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The Syrah of Cortona

The Syrah grape in the local wine region around Cortona deserves special attention because this Syrah wine is about to reach the DOCG classification. The winegrowers are currently trying to transform this excellent tasting red wine from a DOC into a DOCG wine. Of course this development is not easy and will take several years. The role model for this is the famous “Brunnello di Montalcino”.

(DOC stands for “Denominazione di Origine Controllata” and is a designation for origin-controlled Italian wines from certain growing regions. DOCG stands for the highest classification level for Italian wines).

At 80%, the Syrah grape is one of the most common grape varieties in the Cortona growing region. A classic Syrah red wine is always guaranteed to contain 85% – 100% Syrah grapes. And due to its structure, this wine has a high ageing potential.

the classic Syrah grape

The story of the Syrah grape

The grape variety almost certainly originated in the French Rhône Valley. 

At the end of the 18th century, Count Montecarlo di Lucca returned from a trip to France and brought this grape variety in a private collection to the Casentino, a mountain valley in the province of Arezzo, from where it was eventually brought to Cortona.

It is considered proven that the Miraglia family was involved with the Syrah grape in 1880, because when they bought the Podere Bellosguardo vineyard in Pratovecchio near Arezzo, it turned out that the grape variety must have already existed there around 1700.

Have a look at Podere Bellosguardo here:

In 1960, other private companies discovered this grape variety in their vineyards. And after carrying out research into its genetic origins, they decided to cultivate it. The most important of these private companies was the Fattoria Manzano with a cultivation area of 30 hectares (it still exists and is called „Tenimenti Luigi d’Alessandro“).

Here you can find the Fattoria Manzano:

The seventies

In the early 1970s, with the help of Professor Attilio Scienza and the University of Milan, the soil and climate characteristics of the area around Cortona were studied in detail. It was found that the area around Cortona is lower than that of the Rhone. Also the farmland in the districts of Terontola, Ferretto and the Cappezzine tends to have more sand, while clay predominates to the west of Cortona. As the Syrah grape prefers medium-heavy soils with sufficient moisture, these were certainly good conditions for growing this grape variety here in Cortona.

A successful experiment

At the end of these extensive studies, a vineyard defined as an “experiment” was planted with different Syrah varieties and clones to find out which of them were best suited to the microclimate of Cortona, as it turned out that the climate of Cortona was hardly any different from that of the Rhône coast.

While the vines in the Rhône region are grown as small trees, in Cortona they grow flat. Cultivation here takes place at an altitude of 250 – 600 metres above sea level; those growing below 250 metres are not taken seriously.

Another highlight

The next highlight in the history of the Syrah di Cortona was the participation of local winegrowers in the first worldwide meeting of all Syrah producers in Rome in 2004. This is where the “Syrah Club” was founded, which still exists today.

In 2023, the local cooperative (Consorzio vini Cortona) succeeded for the first time in producing a Syrah made jointly by several wine producers. So it looks like this wine is on the right track…

So let’s keep our fingers crossed for the future Syrah DOC-G!

For wine lovers and those who want to become one, here you can find an interesting “wine-dine & shine” offer:

Organic viticulture

From the Middle Ages until the Second World War, Tuscany was still characterised by the so-called „mezzadria“ (rent in kind), i.e. the rent for agricultural land was not paid in money but in the form of goods produced on the land or farm. Even back then, farmers planted their grapes along the edges of the leased fields because they were allowed to consume the products which they grew there themselves. This is why the “vino biologico” has developped in Tuscany already many years ago. Unlike in the region called “Langhe” in Piedmont, for example, where the „mezzadria“ did not exist.

What you should know about Syrah today

Storage: For some years now, this wine has been stored in wooden barrels instead of in concrete containers. Speaking of ageing: now, in 2024, the 2006 and 2010 Syrah vintages are among the absolute top wines!

Temperature: Today it has been recognised that temperature is like an ingredient in wine. In 2024 the rule says Syrah is drunk at 19-20°C But 14-15°C are also permitted if you are located in a warmer environment.

Glasses: Wine connoisseurs advise against so-called balloon glasses – it is better to use wine glasses that rise upwards.

Aromas: The main aromas of Syrah include violets, plums, blackcurrants, liquorice, black pepper, chocolate and leather.

What to serve it with: This wine goes very well with truffles and harmonises perfectly with meat dishes such as roasts, grilled meat, kebabs, lamb and game.

A typical local truffle dish with beef: tagliata al tartufo

Some of the 10 best Syrah wines from Cortona (2023):

Syrah 2020 – Stefano Amerighi

Cuculaia 2019 – Fabrizio Dionisio

Crano 2019 – Baldetti

Syrah 2020 – Il Fitto

Syrah ‘0,618’ 2020 – Leuta

Pietro 2018 – Stefania Mezzetti

Syrah 2021 – Cantine Faralli

Syrah 2022 Laudario – I Vicini

Bocca di Selva 2020 – Tenuta Angelici

DI EGO 2019 – Roberta Pasini