This is a blog post meant to help de-mystify another somewhat confusing term in Italian wine: SuperTuscan. The reason that the term ‘Super Tuscan’ came into being is because of Italian wine laws. These laws strictly define what amount of what grape can be used in a specific kind of wine, where certain wines must be grown, and in some cases, they state what production methods must be used. SuperTuscans do not fit in any category of wine according to these ‘laws’.
Not only are there strict laws for blending and production, there are lables that designate the quality of the wine from a certain producer. Because Super Tuscan wines do not qualify as a specific wine, they are given the label “IGT” or “Indicazione Geografica Tipica” or “typical regional wine”. The only law these IGT Toscana wines must adhere to is that 85% of the grapes that is used in that wine must come from within the region of Tuscany.
SuperTuscan wines originated from Chianti producers around the 1970s. The overall quality of Chianti wines had deteriorated following WWII, so some of the producers decided to use different combinations of grapes in order to make a better ‘Chianti’ wine (and of course this deviated from the original blending laws). In most Tuscan wines, Sangiovese grapes are used (Chianti, Rosso di Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino, etc.), SuperTuscans do incorporate Sangiovese grapes however they generally use French varietals as well (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc). SuperTuscan wines are usually aged in small French oak barrels as well (as opposed to the large Slovenian oak casks used for many other Tuscan wines).
Overall, SuperTuscan wines are very special to their producers as they generally speaking are only produced in great vintages. They are meant to showcase the skill of the producer, and are often difficult to find a certain bottle of producers SuperTuscan outside of the current vintage.
Here at Portalis, we are lucky enough to carry the 2009 “Tre Pezzi” from Nottola in the heart of Tuscany near Montepulciano (a world-renowned wine producing town). It is a blend of Merlot (80%) and Petit Verdot (20%). An outstanding wine, and a true SuperTuscan!