Bolgheri, on the Tuscan coast just south of Livorno, is one of Italy's most prestigious vineyard areas. Its winemaking zone is made up of sloping coastal vineyards at the foot of the hills between the town of Bolgheri, after which this DOC is named, and the southern part of Castagneto. Located in close proximity to the Tyrrhenian Sea, it has been described as 'the golden oasis of the Maremma' (an area of south-western Tuscany and northern Lazio).
In the 1960s the Tuscan wine industry was in need of a shake-up, and Bolgheri became one of the avante-garde areas that helped bring this region back to life. One of the tactics was to start a new trend of non-DOC wines, and in 1968 an innovative style of wine was named the Super Tuscan. The flagship 'Super Tuscan' wine was Sassicaia – a Bordeaux-style red created from vines often (erroneously) reported to have come from Chateau Lafite-Rothschild in Bordeaux. Sassicaia returned Bolgheri and Tuscany into the limelight. Sassicaia was also the first and only Italian wine to be honored with its own single-estate classification: thus in 1994, Bolgheri and Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC were born.
The main focus of the Bolgheri DOC is the importance of terroir and for this reason, the Bolgheri Rosso and Bolgheri Superiore wines are labeled without the mention of grapes, as terroir is considered more significant than grape varieties. It is also why Bolgheri wines are reputed for their true expressions of terroir.
Nevertheless, the varieties that put Bolgheri on the wine map are the Bordeaux trio Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, which are the main ingredients in the superiore wine. Syrah and the traditional Tuscan red grape Sangiovese may comprise up to 50% of the wine each, as can a maximum 30% of Petit Verdot. The plain rosso must be aged for at least ten months, while the superiore must mature for 24 months before release.
The wines from this area are incredibly compact, dark and ruby red in color, which suggests great ageing potential. The heady bouquets are reminiscent of ripe berries, with hints of Mediterranean maquis (the main vegetation along the Mediterranean coastline) and spicy oak. They are characterized by their powerful structure, elegant poise and smooth, rounded natures. A sweetness of fruit on the palate is backed by layers of velvety tannins, a lively, fresh acidity and a long, lingering finish.
In addition to its iconic reds, the Bolgheri DOC title also covers white and rosé wines. The key white wine grape used in Bolgheri Bianco is Vermentino, sometimes with an addition of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. There are some examples of barrel-matured whites which display more complexity. Rosato di Bolgheri can be made from a combination of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and other Tuscan grapes – this produces fresh, fruity and savory rose wines.