Altesino’s best-known Brunello, Montosoli, was one of the first single-vineyard Montalcino wines when it was introduced in 1975. Part of a vanguard of ambitious young wineries, Altesino helped elevate winemaking in Montalcino. The property has changed owners, but Claudio Basla is still making its bold, earthy reds.
The Antinori family have been making wine since the 14th century. While their empire now includes estates in nearly every Italian region (and winemaking partnerships around the world), Tuscany remains Antinori’s center of gravity. For such a historic estate, the Antinoris make very modern wines; their Tignanello, for example, effectively created the Super-Tuscan category.
Hans Vinding-Diers made wine on four continents before becoming head winemaker at this Montalcino estate in 2004. Breaking with house tradition, he ferments vineyard lots separately, then blends the best for Argiano’s flagship Brunello. Also in the portfolio are a Super-Tuscan and a mini Super-Tuscan.
Avignonesi is famous for its two Vini Nobili di Montepulciano and its Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice. But also worth weeking out are the nontraditional reds: Desiderio Merlot and 50&50, a Merlot-Sangiovese blend made with Chianti’s Capanelle estate. The Rosso di Montepulciano and Toscana Rosso are great values.
Badia a Coltibuono
This thousand-year-old Chianti Classico estate was an abbey for centuries. The Stucchi Prinetti family bought it in 1846 and, more recently, converted the monastic quarters into a hotel and cooking school. Classic Sangiovese-based reds are the estate’s focus, under the Badia a Coltibuono and Coltibuono labels.
Artist-turned-vintner Bibi Graetz is obsessed with old, native-variety vineyards that many elite Tuscan producers overlook. With his flagship Testamatta cuvée, first released in 2000, Graetz revived the winemaking reputation of Fiesole, a hill town near Florence. Graetz’s offerings include the bargain Casamatta line and the midrange, Sangiovese-based Soffocone and Grilli reds.
The Mariani family had been importing Italian wine to the U.S. for 60 years when brothers John and Harry Mariani decided to become vintners in 1978 and established this Montalcino estate. Expansion into Piedmont brought the Vigne Regali estate into the fold, but Castello Banfi remains the mother ship, with 7,000 acres and a huge output of high-quality Tuscan bottlings.
Castello di Ama
Castello di Ama makes some of Tuscany’s best, and most expensive, Chianti Classicos. Similarly renowned is its Merlot-based L’Apparita cuvée, from the winery’s Gaiole estate. Winemaker Marco Pallanti also produces four more-modestly priced wines, including a Chianti Classico, a white blend and a rosé.
Castello di Fonterutoli
Brothers Filippo and Francesco Mazzei are the 24th generation to run this Chianti Classico estate. In recent years, the family has expanded its vineyard holdings, built a cutting-edge winery and hired legendary winemaker Carlo Ferrini. They’ve also refocused Fonterutoli from Super-Tuscans to Chiantis (though the famous Sangiovese-Merlot blend Siepi remains).
Castello di Monsanto
Castello di Monsanto’s flagship wine, Il Poggio Riserva, was the original single-vineyard Chianti Classico, first made in 1962. It remains one of Tuscany’s greatest wines. Proprietor Fabrizio Bianchi and daughter Laura, along with ex-Ornellaia winemaker Andrea Giovannini, also make a high-end Cabernet (called Nemo), a Chardonnay and a range of Sangiovese-based reds.
Castello di Nipozzano
The Frescobaldi family have been making wine in Tuscany for some 700 years. They own five top Tuscan estates, but Nipozzano, one of the oldest wineries in the Chianti Rùfina subzone, is arguably their best. The estate’s wines include a cult 100 percent Sangiovese, Montesodi, plus the outstanding Mormoreto Super-Tuscan and a benchmark Chianti Rùfina.
Acquired by the Cinzano family (of vermouth fame) in 1973, this Montalcino winery built its reputation on traditionally styled Sangioveses. Its 12-wine portfolio includes cuvées from international grapes and a Super-Tuscan, but the Sangioveses are the stars; the Al Vento Brunello tops the list.
Ambra is a stellar winery in Carmignano, an often overlooked DOCG northwest of Florence where vintners have been blending Cabernet with native Sangiovese since the 1500s. Ambra’s wines are softer than most Tuscan reds (an exception is the 90 percent Sangiovese Elzana cuvée). Thanks to its under-the-radar location, Ambra offers some of the best value in Tuscany.
Fattoria di Fèlsina
Though Fèlsina has started planting French grapes and making wines approachable in their youth, it is still best known for structured reds of great longevity. Top cuvées such as Rància can require decades of aging. Fèlsina gained prominence in the early 1980s, when owner Domenico Poggiali’s son-in-law, Giuseppe Mazzocolin, took over and hired winemaker Franco Barnebei.
Fattoria le Pupille
Superstar winemaker Christian Le Sommer, a veteran of Bordeaux’s Château Latour, is the latest in a line of high-visibility consultants hired by Fattoria le Pupille. Owned by Elisabetta Geppetti, this is one of the top wineries in the Maremma’s Morellino di Scanscano DOCG. Portfolio highlights include two Morellinos, a white blend and a lauded Super-Tuscan, Saffredi.
Selvapiana’s firm, ageworthy reds are classic examples of wines from Chianti Rùfina, a small subzone with high vineyards and cold nights. This microclimate allows proprietors Federico Giuntini and sister Silvia to create bold, expressive reds. With the help of famed consultant Franco Bernabei, Selvapiana makes two Sangiovese-based wines and two outstanding blends.
The Manetti family used to make three Chianti Classicos at their Panzano winery, but a decade ago they dropped theirriservaand now offer just two, one of which is the single-vineyard Vigna del Sorbo. The move bolstered quality across the board, and freed up juice for Flaccianello, Fontodi’s blockbuster Sangiovese. Owner Giovanni Manetti and consulting enologist Franco Bernabei also make Syrah and Pinot Noir from Fontodi’s organic vineyards.
This top producer has been owned by the Franceschi family since 1890 and is best known for its basic Brunello and its Vigna Paganelli riserva, made only in exceptional vintages. Located in Montalcino’s hilly southwest subzone, Il Poggione’s vineyards benefit from the area’s cooler temperatures, which help create concentrated, ageworthy reds. The portfolio also includes a stellar Rosso di Montalcino and a Super-Tuscan blend.
Isole e Olena
Isole e Olena owner Paolo de Marchi is a Sangiovese purist who makes his top cuvée, Cepparello, with Sangiovese alone (though it’s an IGT Toscana). Monovariety Chianti was a radical notion when he introduced the wine in 1980; now it’s a prized benchmark offering. Marchi bottles Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay on their own too, and they’re consistently excellent.
Unlike many Bolgheri estates, Le Macchiole was founded by a native of the coastal region, Eugenio Campolmi. Campolmi began working with consulting winemaker Luca d’Attoma in 1991, and their success with international varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah helped launch Le Macchiole into the ranks of Tuscany’s elite modern estates. D’Attoma still helps craft the estate’s wines—one charming white and four rich reds.
Brunello specialist Boscarelli was founded by owner Paola de Ferrari Corradi’s father in 1962. Thanks to the estate’s location on one of Montepulciano’s finest vineyards, Cervognano, Boscarelli’s wines have excelled even in less-than-stellar vintages (such as 2008). Since coming on board in the mid-1980s, consulting winemaker Maurizio Castelli has helped put Boscarelli among Montepulciano’s top properties.
Unusual for a Tuscan winery, one of Querciabella’s best-known cuvées is a white wine, a luscious, toasty (and pricey) blend of Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay called Batàr. But it’s the estate’s reds that have made the winery’s reputation, led by the stupendous Camartina Super-Tuscan. Forward-thinking proprietor Sebastiano Castiglioni, who took over the estate from his father in the early 1990s, adopted an organic—and later biodynamic—farming regime long before it became trendy.
Ruffino is one of the most consistent large Chianti producers, turning out a vast selection of wines sourced from across Chianti and beyond, plus estate bottlings from farms in Chianti Classico, Montalcino and Montepulciano. Launched as a négociant business in 1877, the company is run by the Folonari family, who bought it in 1913 and turned it into one of Italy’s megabrands.
Tenuta di Capezzana
Though records of winemaking at this Carmignano estate date back 12 centuries, Tenuta di Capezzana is a very modern winery. Owners Count Ugo and Countess Lisa Contini Bonacossi promoted the use of Cabernet Sauvignon in Carmignano in the 1960s and later led the drive to establish the region as a DOCG. Today Capezzana is Carmignano’s finest producer, with a lineup ranging from everyday reds to a muscular Super-Tuscan.