Super Tuscans: The Story Behind the Name

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Just reading the name “Super Tuscan” would lead you to believe that the wine is a superior expression of wine from Tuscany, but this is exactly what those that use the branding technique are hoping you will think. Don’t be mistaken, those that hold this designation are by and large outstanding wines; however, there is history to the name and awareness of it is worth noting.

There was at one time a stringent recipe, or set of rules that had to be followed concerning the production of Chianti and not everyone making wine in the Tuscan region agreed that such limitations would allow winemakers to maximize the potential the land had to offer. If the recipe was not followed though, the winery could only designate its wine as Vino di Tavola, the second lowest quality level of wine in Italy. With this in mind  a man by the name of Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, we’ll call him Mario, brought vines from the first growth Bordeaux vineyard Chateau Lafite and planted them at his estate in Bolgheri, Italy. To be considered Chianti at the time, a wine had to be made from a blend of predominantly two red grapes (sangiovese and canaiolo) with two white grapes blended (malvasia and/or trebbiano). Mario’s vines were cabernet sauvignon. So no matter how good the wine was, by Italian law it could be classified no higher in level of quality than Vino di Tavola. The first wines produced in contradiction to the legal Chianti style were not too great, but over time they became refined into some of the finest wines of Italy.

The Italian wine law organization (DOC) would still not give these new wines any credit as they continued to force winemakers to slap the Vino di Tavola quality designation on the bottle. Then the press wrote about the exceptional wines being produced that broke away from the traditional Chianti method and they named these wines “Super Tuscans” and the name stuck launching demand for these gems into the stratosphere. Since then the DOC has relaxed the laws concerning Chianti production in hopes that winemakers will drop the Super Tuscan designation, but many refuse to abandon the name and so it still exists today.

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