What is the Super Tuscan Wine?

When you think of Tuscany, you think about great food and wine. With rich winegrowing history dating back to the Etruscans in the 8th century BC, the region has been eternally knotted by the love of wine 

But more than just a rich history of wines, Tuscany also lays testimony to a lot of evolution, with winemakers producing fresh blends and grappling hard to get official acceptance for their new wines. This brings us to the most enthralling and diversified wines in Tuscany: The Super Tuscan!

Super Tuscan Wine

Basically, “Super Tuscan” is a term that describes Red Tuscan wines comprising of non-indigenous grapes, particularly Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. The creation of Super Tuscan wines kick-started in the late 1970s. Back then, it was strictly illegal to include Bordeaux (white or red wine from the Bordeaux region of France) into a Chianti Classico, even if it was proven to improve the blend. In fact, wine producers who chose to create this innovative type of wines were forced to limit themselves to producing the most basic wines.

The frustration of the winemakers soon turned into a mass revolt and thus paved the way for the creation of super Tuscan wines against the slow bureaucracy which was unfavourable of changing the wine laws of Italy. With time, as more and more winemakers began mixing ‘unlawful’ wine varieties to improve the overall quality of their blends, the legal system eventually incorporated IGT (Indicazione geografica tipica), a new designation that gave winemakers the license to be more creative.

Sassicaia Wine

The wine which started this movement was the Sassicaia, one of the first Italian reds to be made in the image of Bordeaux. For Sassicaia, it all started in the 1940s when Marchesi Mario Incisa della Rocchetta moved to the Bolgheri region of Tuscany and decided that he wanted to make wines more in style of Bordeaux than with Tuscany’s reigning Sangiovese grape. So he planted the Carbernet Franc, although he didn’t intend to sell the wines. Nevertheless, they caught the attention of Rocchetta’s nephew Piero Antinori and his enologist (someone who studies wine) and advised the inclusion of Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest is history! The success of Sassicaia and Tignanello inspired many more wines made from or including international grape varieties not native to Italy, including; Tenuta dell’Ornellaia; Tua Rita; and Le Macchiole. This shows that not all Super Tuscans are made from Cabernet – Masseto and Messorio, for instance, are 100% Merlot.

Most of the super wines are made with all or some non-indigenous grape varieties, but “Super Tuscan” is not a legally defined classification as far as wine regulations go. The term was used for any wine that didn’t blend in white grapes, or that used 100% Sangiovese. Because these wines did not initially qualify for existing appellation status, they were simply labelled vino da tavola or “table wine”, typically reserved for the lowest quality wines in Italy, and that is why producers started calling them “Super Tuscan”, to distinguish their wines from those inexpensive table wines.

Did you know that ‘Tignanello’ is renowned as the most popular variety of Super Tuscan and it was produced by Antinori in 1971! It comprises of 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. – P.S. Tignanello is priced at about $80 a bottle and promises a refreshing flavour for a memorable trip to Tuscany!

And yes, there are white Super Tuscans, they just haven’t really caught on yet!

Related article: What is the history of Wine in Tuscany?

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