The Terroirist: Tuscan Terroir

A column about the new wines coming to Toronto this week

Italy is a country nearly dedicated to the vine. With more hectares dedicated to growing grapes than any country save Spain, and with vineyards stretching the entire territory from the boot to the Alps it is a nation that truly has wine in its heart.

It also has unimaginable diversity in its wines - perhaps more so than anywhere else. Even within one wine region, the variety of styles is huge. In recognition of this, the current Vintages release (out Saturday) is focusing its attention on the wines of one of the better known Italian regions, Tuscany. It's also where this week's Something Red is from: the Prunatelli Chianti Rufina Riserva 2003 (Tuscany, Italy, $16.95, 938258) a light ruby coloured wine that is full of tofee, earth, mint, smoke, and raspberry on the nose. On the palate, it is very dry with slightly dusty tannins and intense flavours of raspberry, cherry, earth, mint, and smoke. I'd drink it now, but it can probably keep for a few more years. It would go beautifully with a pasta in a tomato mushroom sauce.

Tuscany is also the home to Something to Dream About for this week, the Mazzei Tenuta Belguardo 2003 (Tuscany, Italy, $56.95, 678326). This wine, labeled as an IGT rather than a DOCG because of its high Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot content, is a dark inky brick red in colour. The nose, which starts off fairly closed, but opens as it breathes is replete with toast, smoke, clback cherries, leather, and tar. On the palate is it gigantic and full bodied, with tightly packed flavours of blueberries, blackberries, dark chocolate, toast, and espresso. A really top-flight wine that would benefit from four or five years in the cellar. After that, serve it with steak,.

Leaving Italy, Germany is the home to this week's Something White. The Mades Riesling Spatlese 2003 (Mittelrhein, Germany, $21.95, 597484) is one of those perfect summer wines that we have about another two weeks to enjoy. A deep gold in colour, this medium sweet Riesling offers aromas of lime, earth, minerals, and a touch of petrol on the nose. On the palate, the acid easily balances out the sweetness, and lets the flavours of lime, mineral, earth, and granny smith apples shine through. If there's another great day this summer before the cold sets in, enjoy it now and reflect back on the summer - if not, this wine will only keep improving for the next five to eight years, so don't feel pressures. When it's ready, have it with some spicy pad thai, or just on it's own.

Cheers everybody.

The Terroirist is published every other week on a Thursday

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