This region takes the name of the hills around the city of Lucca in Tuscany. It began as a DOC in 1968, and is made up of two separate areas of land that are separated by the Serchio River, among the southern foothills of the Alpi Apuane, a western range of the northern Apennines. Colline Lucchesi’s DOC regulations permit reds and white wines, with four varietals and the sweet vin santo.
The basic red here is Colline Lucchesi Rosso, which has a base of 45 to 70 per cent Sangiovese with 30 per cent Canaiolo or Ciliegiolo and up to 15 per cent of Merlot. The white, Colline Lucchesi Bianco, is made with 45 to 70 per cent Trebbiano Toscano with up to 45 per cent Greco Bianco, Grechetto, Vermentino or Malvasia Bianca, up to 30 per cent Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc and 15 per cent other varieties. Sangiovese and Merlot are both permitted as red varietal wines, as are the white Vermentino and Sauvignon Blanc. Vin santo, the traditional sweet wine, is made using grapes that have been allowed to dry.
The terroir varies depending on its location within Colline Lucchesi. Vineyards are heavily sheltered from the sun and wind to the west of the hills, between Monte Pisanino and the Ligurian Sea. To the south, the winters are colder and the summers hotter because the hills provide less protection from the elements. Much of the soil there is of clay and gravel.
Montalcino is an ancient walled fortress town on top of a hill in Tuscany where wines have been made for more than 2,000 years. When Montalcino was under siege in 1553, soldier and author Blaise de Montluc would “rub his face to a ruby red colour with red wine” as he defended the city walls. Today, it is still considered to be one of the very best wine areas in Italy, particularly due to its signature Brunello Di Montalcino, made with Brunello (as Sangiovese is known locally).
Some 15 per cent of the 24,000 hectare municipality is covered with the vines of its 250 producers, with olive groves and other crops also taking up the land. It has a dry Mediterranean climate tempered by cooling winds that keep the vines aerated and healthy from disease as well as protected against fog and frosts. It rains mainly in spring and late autumn, and there can be winter snow at elevations above 400 metres. There is a degree of protection from the elements by Mount Amiata in the south, which stands at 1,740 metres. However, largely due to the hilly nature of the region (vineyards can be located anywhere between 120 and 650 metres above sea level), there are many different microclimates at play, often to close proximity to one another.