What’s so 'super' about a Super Tuscan?
Tuscany is a world-renowned region in central Italy. Famed for areas such as Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino. Each of these areas have a strict law system determining the grapes, styles, ageing and techniques used to make the wines. Chianti has been around since the 13th century and has significantly grown in size over the years. This expansion has led to many poorer vineyards and makers being allowed to use the region on their labels. During the 20th century this led to Chianti having a less favourable name. The quality varied, often being extremely poor, and many associated their wines with the straw basket enclosing the bottles. The laws also only permitted the use of certain Italian grapes such as Sangiovese. In the early 1970’s many producers were tired of their wines not reaching their full potential by being classed with the lesser bottles. They decided to introduce typical French grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Sryah and Merlot) and create wines in a similar style to those seen in Bordeaux. This didn’t align with the pre-set laws and therefore the bottles couldn’t be classed in the same system as the DOC or DOCG areas. Next came a phenomenon that the Italian wine regulators weren’t expecting, these new wines became extremely popular and started winning many awards. The majority of these vineyards were situated in a seaside town, with similar characteristics to Bordeaux called Bolgheri. In 1983 this area was given the title of DOC and became a recognised wine region. The term 'Super Tuscan' fell into place and no one is quite sure where it originated from but it has stuck and is still used today.
The first ‘Super Tuscan’ is also the most famous, made by Antinori called Tignanello. This maverick wine maker is what can only be described as a trend setter and has paved the way for both this catch phrase and style of wine.
So what does this actually mean? A 'Super Tuscan' can be made from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Sagiovese or Cabernet Franc usually as a blend. The wines' flavour is as expected, red and black fruits, hints of cherry and plum and oak is almost always used. The wines' style tends to be full in body, high in tannins and has a long finish. Meaning that these bottles can be described as big, high wines that pair brilliantly with food that can stand up to such a powerful red. However, due to the permitted grape varieties, it is also possible to find some lighter, fruitier styles. The giveaway will in fact be situated on the label, a wine with the classification Toscana Indicazione Geografica Tipica or IGT for short is a clear sign of this style of wine.