Wine Talk

Snooth User: Gantt Hickman

Super Tuscan Question

Posted by Gantt Hickman, Oct 16, 2009.

What makes a Super Tuscan? Is it a blend and typically referred to as an Italian red table wine? Or, is it a single varietal that is above and beyond its counterparts?

Gantt

Replies

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Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 16, 2009.

A super Tuscan originally was a wine from Tuscany that fell outside of the laws governing wine production. the first two reasons for creating a Super Tuscan both revolved around the grapes in the blend.

This ultimately goes back to the rules governing Chianti production, though there is a history of several of these wines existing in non-commercial quantities that predates these events.

In the 1960's the mandated blend for Chianti included what were thought of as lesser grapes as well as white grapes. These laws were in place to protect small vineyard holders who had these varieties planted. It ensured they had a market for their wines.

Many producers argued that they could produce better wines if they worked outside of the laws. In fact the laws were eventually amended to allow for many of the wines now called super Tuscans to be labeled as Chianti but that is a another story.

Producers were of two schools, those that felt wines made from 100% Sangiovese would be an improvement over the blends in place, and the other faction that though non-traditional varieties would improve the blends. The non-traditional varieties turned out to be mostly Cabernet in the early years though it has turned out that Merlot is frequently a better partner for Sangiovese.

A smaller group of producers made wines that were infact Chianti blends but from outside of the recognized Chianti region so they latched their wagon along to the Super Tuscan train.

So these early producer made these wines yet there was no place in the DOC laws for them so they were labeled simple as table wines. that is the kiss of death for a premium producer in Italy so they searched for a better name with which to market their wines. Thus the Super Tuscan was born.

Today some wines that once were super Tuscans have returned to the Chianti Classcio fold as the laws have changed. Podere Il Pallazzino's Grosso Sanese for example. Other wines have changed compositions, Rocca di Montegrossi's fine Geremia was once all Sangiovese but is now Cabernet!

So what remains as Super Tuscans are a fair mess of wines that range from Sangiovese to Merlot, and Cabernet. Many of the newest crop of Suoper Tuscans come from the coastal regions of Tuscany, the Maremma. They are very frequnetly Bordeaux styled wines.

It's a minefield when it comes to generalizing about these wines but they short answer is that these are wines that the producers feel represent something special and idfferent among their line-up.

Bonus question, What was the original Super Tuscan?

The first commercialized Super Tuscan?



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Reply by dmcker, Oct 16, 2009.

I'll throw my hat in the ring with Sassicaia and Tignanello (Antinori's had the most marketing muscle but he was inspired by the use of cab in Sassicaia, which was pretty much unknown at the time) for the second bonus question, and Vigorello for the first. At least those are the ones I remember first encountering (and that I've had the most of over the years....).

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Reply by Gantt Hickman, Oct 16, 2009.

It brought me to your the original Super Tuscan is Tignanello. From the cab related grape Sassicia.

Is the second question a trick question....The first commercialized Super Tuscan from what I see is Tignanello in 1971.

Thanks,
Gantt

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Reply by Gantt Hickman, Oct 16, 2009.

The original Super Tuscan is Tignanello. From the cab related grape Sassicia.

Is the second question a trick question....The first commercialized Super Tuscan from what I see is Tignanello in 1971.

Thanks,
Gantt

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Reply by dmcker, Oct 16, 2009.

Antinori used both cab and merlot in their Tignanello from the beginning. Sassicaia was around before that, and also used cab. Tenuta San Guido, run by a cousin of the main branch of the Antinori family, came out with the first Sassicaia vintage in '68. Tignanello by the main branch in '71. To top it off the two Antinori main-branch brothers competed in bringing out Solaia and Orenellaia, after that. Perhaps the best answer to the second bonus question (and arguably the first) is just 'The Antinori Clan'.

Azienda Agricola San Felice came out with Vigorello also in '68, though they're generally considered the first Super Tuscan.

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Reply by rhwine, Oct 17, 2009.

Here is a pretty good explanation:
Super Tuscans are the premium wines of the IGT classification. As with most great wine classifications, there's much more to the story. Originally, the term "Super Tuscan" referred to any Tuscan red wine that did not adhere to traditional regional blending laws. Unlike the traditional Toscanas, Super Tuscans blended with other varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon. Because these blends did not conform to the strict DOC(G) classifications, winemakers began labeling their wines "vino da tavola", or "table wine". However, these superb wines were far and above the typical table wine. As such, the Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) classification was created where the wine was classified based on region rather than varietal or blend. An IGT Toscana guarantees that at least 85% of the fruit used was sourced from the region. A Super Tuscan is an IGT Toscana that is of a certain premium quality and is often the signature wine from the producer.

ie. Ornellaia, Tig, etc

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Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 18, 2009.

Sassicaia, as a project, began at the end of World War II, so they can lay claim to being the oldest Super Tuscan.

San Felice's Vigorello was the first Super Tuscan to make it to market, with their 1967 vintage.

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Reply by dmcker, Oct 18, 2009.

I've been told, also, that the grandfather of the current Antinori leadership began to experiment with Bordeaux varietals on what became the Tignanello plot from the 1920s. All this is anecdotal, of course, but it sounds like it was a process of several decades...


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