Toscana is arguably Italy’s most renown wine region. It is also the homeland of antiquity’s Etruscans, who in turn, greatly influenced the Romans and their culture. Tuscany is rich in history, culture, art, and scenic landscapes that are filled with rolling hills and some of the world’s finest vineyards. Tuscany is not only the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance; it is the home of the prestigious “Super Tuscan” wines.
So what exactly is a “Super Tuscan?” The primary characteristic is that these wines must adhere to a minimum of 85% of grapes grown in Tuscany. It is also important to note that the local vintners oftentimes do not use Sangiovese as the dominant varietal. Bordeaux grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are popular choices. The wines are made in the international style and aged in new French oak barriques. The finished wines are filled with plenty of robust fruit, and lose none of their Italian soul. Due to their strong acidity, Super Tuscans are better served with food.
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Tignanello, Solaia, Magari, Ornellaia, Picconero, and my personal favorite, Sassicaia, produce some of the most notable and expensive wines.
Today I am joined by my very special friend and fellow sommelier, Serena Dutto. We are in the historic city of Siena, at the Plaza del Campo. It is a warm summer day and we are thankful for the shade provided by the ominous Torre del angio (Mangia Tower) that is looming above.
“Grigorio,” Serena called for my attention. “I have some wonderful surprises for you today.”
“You never fail me,” I replied evenly. “This is why I love working and spending time with you.”
“I know that in the States, most Super Tuscans are priced at $200 and above,” Serena paused to collect her thoughts.” I have selected some memorable wines that are all priced at around $50 a bottle.”
Can’t afford the famed Ornellaia at $200 per bottle? Then go with the next best option, Le Serre Nuove. This is Tenuta dell’ Ornellaia’s second label. Serena selected a Le Serre Nuove Bolgheri 2005. This dark reddish purple wine combines the smooth juicy plum fruit of Merlot (40%) and the structure, cassis, herbal notes of Cabernet Sauvignon (40%). The remainder is 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. This is a full-bodied wine that is supple and fresh on the palate. The alcohol content is 13.5% with a price tag of $55.
“This wine is rich in tannins and will pair nicely with the heartiest of red meats,” Serena nodded in assurance.
“Definitely a Tuscan take on a classic Bordeaux.”
Our next selection, Villa di Capezzana, Ghiale della Furbe 1998 hails from the Carmigano district, a relatively small area just outside of Florence. This wine is a wonderful example of a Bordeaux style wine. It is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 20% Syrah. What makes this wine exceptional is that the Bonacossi family was able to combine the fruit and roundness of Cabernet Sauvignon, with the elegance and suppleness of Merlot and Syrah. In color, it is a deep ruby red with purple hues. This nose is filled with an array of cassis, black cherries, sage, and chocolate. This is definitely a full-bodied wine that is abundant in formidable tannins.
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The alcohol content is 14% with a price tag of $55.
“A fantastic wine,” Serena’s eyes sparkled as she smiled. “I often enjoy this wine with meals.”
“I would definitely say that this is a wine worthy of aging.”
“Half a case for now, and lay down the other 6 bottles,” Serena flashed me an almost mischievous grin.
Our next selection, Gaja Ca’Marcmanda Promis 2006 hails from Tuscany’s coastal district of Maremma. Over the years, the Gaja name has become synonymous with producing elegant and opulent wines. Our wine proved to be up to Gaja’s stringent standards. The 2006 consists of 55% Merlot, 35% Syrah, and 10% Sangiovese. On the eye it is a deep dark red. The nose is filled with generous amounts of dark ripe fruit. This is a wine of quality. On the palate, it is well textured and balanced. The overall experience is one of grandeur without paying a king’s ransom. The alcohol content is 13.5% with a price tag of $50.
“Gaja built their reputation producing lovely wines from Piedmont before expanding into Tuscany,” Serena was quick to add.”
“They definitely found the mark with this one,” I flashed Serena an even grin. Overall, I find this to be a most delightful and elegant wine.
“I am pleased that you enjoyed today’s Super Tuscans,” Serena smiled broadly. “I think for our next tasting we should share with our readers more of these great wines, yet with an emphasis on Sangiovese based blends.”
“Agreed,” I gave her my nod of approval. “I am, after all, rather fond of Sangiovese … But that my friends is another story.”