Rich Cook’s Tuscan Tips

We wanted to give you an expert’s look at the best sites Tuscany had to offer, so we spoke to Rich Cook of Wine Review Online, a self confessed lover of the area and wine aficionado to share some of his top tips straight from Tuscany!

“Tuscany is home to some of the great wines of the world. Its signature grape, Sangiovese, and its landscape are perfectly suited for each other. Each region within the province has something different to offer, and each region focuses a large portion of its production on what works well at the local table. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights of the area, along with some tips for your visit.

Florence is near the center of it all, and makes a great place for a home base to day trip from. In the city don’t miss the Duomo, Michelangelo’s David, the Uffizi gallery, and make sure you get up above the city and drink in the view.

Above Firenze


Chianti is arguably Italy’s most famous wine region. It has the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (or DOCG) which is the mark of highest quality. In Chianti, Sangiovese is king. Wines bearing the Chianti DOCG band must contain at least 75% Sangiovese, and can contain other grapes that grow in the region – mostly Caniolo and the white grapes Malvasia Bianco and Trebbiano.

Almost every winery in Tuscany produces a Chianti, though the blends may vary. In Chianti Classico, a sub-region of Chianti, only red grapes may be used. It’s useful to know a couple of extra label designations: Superiore means that the wine has a little more aging and a touch more alcohol than the regular bottling, and Riserva means that the wine has been aged an additional year.

Beyond the DOCG designation, many wineries produce wines labeled Toscana Indicazione Geografica Tipica (or IGT), meaning wines that are grown and produced in the region that don’t fit the requirements of the DOCG laws. This doesn’t mean that these wines are of inferior quality. Some of Italy’s most famous and well respected wines carry this designation, like Antinori’s Tignanello and Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia “Super-Tuscans.”

Where to visit for an authentic Chianti experience?

Isole e Olena

They make fine Chianti Classico, an excellent Toscana IGT called Cepparello, and their Vin Santo is one of Italy’s best dessert wines.

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The barrel ropm at Isole e Olena

Castello Di Fonterutoli

One of the best Chianti Classico wines made, and some excellent super Tuscan blends including Siepi.

Fattoria di Nittardi

If you’re a fan of fine art, fine wine and grappa (Italy’s liquor distilled from spent grape skins) be sure to add Fattoria di Nittardi to your itinerary. Their artist series Chianti Classico is fabulous, as is their Nectar Dei Maremma Toscana IGT. Their barrel aged grappa is the best I’ve ever tasted.

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The view at Fattoria di Nittardi


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Castello Banfi

This district in southern Tuscany has a fantastic lineup of wines that are relative bargains in the region, ranging from its Centine Rosso at around 8 euro to its flagship Brunello Di Montalcino, Poggio all’Oro Riserva at about 60 euro. It also has a beautiful glass museum that shows the history of the wine glass, including a vessel designed by Picasso.

Other Highlights

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Enoteca la Vena di Vino, Volterra

The hilltop town of Volterra has a great wine bar called Enoteca la Vena di Vino – ask to see the dungeon if it’s not too busy.

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Enoteca Italiana

The Enoteca Italiana in Siena is another great stop – it displays bottles from every region in Italy and has a wealth of wine information.

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Finally, no visit to Tuscany is complete without a trip to the farmer’s market. The market moves from town to town six days a week, and it’s the best way to really experience the local life. Stop in, observe how the locals do it, and jump right in. Then take the spoils back to your place and cook up an authentic Italian feast. Wine always tastes its best when it’s consumed close to its home with foods that grow right alongside.

For any of these visits, an important tip is to be sure to call ahead and arrange an appointment, and plan to stay for a couple of hours. Very few wineries have tasting rooms with regular hours, and they like to have a chance to properly prepare for your visit.”

If you have specific questions about the wines of Tuscany or other places to visit in the area,be sure to contact me at


Rich Cook has been writing about wine since 2008. He contributes wine reviews to along with a host of respected wine writers. He directs two major wine competitions in California, and travels the world in search of great wines.

All photos ©Rich Cook

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