Last month I got another look at the whynot wine saver (2019 article) and benefitted from the expert knowledge from the North American Sommelier Association president Diego Meraviglia, on what the heck a Super Tuscan is and how it came to be. The invitation is below, then my notes of what I learned and photos are here.
For decades and decades, a mystical and highly revered wine category has commanded sales, ratings, prices and stirred up awe and buzz across the wine-world and most of all in the United States Tuscan in origin, but international in spirit, “SUPER TUSCANS“ have represented some of the best bottlings to leave Italian soil, world-bound.
But what exactly are they? Not even an official category…SUPER TUSCANS blasted onto the wine world through contradiction, controversy and a pioneering soul in the 1960’s and were some of the very first Italian wines to make a name for themselves and Italy across the planet.
Very often misunderstood, misrepresented and erroneously explained and perceived, our mission is to shed light and clarity on a mystical and legendary Italian wine category that has little of official to begin with.
What Exactly is a Super Tuscan?
There are no rules about what a Super Tuscan has to be. According to Meraviglia the term was made up by the American press, namely a young Robert Parker that was sent a bottle to review. It gave a term to a popular wine without an appellation to define them.
Located in Central Italy, where they had learned that almost any grape varietal could thrive (just not Nebbiolo or Nordic grapes) due to the length of the growing season. Like California, they could focus on Bordeaux and Rhone varietals, and others like Zinfandel. The area benefits from super rich soil with limestone, and a mild climate that produces balanced wines.
There is some history Meraviglia shared as well. The area began with rich landlords during the feudal system where they built a castle, houses, a wall around it all and shared half of what they grew with the people that lived there. The landlords soon decided there was a wine surplus and decided to sell some of it.
Sassicaia first appeared in 1968 and with that, Super Tuscans were born. It’s a Cabernet Sauvignon – a phenomenon in Italy at the time when these wines could only be labeled as a Red Table Wine. This wine got a lot of attention in the U.K. and the U.S., received high point scores and was very popular, with that the Super Tuscan term stuck. In 1971 Tignanello proved to be the second Super Tuscan.
So when you buy a Super Tuscan you are buying a brand label, not an appellation. All are different grapes varieties – and some may or may not include indigenous grapes. The wines are more like Bordeaux or California wines, basically made in a more international style.
We also learned a little about the different areas and soils which can be seen in the photos I took here. Find Super Tuscans being made in Chianti, Chianti Classico, Montalcino, Bolgheri and Maremma.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.