The Underrated Tuscan Wines You Should Be Sipping, According To An Oenologist

Tuscan wine is often revered as among Italy's finest, with bottles like Brunello di Montalcino and Super Tuscans garnering endless praise and hefty price tags. U.S. consumers are top fans, buying volumes equivalent to around 35% of the region's international exports in 2022 (via Wine News). Red wines represent the majority, accounting for about 85% of production (via Italian Wine Central).

Sangiovese is the undisputed star of the red grape varieties, covering 60 to 70% of the vineyard area. Consequently, it makes sense that most Tuscan wines that make it to the U.S. are sangiovese, whether Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, or Rosso di Montalcino. Although that might speak to production volumes, there are over 100 grape varieties native to the region. While many are barely holding on, overtaken by vineyards producing grapes for the bottles that take over the market, there are still dozens to discover without taking a trip to Tuscany.

Considering it can be hard to know what you're missing out on if it's not available in your local market, we spoke with Leonardo Bellaccini, the oenologist at San Felice Wine Estate, a historic Tuscan winery with vineyards in three of the region's most prestigious areas. Although Bellaccini is accustomed to working with sangiovese grapes, he has some underrated favorites to recommend. "Among the interesting pure vines are foglia tonda for producing fresh and elegant wines and pugnitello for more structured and aging wines," he shares.

What qualities do these grapes bring to the table?

If you're hesitant to step outside of your usual repertoire, rest assured the Tuscan landscape is a reliable source. It's unsurprising — considering the vineyard makeup — that both varieties Leonardo Bellaccini highlights are red.

Foglia tonda vines produce darkly-hued grapes, which makes them a great choice for blending with more lightly colored varieties. It is also bottled solo, in wines that typically display floral aromas with hints of spice, a medium body, and smooth tannins. Red fruits are present on the palate, with an earthiness that rounds it out. Considering its rarity, there isn't a huge selection stateside, but a bottle by organic and biodynamic producer Sequerciani will turn you into a fan.

Pugnitello packs in a bolder sensory experience as Bellaccini notes, with structured tannins and acidity that make it a good contender for aging. Since the late '80s, Bellaccini has been involved with the winery's projects in collaboration with local universities to revive native grapes approaching extinction. Pugnitello is one of the success stories and has been vinified as a single-varietal wine at San Felice since 2003.

Pugnitello wines are full-bodied with notes of preserved red and dark fruits, providing a sweetness that contrasts the savory character featuring hints of leather, spice, and earth. Whereas foglia tonda is a refreshing wine to be sipped with a charcuterie board or saucy pasta dish, pugnitello calls for a heartier pairing, such as roasted meat or stuffed mushrooms.

Don't forget to check out how Italian wine differs per region, or take a trip around the southern European country with these 15 wines