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Super Tuscans: Italian Super Hero!!

If Chianti or Brunello are the only wines you have heard of from Tuscany, then grab a wine glass and get discovering.  Take a look at its rather less-heard colleague. Super Tuscans are the hidden gems of Tuscany that once almost replaced Chianti in its slack period.

Super Tuscans comes from the coastal area that lies north-west of the famous town of Chianti. Most important towns here are Bolgheri and Val Di Cornia in the Maremma department. Being close to the ocean and surrounded by hills, the region has anadded advantage of varied climate. This allows a longer hang time to grapes, thus, providing them ample time and nutrients to ripen, mature, and form a quality produce. Due to the climate, soil absorbs heat during the day and reflects the same after dark, thus, maintaining a constant temperature for the growth of plants.

To make Chianti, there are a certain defined grapes that must be used. If not followed, then the governing law bar these wines from being called Chaintis and do not provide a DOC* certification (second highest wine quality level in Italy). In the 1960s, some prestigious young-guns started producing wines using varieties outside this DOC restricted stand, using mainly Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. These wines were then aged in small 225 liter oak barrels (barriques) against the traditional Slovanian casks (called botti). As they were outside the laws of the region, they were classified as mere Vino da Tavola (table wines), aka VdT* (lowest Italian wine level). However, due to their restricted production, high demand, and superlative quality, they were once more expensive that the Chiantis, some still are. Today, it is said that the Super-Tuscans with ‘aia’ endings are glorious enough to buy just on their names. But don’t take our word for it, go try them!!

Tuscan wines were always well known in the wine world but just like every racing horse it also saw its share of hard days. Chianti was this time the trouble maker. The producers were constantly puuting efforts improve the lost and foggy image of Chianti, another wine style was on the horizon. These were the Super-Tuscans. This style of wines would never have resulted if the phylloxera (a disease that attacks the rootstocks resulting in death of the vines) epidemic had not damaged the wine crop, hence the production. Furthermore, the blunder of Chianti’s ever-changing grape varieties and inconsistent quality made it worst. During the 1970s, the consumer market for Chianti suffered badly due to its inconsistent quality. And the Super Tuscans took over the market, not only locally, but internationally.

Looking at their growing importance and commercial value, the appellation control board revised the certification regulation. It was then that the Super Tuscans started enjoying the IGT* (a rank above VdT) certifications. Some wines have such high repute now that they enjoy an even higher designation of DOC (second highest appellation of Italy). Bolgheri DOC is one such rapidly growing appelation. For this, the wines must be a blend of any of the three grapes: Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Merlot. Should a wine be a straight produce using only one of these grapes, it will be designated as IGT.

Sassicaia and Tignanello were the first of the results of this experiment that changed the traditional image of Tuscan wines in the international scenario. They are Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet + Sangiovese blends, respectively, produced and marketed by modern winemakers Antinori from Bolgheri. These wines marked the start of Super Tuscans in the country and today still are considered the benchmarks in their fraternity. Many Chianti producers also now produce this wine style as it is hard to keep away from the charm and importance of it.

Here are some of the top Super Tuscans with their blend:
Avvoltore – Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah
Balifico – Sangiovese & Cabernet Sauvignon
Il Blu – Sangiovese, Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon
Camartina –  Sangiovese & Cabernet Sauvignon
Casalferro – Sangiovese & Merlot
Cepparello – Sangiovese
D’Alceo – Cabernet Sauvignon & Petit Verdot
Flaccianello  – Sangiovese
Fontalloro – Sangiovese
Ghiaie della Furba – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Syrah
Grattamacco – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Sangiovese
Il Bosco – Syrah
Il Corzano – Sangiovese & Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot
Il Pareto – Cabernet Sauvignon
La Gioia – Sangiovese
Le Pergole Torte – Sangiovese
Lucenter – Sangiovese, Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon
Lupicaia – Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot
Magari  – Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon & Cabernet Franc
Messorio – Merlot
Onellaia – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Cabernet Franc
Paleo – Cabernet Franc
Percarlo – Sangiovese
Piastraia – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah
Redigaffi – Merlot
Rosso di Sera – Sangiovese & Colorino
Saffredi – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Alicante
Sammarco – Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese
San Martino – Sangiovese
Sangioveto – Sangiovese
Sassicaia – Cabernet Sauvignon & Cabernet Franc
Siepi – Merlot & Sangiovese
Tenuta di Trinoro – Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot
Testamatta – Sangiovese, Colorino, Canaiolo, Moscato Nero & Malvasia Nera
Tignanello – Sangiovese & Cabernet Sauvignon
Tzingana – Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc & Petit Verdot
Veneroso – Sangiovese & Cabernet Sauvignon
Vigna L’Apparita – Merlot

Today, the big debate regarding Super Tuscans pertains to their ‘alleged’ superiority. As the Chiantis have crawled back to regain their importance and rest at the top spot again, Super Tuscans have started to look nothing more than mere expensive Italian imitation of the French Bordeaux wines. Like it or not, they remain to have a powerful statement to make.

Vino da Tavola (VdT): Literally means ‘table wine’. It is a daily consumption wine that ensure that the wine is a produce of Italy, and no more.

Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT): This appellation indicates that the wine is higher than VdT and is from a specific region. It denotes the wines that fall short of the DOC laws. It is a recent addition to the wine law pyramid and before its birth Super Tuscans were certified and sold as IGT

Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC): Signifies a more finer product than the IGT standard with permitted grape varieties and production method. It is important in the international market as well as it marks the quality of the wines and shows its repute.

Denominazione di Origine Controllate e Granatita (DOCG): It is senior to DOC. After abiding all the rules set by DOC standards, there wines have to pass a blind tasting analysis. The ones that get a green signal are then certified to be sold as DOCG. The ‘G’ here stands for guarantee as the panel’s blind tasting analysis ensures that the wine is of highest quality.

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About the Author

Gagan is much like a young wine in many senses; you have to spend time with him before he opens up. A certified wine expert and mixologist, Gagan pursued his love for beverages Down under, doing his Masters in Hospitality Management (specialising in wines) from Victoria University, Melbourne. He reserves a soft corner for Australian reds, German Rieslings and Gewürztraminer. As much as he loves to experiment with new cuisines, he also has a taste for adventure – paragliding, bungee jumping, rafting, skydiving and playing squash. His interests include blogging, back to back movie spree, cooking for self and travelling. He is a music-fanatic and loves being left alone with his PSP. Beef steak and wine rate high on his agenda as also does a Bourbon and cola.

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