Toscolo Chianti is a fascinating testament to the fact that fine wine really does break down boundaries, bring people together, and allows for rulebooks to be ripped up and re-written with flavour, character, and excellence forever at the fore. The winemakers behind this brilliantly contradictory label are Neil and Maria Empson, who as their names suggest, are not native Tuscans.

Once upon a time, the idea of outsiders setting up a winery in this most hallowed of Italian wine regions would have been beyond belief. Thankfully, times have changed - and there’s something refreshing about the fact that the Empsons aren’t driven by familial obligation, after having inherited some crumbling ancestral winery. Instead, they’re moved by what should be at the heart of every great wine: a real passion for making something which stands out from the crowd, and which doffs its cap to tradition while squarely facing the future. That’s not to say that Neil and Maria don’t have wine in their blood; Neil comes from a winemaking family in New Zealand (indeed, his grandfather was one of the original Marlborough region pioneers), and Maria is from Rhode Island, but studied art in Florence where she developed a real love for Italian red wines.

They originally planned to look at buying vineyards in France, but after honeymooning in Tuscany, their hearts were set on learning everything they could about the wine region and setting up shop in Chianti. After several years of hard work and dedication, Toscolo Chianti was born, and they rode the wave of the Tuscan renaissance in the latter half of the 20th century.

Their New World approaches are counterbalanced by their close friend Franco Bernabei, a local enologist who ensures their wines are more than worthy of the region they slap on their labels, and who brings generations of Chianti knowledge to the operation. The road which led to Toscolo Chianti was certainly an unorthodox one, but what cannot be denied is that Neil and Maria produce the real deal: a luscious set of Sangiovese wines and blends which prove that passion really is the key to success.


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