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Jun 13, 2008 11:37 PM

Definition of Super Tuscan?

I thought Super Tuscan's had something to do with the Sangiovese grape, but a friend of mine just had a Super Tuscan with no Sangiovese.
What defines a Super Tuscan?
Thanks- JCap

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  1. This came up in another thread. The term is not an "official" term -- I think it ony came into use in the 80's. That said, *I* use it to describe higher end Tuscan wines that aren't labeled by location (eg. Chianti _______ or _________ di Montalcino). Certainly, I have called many Cab and Merlot based Tuscan wines "Super Tuscans"

    1. Marketing term used to describe wines that don't follow the rules of the official DOC/DOCG rules for the particular region. These rules specify where the grapes must come from, what grapes must be used, sometimes how long they must be aged, in order to be called "Chianti" "Chianti Classico", etc.

      In the 1970s some producers (notably Antinori) started making wines which didn't follow these rules b/c they were using other grapes (cabernet sauvignon, syrah instead of sangiovese), as a result they could only be designated as "vino de tavola" (table wine), the "lowest" designation in the Italian system. These came to be called "Super Tuscans". A "Super Tuscan" can contain anything and indeed can have no sangiovese.

      Now they've come up with a new designation, IGT "Indicazione Geografica Tipica" to indicate a higher level of quality wine than VdT but which doesn't follow the DOC/DOCG rules. Slight quibble w/ whiner's answer - "Super Tuscan" labels can have information as to region (i.e., the label on Sassicaia will say "Bolgheri") but they cannot carry the official" DOC/DOCG desigantions of Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, etc.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Frodnesor

        "DOC/DOCG rules. Slight quibble w/ whiner's answer - "Super Tuscan" labels can have information as to region (i.e., the label on Sassicaia will say "Bolgheri") but they cannot carry the official" DOC/DOCG desigantions of Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, etc."

        Yes -- completely true. As I was typing it I knew I was not expressin myself properly... Thanks for being more clear. Perfect answer.

        1. re: whiner

          Some in fact can, but have chosen not to. Antinori's Tignanello, one of the original "Super Tuscans" qualifies under DOCG regulations for Chianti Classico Riserva, but does not say so.

        2. re: Frodnesor

          Super Tuscans can also be 100% Sangiovese, which, counter-intuitively to some, is also outside of DOC/DOCG guidelines.

          But, as Frodnesor points out, it is truly more of a marketing term and not at all a labeling term.

        3. Defining Super Tuscan seems to present the same dilemma facing the Supreme Court when they tried to define pornography. It’s hard to define but you know it when you see it. I know a Super Tuscan because it has a fancy name and it cost more than I can afford. The lesser blends in my price range are usually referred to as Toscana or Tuscan Blend. The Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo ($35) made with Sangiovese and Merlot calls itself Toscana on the label (picture below).

          1. I almost hesitate to answer when I know Jason/zin1953 is going to come along, and give the definitive, exhaustive, best answer...

            ...but in the an amuse bouche before the meal...

            I believe the term "Supertuscan" first gained recognition when James Suckling used it in a Wine Spectator story on Antinori's wine Tignanello. Suckling almost certainly did not originate the term even though it is often attributed to him.
            The Antinori winery had played around with "international" varieties, meaning Cab, Merlot and Cab Franc. But in the early 70s, I believe, Antinori released Tignanello, a wine far different from the Chianti of the day, and one that boldly violated the blending laws of the region because it used Cabernet and Cabernet Franc. Tignanello was a "bigger" wine than Chianti -- bigger in flavor, bigger from oak aging, hence the use of the word "super."

            Antinori's Tignanello and other Super-Tuscan wines (the first Super-Tuscan was Sassacaia, IIRC) were so good that the the only category they fit into -- the "lowly" vino di tavola category -- was deemed inappropriate and a brand new catch-all category of wines -- the IGT, the wines designated Indicazione Geographica Tipica -- was created.

            By the way, I've read several places that the term was first coined in Italian as Supra-Tuscan -- meaning "outside" or "beyond" the Tuscan blending laws, which makes perfect sense.

            2 Replies
            1. re: maria lorraine

              In addition to the new "IGT" designation, I think about 10 years ago the DOCs changed the blending rules for Chianti so that it can now contain up to 20% non-"traditional" grapes - thus Sam B's comment that Tignanello could call itself a Chianti Classico Riserva if it chose to. I don't believe that would have been true under the rules applicable in the 70s when they first started producing it.

              1. re: Frodnesor

                That is correct. The success of the so-called "Super Tuscans" led to changes in the DOCG regulations for CCR, I believe, as follows..

                (80% Sangiovese, 20% other approved varieties, NO White varieties allowed, minimum 2 years aging, and 3 months in bottle prior to release, minimum 12.5% alcohol)