Arezzo is most definitely a destination town for tourists (it is movie-set beautiful), but it is not really a wine town. Whereas Siena, for example, anchors the southern end of the Chianti Classico wine zone, and San Gimignano lent its name to Italy’s first Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC), Arezzo lies just a bit outside of Tuscany’s main wine corridor. When you’re in Siena, home to some of the greatestenoteche (wine bars) in the region, you feel rooted in wine country. When you’re in Arezzo, you are more likely to focus on the art and the architecture and less on the wine.
This is not to say that there aren’t many great wines made in and around Arezzo, it’s just that they are a smattering in comparison to the mass of great stuff coming out of nearby Chianti Classico.
When I think of the Arezzo province, which lies east of the Siena province and stretches toward the Umbrian border, a few things leap immediately to mind. The first is steak: The Valdichiana, south of Arezzo, includes the rolling hills that are home to the famed Chianina cattle, used for bistecca all fiorentina. And once you’ve got some bistecca on the table, the Arezzo-area wine country does not lack for hearty reds to go with it.
The first place to look are some of the towns just outside of Chianti Classico to the east, following the contours of the Arno River down towards Arezzo. In Bucine, not far from Montevarchi, is the acclaimed Fattoria Petrolo, whose owner, Luca Sanjust, is great friend of Babbo. His varietal sangiovese, called “Torrione,” is a lush and affordable choice among the “super-Tuscans” on our list, while his cultish “Galatrona” merlot, as dense and chocolatey as hot fudge syrup, has a more fleeting presence in our cellar (one great regular customer, whom I shall call “Rob S,” is usually almost solely responsible for the wipe-out of Galatrona within days of its appearance on the list).
Another up-and-comer along the Arno is Tenute Sette Ponti, so named for the seven bridges (“sette ponti”) that span the Arno between Florence and Arezzo. They make a number of rich, modern super-Tuscans, including the well-priced “Crognolo,” which blends sangiovese and merlot.
And speaking of up-and-comers, you are likely to see more and more wines bearing the DOC name “Cortona” in the coming years. Cortona is a warm growing zone south of Arezzo, with more fertile soils than those in Chianti, and a number of producers have been having success there with “international” varieties such as chardonnay, viognier, and syrah. The well-known Montepulciano estate, Avignonesi, makes a powerful chardonnay from the Cortona DOC called “Il Marzocco,” and a well-regarded merlot called “Desiderio,” while Luigi d’Alessandro of Fattoria Manzano makes perhaps the most famous Cortona DOC wine – a massive syrah named “Il Bosco.”