character, used in blends to add acidity. It is also used to make the sweet dessert wine Vin Santo.
  • Malvasia is used today in the production of Vin Santo.
  • Moscadello di Montalcino, a specialty of Tuscany, is a slightly bubbly sweet wine.
 

Menu choices for your next Tuscany inspired meal:

Tuscan Wine and Cheese Pairings

Pecorino Toscano DOC is Tuscany’s most important cheese. It is made from 100% sheep’s milk. While Pecorino is made all over Tuscany, Pienza is the region’s most prolific supplier. Pecorino can be eaten young and fresh. It can also age for months. This yields a hard texture (like aged Parmigiano-Reggiano) and nutty flavor. It is best served as a component of a meal. Try with antipasti, a salad course, with crusty bread. It pairs well with a light main meal, or for dessert served with fresh fruit or fig jam.Young Pecorino cheese pairs best with white wine such as Montenidoli Vernaccia di San Gimignano. (Some Vernaccia wines are lightly oaked, including a few from the Montenidoli range, but this will not contradict the wine/cheese flavor match.)
 
  • Older Pecorinos are best with a red Sangiovese-based wine. Try a Brunello di Montalcino or Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. 
  • In the springtime, young Pecorino cheese paired with fresh fava beans is a Tuscan favorite. A refreshing white Colle Massari Melacce Vermentino is a lively choice to usher in the spring season. Crisp Vermentino wines from neighboring Liguria could also add sparkle to the dish.

Antipasti (Appetizer)

Alongside Pecorino Toscano, a typical antipasti spread will include olives, salumi made from Tuscany’s cinghiale (wild boar), crostini (canapés topped with paté or vegetables), and bruschetta (pronounced “brew-sketta”). There are many flavors at work on an antipasti platter, so white and red wine selections mentioned above work well.

Primi (First course)

In keeping with its rustic roots, a Tuscan meal includes a bread-based zuppe (soup) rather than pasta for the first course of a meal.
 
  • The classics are la ribollita and pappa al pomodoro. La ribollita’s main ingredients always include leftover bread, cannellini beans, lacinato kale, cabbage, and inexpensive vegetables such as carrot, beans, chard, celery, potatoes, and onion. This dish pairs very well with a bottle of Chianti. 
  • Pappa al Pomodoro is another bread-based soup with tomatoes, bread, olive oil, garlic, basil, and other fresh ingredients. Some whites may help offset the acidity of the tomatoes, but a sure bet is a Chianti or Chianti Classico.
  • If pasta is your favorite primi, try Tuscan specialties such as pici (fat spaghetti) with veal ragu or a restaurant’s house-special ravioli. Any of the 3 suggested reds (Brunello, Vino Nobile, or Chianti Classico) could work.

Want to taste great Tuscan wine and food in Italy? Join one of French Wine Explorers group or private tours to Italy!

Secondi (Main Course)

Tuscan main courses can include a variety of options.

  • Grilled meats are common as an entrée. Tuscany is perhaps known best for Bistecca all Fiorentina, a large Porterhouse steak shared by two (or more) people.
  • Game meat, such as rabbit, is found in a specialty dish of stewed rabbit with olives.
  • The Tuscans who live along the coastline often include fish.

Tuscan Wine Pairings for the Main Course:

  •  For meat lovers, the bigger the wine the better!
  • Several great choices of Brunello di Montalcino include Casanova di Neri, Poggio di Sotto, and Il Poggione.
  • Fish dishes generally pair better with lighter reds such as Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Dolci (Dessert) 

Vin Santo (“Holy Wine”) is a sweet wine made throughout Italy, but is decidedly a Tuscan favorite.

  • It is made from white grapes, Malvasia and Trebbiano, which are dried on cane mats or hung to dry in bunches from rafters.
  • After several months, the grapes are pressed and then aged for at least three years in buildings where the temperature can rise and fall with the seasons.
  • The resulting wine can range from dry (slightly oxidized like Sherry) to sweet and opulent.
  • Vin Santo can be enjoyed on its own, or served with almond cookies called Cantucci or Biscotti di Prato. Frescobaldi is a large, well known producer of many styles of wine, including Vin Santo.

The cuisine of Tuscany is one of comfort and familiarity. It offers the perfect meal–and the perfect Tuscan wine!– for a summer’s day, or a winter’s night.

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