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The Real Story Behind Super Tuscan Wines

The idea of Super Tuscan wine isn’t new, but it sparked a revolution during the 1970s that changed the face of Italian wine forever.

Let's get a handle on Super Tuscan wines including the history, some classic examples, and how to identify them on the label.

What's a Super Tuscan Wine?

Super Tuscan is the colloquial term for a Tuscan wine that includes non-traditional grapes. For example, a Tuscan wine made with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot instead of the region's primary grape, Sangiovese.

Super Tuscan wines commonly blend these wine varieties:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Sangiovese
  • Merlot
  • Syrah

Yes, Super Tuscans include French grapes! But how did these grapes get into Tuscany?

Super-Tuscan-Wines

French Grapes Arrive in Tuscany

French grapes have been growing in Tuscany as early as 1945. Our earliest known record of this is at Tenuta San Guido.

After the war, Mario Incisa della Rocchetta and his wife Clarice came back to re-establish their Bolgheri estate. Mario was inspired by Bordeaux's gravelly vineyards and he planted Sassicaia or "land of many stones" with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

The 1968 vintage of Sassicaia is considered to be one of the first Super Tuscan wines.

A 20-Year Battle For Recognition

1971 marked the vintage when Antinori's Tignanello ("tee-nah-nello"), a wine that should have been a Chianti Classico Riserva, was declassified to Vino da Tavola – Italy's lowest wine quality tier. Tignanello was declassified because it included 15% Cabernet.

Even with a lowly Vino da Tavola classification, the wines gained attention and popularity worldwide.

The wine critic, Robert Parker, famously gave the 1985 vintage Sassacaia a 100-point score and said, "the most impressive wine I had encountered in my entire 37-year career."

Finally in 1994, the Italian government approved the creation of Bolgheri DOC and Toscana IGT in 1995. These two new classifications were a way to acknowledge Super Tuscan wine on the label.

reading-super-tuscan-italian-wine-label

How to Identify a Super Tuscan Wine

Super Tuscan wines are typically "named wines" as in, they use a made-up name. This is the winey's way of telling you it's a proprietary blend or single-varietal wine.

Super Tuscans use one of the following four official classifications:

  • Toscana IGT - The most common way to classify a Super Tuscan.
  • Maremma Toscana DOC - A regional Super Tuscan wine from the Southern part of Tuscany.
  • Bolgheri DOC - From the small, coastal Bolgheri region.
  • Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC - Fun fact, this is the only DOC given to a single estate.

Why Are They Called "Super Tuscans?"

We asked wine critic, James Suckling, where the term originated.

He said it might have come from a several sources including the famed Luigi Veronelli, an Italian wine/food writer and intellectual, or from Burton Anderson, a writer who moved to Tuscany in 1977 to write about its bright future, or it could have been David Gleave, a Master of Wine and one of the UK’s leading experts on Italy.

Regardless of who coined the phrase, producers in Italy were turning heads, making wines that didn’t fit in!

Notes on Italian Wine Pronunciation

Here's how to pronounce the following relevant Italian and Latin words:

Vino da Tavola: Tav-o-la Summus: Soo-mus Magna Cum Laude: Magna-Coom-Loud-a

Wines Mentioned


Tignanello

Tenuta Tignanello - Marchesi Antinori

2020 Tignanello

Toscana | Italy

Tignanello was the first Sangiovese to be aged in barriques, the first contemporary red wine blended with untraditional varieties (specifically Cabernet) and one of the first red wines in the Chianti Classico region that didn’t use white grapes. Tignanello is a milestone. It’s produced with a selection of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

The vibrant entry gives way to a caressing layered mouthfeel. The wine closes with spicy notes of pepper and licorice that merge with pleasant sensations of aromatic herbs for a fresh, lengthy finish.

Find out more

Sassicaia

Tenuta San Guido

2020 Sassicaia

Bolgheri Sassicaia | Toscana

In a property that stretches over 2,500 hectares, we have chosen to select and plant vineyards exclusively on the most suitable lands, covering just a small area of the total surface. An area that is unique in terms of soil type, microclimate, and exposure that deserves its own appellation: DOC Bolgheri Sassicaia.

Full and very succulent. Really long, structured and complete. Tangy and energetic with a linear line of fresh tannins and acidity.

Find out more

SummuS

Banfi

2018 SummuS

Toscana | Italy

SummuS, Latin for "highest." is a wine of towering elegance. An intense and deep Supertuscan that represents very well the potential of the three vines that compose it.

Large and elegant structure with exponent and sweet tannins. Lingering flavors fill the palate. Perfect for long aging.

Find out more

Magna Cum Laude

Banfi

2020 Magna Cum Laude

Toscana | Italy

A captivating Supertuscan that joins the four red varieties, selected as the best in the history of Banfi for our vineyards in Montalcino.

Broad structure, with sweet and powerful tannins, very balanced with a persistent finish.

Find out more

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