- Chianti Classico: Italy's most famous wine. Chianti is as variable as it is versatile, and while there's plenty of mass-produced cheap wine out there, the vintners of the Chianti Classico zone, in the hills between Florence and Siena, craft excellent wines of the highest quality. Premier estates abound.
- Vernaccia di San Gimignano: In his Divine Comedy, Dante wrote of this dry, peppery, straw-colored white that deepens to gold with age. Tuscany's best white is available all over the Town of Towers. It was the first DOC wine in Italy, and is Tuscany's only DOCG white. The consortium of Vernaccia producers dates back at least to 1276; you can contact them in town at the Villa della Rocca (tel. 0577-940-008).
- Brunello di Montalcino: Brunello has the smell of mossy, damp earth and musky berries. It tastes of dark, jamlike fruits and dry vanilla. This is Tuscany's most powerful red, and perhaps the top wine in all of Italy. Break out this complex elixir to accompany a mighty bistecca alla fiorentina (Florentine-style steak). Visit the Enoteca La Fortezza (tel. 0577-849-211; www.enotecalafortezza.com) in town to taste, browse, and buy from a vast selection of the region's best bottles or Poggio Antico (tel. 0577-848-044; www.poggioantico.com) for the direct sales of an award-winning boutique Brunello.
- Vino Nobile di Montepulciano: This purple-garnet wine smells of violets and tastes of juicy red berries, dark fruits, and a hint of musty, mossy earth. Of the traditional wines (no French grape intrusions), it plays second banana to Brunello, but many people find this Noble Wine a more forgiving vino, and much more versatile. Although it's powerful and complex, you can drink it with just about anything but fish. The best producers are generally represented by the town's Consorzio (www.consorziovinonobile.it), and if you must choose just one winery to visit, make it Gattavecchi (tel. 0578-757-110; www.gattavecchi.it).
- Rubesco Riserva: This unique and elegant Umbrian wine made by a single estate was so deliciously demanding of attention the authorities had to create a tiny DOCG zone just to incorporate the vineyard. The vintner responsible was Giorgio Lungarotti, experimenting with his grapes in Torgiano south of Perugia. Although all the Cantine Lungarotti (tel. 075-988-0294) wines are excellent, the best is the Rubesco Riserva label.
- Sagrantino di Montefalco: This dark wine with a rounded mouth feel and tannic bite -- about the biggest and most complex wine you'll get in Umbria -- has been recognized by the DOCG classifications. You can get a taste at top producers Antonelli (tel. 0742-791-5852) and Cantina A. Fongoli (tel. 0742-350-359) in San Marco di Montefalco.
- Orvieto Classico: Orvieto's white is an ancient wine, made at least since the days of the Etruscans. In Orvieto itself, you can get the traditional abboccato variety, a juicy, semisweet version hard to find elsewhere in this age that demands gallons of dry white table wines. Try smaller producers such as Decugnano dei Barbi (tel. 0763-308-255) and Barberani (tel. 0744-950-113).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.