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MAREMMA! MAREMMA!

Of course we all know Chianti. How could we not? This emblematic wine is made all over the Tuscan countryside between Florence and Siena turning the region into Tuscany’s wine-making powerhouse. And it has to be said that the food, the olive groves and the romantic and elegant culture has long attracted hordes that flock there, seeking inspiration and for the few lucky ones, the realization of a dream.

But Tuscany is not just about Chianti. There are the Brunello wines from Montalcino, the Vino Nobiles of Montepulciano…and now in the south…Maremma wines, considered the hidden gems of Tuscany.

A two-hour drive southwest of Florence, the Maremma region on the Tyrrhenian Coast is Tuscany’s wild west, or as wild as Italy gets! Unspoiled, the terrain is spectacular: softly rolling hills bounded by beaches, olive groves and vineyards, woods of cypress and oak and fields of poppies and cornflowers for as far as the eye can see. It has long been the getaway for the Tuscans themselves when foreign visitors flood their heartland further north.

Based around the major city of Grosseto, Maremma wines are becoming serious contenders in the Tuscan wine game. Wines from the region are being recognized as high quality wines of great value. Winemakers here benefit greatly from the maritime climate, similar to California or even Sicily, where the very warm summers are cooled by ocean breezes, creating a good environment for quality grapes. Added to that are the different soils within the region that create different outlines for each wine hence giving character to the terroir.

Within Maremma, there are three appellations or Denominazione de Origine Controllata: Morellino di Scansano, which is actually a D.O.C.G (Denominazione de Origine Controllata e Garantita), Monteregio di Massa Marittima and Montecucco. And there is the Maremma Toscana, I.G.T. denominazione, which does not meet the restrictions of D.O.C wines. The Maremma Toscana IGT wines are often better in flavor and higher in quality because winemakers can try new blends and new ideas. The superstar grape in the region is known as Ciliegolo. It is an offspring of sangiovese, just like Brunello is in Montalcino, Prugnolo Gentile in Montepulciano and Sangioveto in Chianti. And in Scansano, Morellino is the local dialect word for the sangiovese clone grown there.

At Eli’s List, we have a nice selection of Maremma wines.

Despite the use of the word “Capatosta,” Italian for stubborn, the 2009 Morellino di Scansano "Capatosta" Poggio Argentiera is anything but stubborn. A blend of sangiovese, ciliegolo and alicante (Tuscan for Grenache), it is delicious, full-bodied, approachable and a very smooth wine. There is subtle rusticity to it that gives it complexity, making it a perfect pair with meats.

The 2013 Toscana IGT "Vermentino Guazza" PoggioArentiera is everything vermentino should be. The warm sunny Mediterranean climate has produced a generously fruity wine. Clean and fresh, it is full of ripe peach and citrus. The palate offers a velvety soft pear and backbone that comes from a streak of lime.

Poggio Aregentiera is a small winery that is making quite the mark on the wine world. Completely organic, it is owned by Gianpaolo Paglia, an agronomist from Maremma and his English wife, Justine Keeling. Despite its youth, the estate has established a benchmark for true Maremma wines scoring accolades in Italy and abroad.

The 2008 Maremma Toscana IGT "Vignaibotri" I Botri di GhiaccioForte is a complex wine that truly speaks of the Maremma terroir.

The I Botri vineyard sits atop a hill, 250 meters above sea level and belongs to the husband and wife team of Giancarlo Lanza and Giulia Andreozzi who bought the property in 1989. They are firmly committed to organic farming practices, cultivating nothing other than native varietals. As such, their four hectares are planted with two types of Morellino, Ciliegolo and Alicante.

Historically, wines from this vineyard qualified for DOC Morellino de Scansano status, but at odds with the DOC and DOCG governing bodies because it allowed international varietals in blends, Lanza and Anreozzi decided not to be part of the DOC. As such, their wines are labeled IGT.