These exquisite wines of Italy bear two faces. They are some of the most impressive wines made in Italy, yet they are labeled as mediocre wines by the Italian appellation
system. Super Tuscans were first created by the nobles in the Antinori family but their noble stature was no match for the wine making capabilities of some of the other Tuscan vintners. Aljoscha Goldschmidt is a Swiss vintner who works with his wife to produce premium wines and cheeses. His top wine, Il Corzano, blends Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, and scored 93 points on its most recent release.
The idea of Super Tuscans allows the creativity and quality demands of artisan vintners to bypass the strict laws of the Italian appellation systems. This idea came about in
the late 1980’s when a few red wines from the region gained international attention. They were recognized and sold as ‘vini da tavola,’ table wines. The use of international
varietals were forbidden in the Italian appellation system, but these wines were far superior in quality and fell outside of the appellation. With European Union legislation
the appellations were changed. The table wine designation for vintage dated wines was dropped and the Italian government was forced to create a new appellation. The
Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) regulations were very loose and allowed vintners to do what they wanted for the sake of artisanship. Tuscany was the main region for these types of wines and regulations. The government gave some of the top super Tuscan wines new appellations such as the coastal region of Bolgheri received its own DOC. Sassicaia wines even received its own appellation within this DOC.
A super Tuscan ranges in content from pure Sangiovese to a blend with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, or slight tones of Pinot Noir. This freedom allows a stronger focus on quality and technique. Some restrictions do exist but they are very basic and unrestrictive.
Some of the best super Tuscans available are Tenuta dell’ Ornellaia Masseto, a pure merlot cult classic. The Antinori Solaia is one of the originals with a single vineyard crop of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. The Tenuta dell’ Ornellaia’s Ornellaia, blends Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. It has been called a cross between Napa Valley and Margaux. The Tua Rita’s Redigaffi is a Merlot made on the Tuscan coast that commands high prices. The Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia is a must for most collectors of Italian wines. It blends Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and requires at least 6 years of aging.
Sassicaia is one of the archetypes of the Super Tuscan tradition. It was created by Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta near Bolgheri and the Tyrrhenian coast. In 1944
he planted cuttings from Chateau Lafite on his vineyards and brought back French oak barrels for aging. After his nephew Piero Antinori convinced him to sell some of his 1968 vintage, Sassicaia became legend winning tastings in London in 1978.
Sangiovese and Cabernet is a classic Super Tuscan blend that has been used since 1968 some dating back to the 18th century. The success of the Super Tuscans has been a
variant of the success of the new international variety plantings alongside the Sangiovese varietals. Sassica was the first wine from a single estate to be granted its own DOC.
Many other estates began releasing native Super Tuscans and blending other international and domestic grapes. Super Tuscans are issued and sold in elegant bottles with designer labels and creative names to enhance the idea of originality. This creativity although a complement to the creativity of the wines can in some areas create mistrust and an opportunity for black market wines by the lack of government sponsored appellations. As can be expected it creates tension within the winemaking community over techniques and varieties. Their superior and creative quality and style has given these wines a sense of power over the doubt.
Super Tuscans are known for their deep colored, full-bodied, balanced red wines. They have a long capacity for aging. The types of international varietals used are
expanding and now include such varieties as Syrah and Pinot Noir. New clones are being experimented with to combine international and domestic varietals. Recently the
European Union has begun to put restrictions on the wines and the classification system especially the table wines, of which the Super Tuscans are categorized. Even with the
strange categorizations it has become known as one of the world’s greatest wine regions