Between Montalcino and Montepulciano: The Orcia DOC

It shares a border with Brunello di Montalcino and overlaps a portion of the Chianti DOCG. It lies just a few miles to the west of the vineyards of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and is one of Tuscany’s seven UNESCO heritage sites. Yet…you have probably barely heard of this region.

Any guesses?

It’s the rolling hills of the Val d’Orcia (Orcia Valley) and the wines of the Orcia DOC. Located in the rural southern reaches of Tuscany, the Val d’Orcia is dotted with oak forests, castles, wheat fields, olive orchards, and vines.  The road leading to one of its medieval towns—Montichello—is (literally) the picture-postcard view of a Tuscan winding road lined with Cypress trees (check out the photo and you’ll see what I mean).

The Val d’Orcia is tucked into the area south of the hills of the Colli Senesi (the hills of Siena) in the area between the appellations of Montalcino and Montepulciano. Its namesake—the Orcia River—flows through the center of the region and forms a portion of the southern border of the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG before it runs into the Ombrone River and makes its way into the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The Val d’Orcia is made up of picturesque small towns including Bagno Vignoni (and its famous hot springs), Radicofani (and its impenetrable 10th century fortress), and Pienza (the idealized City of Pious, built to the exacting standards of Pope Pious II in 1459). The region is a bit too rustic for normal state-sponsored train service, but locals and tourists alike are happy to ride the 19th century steam engine train connecting the town of Asciano with the Castle of Monte Antico.

In addition to its fascinating history and beautiful vistas, the area is known for its wine. Under the Orcia DOC, several styles of wine are produced, including the following: 

The Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta in San Quirico d’Orcia

Orcia Rosso and Rosato: dry red or rosé wine produced using a minimum of 60% Sangiovese; up to 40% of “other non-aromatic red grapes approved for cultivation in Tuscany” are allowed; up to 10% white grapes may be included in the mix.

Varietal Sangiovese is also allowed, using a minimum of 90% Sangiovese grapes; up to 10% (combined) Canaiolo Nero, Colorino, Ciliegiolo, Foglia Tonda, Pugnitello, and/or Malvasia Nera is allowed

Orcia Bianco: dry white wine produced using a minimum of 50% Trebbiano Toscano; up to 50% of “other non-aromatic white grapes approved for cultivation in Tuscany” are allowed

Vin Santo: off-dry to sweet white wine (based on Trebbiano Toscano and/or Malvasia Bianca), grapes must be dried to a minimum of 26% sugar post-harvest; must be aged in small wooden barrels until November 1 of the third year following the harvest (or longer)

While you are on your road trip through the Val d’Orcia, you’ll want to sample some of the local foods along with all that local wine. The area is known for thick, hand-rolled pasta known as pici or lunghetti, white truffles, Chianina Beef (the “white giants” of the cattle world), and Pecorino Cheese. You won’t go hungry or thirsty, and there is no chance you will get bored. Road trip!

References/for more information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas… missjane@prodigy.net

 

About bubblyprof
Wine Writer and Educator...a 20-year journey from Bristol Hotels to Le Cordon Bleu Schools and the Society of Wine Educators

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