The zones described here are primarily by grape variety – which areas concentrate on wines made from Sangiovese or other local grapes (eg Trebbiano or Ansonica for whites) and which predominantly use international (ie French) varieties.
This large area runs from Grosseto down to the boundary with Lazio but also inland to the evocative Etruscan hill town of Pitigliano, the tourist highlights of hot springs at Saturnia, and the picturesque towns of Sovana and Sorano. From a wine point of view the capital is undoubtedly Scansano, which gives its name to the famous Morellino di Scansano. It is difficult to know which is more beautiful – the Etruscan inland, the coast or the excellent and good value wines, but you don’t have to choose … The main varieties inland are Sangiovese of course (for which Morellino is the local name) and Trebbiano for whites.
Northern Maremma: Massa Marittima and Montecucco
The Northern (or upper) Maremma is the largish zone where the main red grape is Sangiovese. Massa Marittima is a magnificent hill town, surrounded by agricultural concerns until you get into the hills, the Colline Metallifere which in the past brought employment through mining. Montecucco is inland and swings below the plateau of Montalcino, south of the river Ombrone. Grosseto, the provincial capital, marks the southern edge of this zone. From a wine point of view, alongside plenty of experimentation, the main thrust is on good value, warmer climate, Sangiovese.
Bolgheri, Val di Cornia and Montescudaio
The name of Bolgheri hogs the headlines. It was here that the Super Tuscan phenomenon was borne and the wines of Sassicaia and Ornellaia continue to vie for the world’s top wine prizes – and prices. But what marks it out as a zone is the prevalence of ‘international’ grape varieties, ie the French classics of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and, latterly, Syrah. Here you will only find the occasional vineyard of Sangiovese or any other Tuscan variety.
Bolgheri, 75 kilometers south of Pisa, is a very pretty village with a lovely B&B, loads of restaurants and the excellent Enoteca Tognoni where you can buy wine by the glass, the bottle or the case … The vineyards, a few kilometers from the sea, can be surveyed from the Via Bolgherese as you head south to Castagneto Carducci. Driving down here is like driving through a wine list … it’s very exciting and in your excitement you have to try to avoid knocking down the serious road cyclists who flock to this area as well.
What I have called the zone is in fact at least three areas: Bolgheri, the Val di Cornia to the south and Montescudaio to the north. They are adjacent and they concentrate on the trendy French grapes. Some charge Super Prices for being Super Tuscan, others don’t. Some great wine is made, at both the top level and at more affordable levels too.
The Coast and islands
For this purpose, we will call the coast the areas which specialize in the two quality whites of the area: Vermentino (which is attempted all over the Maremma) and Ansonica (which thrives in the Southern Maremma, around the Argentario promontory). Vines are also grown on the islands of the Tuscan archipelago, especially Elba, because of its size, not to mention its crowds of thirsty tourists.