What is a Super Tuscan?

January 20, 2019

What is a Super Tuscan?

What is a Super Tuscan?

Until around 1960s-1970s Italian wines were either excellent or poor. While the greatest producers in Piedmont and Tuscany were making spectacular Barolo and Brunello, quality in remaining regions particularly in Chianti was poor. Regulations in Chianti allowed producers to add a high percentage of white grapes which dilutes the wine and forbid international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.

A small group of Chianti producers chose to make wines as they wanted at the expense of being out of Chianti appellation and forced to label their wines as “table wine”.  They have been very successful in producing excellent wines from international varieties that these wines called “Super Tuscans” to distinguish them from the inexpensive, low-quality wines that were associated with the term of “vino da tavola” that they have to put on their labels.

Sassicaia was officially the first Super Tuscan. Its story began in the 1940s when Mario Incisa Della Rocchetta planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc vines on his estate in Bolgheri to test how the local, maritime Tuscan terroir would respond to classic Bordeaux varieties. The resulting wine was initially kept for private family use, but after years of encouragement from family and peers, the 1968 vintage of Sassicaia was released commercially in 1971. The same year, Antinori produced Tignanello, a Sangiovese-heavy blend which also included Bordeaux varietals.

The success of Sassicaia and Tignanello had a great impact on winemaking in the region, and during the next decade, a number of Tuscan wineries began experimenting with their own Super Tuscans, meaning working with Bordeaux varietals, especially Cabernet Sauvignon. These wines were followed by such icons as Antinori’s Solaia a more Cab-heavy blend launched in 1978, and Tenuta Delle Ornellaia’s Ornellaia in 1985. Their success proved in many ways that Tuscan terroir wasn’t restricted to Sangiovese and could in fact yield Cabernet as noble as that of the best of Bordeaux.

2015 and 2016 were excellent back-to-back vintages in Tuscany and in 2018 Super Tuscans received great attention from wine critics with high scores and high ranking in their best of lists. We have a selection of wines from the best producers, see our Super Tuscan collection from this outstanding vintage, some are real steal providing incredible value. Go to the collection >>