When I first heard the term ‘Super wine’ my first thought was “aren’t ALL wines super?”
Ok, maybe they’re not all literally super, but most of them seem to make life better. Once I began exploring the topic of super wine, however, I learned that in this case ‘super’ isn’t an adjective. It’s the result of a loophole in the strict laws and regulations imposed on Italian vintners to adhere to approved, legal methods for winemaking.
Super wine refers to any wine in a particular region (primarily Tuscany) that breaks ranks with Italy’s strict Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) quality regime. For this reason, most super wines are known as “Super Tuscans.” These wines are made by blending Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon or other international grape varieties.
The Super wine movement originated in Tuscany in the 1940s when Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta settled on the rocky Bolgheri region of the Tuscan coast. There he planted imported Cabernet Sauvignon vines in a region designated for growing Sangiovese grapes for Chianti. What made Rocchetta’s wine different from other Chiantis were the variations he blended with the (requisite) Sangiovese grapes. According to DOC laws, Chianti producers were allowed only to use Sangiovese and up to 30% white Malvasia grapes. Since he was only making wine for personal consumption and wasn’t keen on the typical sangiovese/white blend, Rocchetta experimented with other grapes. The resulting wines were called Sassicaia, which planted the seed of the Super Tuscan movement.
Fast forward to the 1970s. After Rocchetta’s once personal wines were being bottled and sold commercially, there was an enormous need to amend the rules governing Italian wine. In order to achieve better quality and to become more competitive in foreign markets, the Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) designation was created. The purpose of this designation was to accommodate growers who couldn’t meet all the DOC or DOCG regulations for one reason or another, but were still producing great wines.
But just because the IGT label implies a step-child status doesn’t mean the wines are lesser than those awarded DOC or DOCG status. In fact, some of the priciest bottles on the market sport the IGT designation as the lack of DOC/DOCG status became the mark of a rebel, and more and more producers began creating super wines of their own.
Super wines are not all super expensive, though. The price generally ranges from $12 – $275 per bottle, which leaves room for just about everyone to give one a try.
On the lower end of the price scale is Castello Banfi Centine Toscana, which runs right around $12. This Sangiovese-Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend is full of complex flavors: blackberry, plum, espresso, licorice, bittersweet chocolate, vanilla, and tar.
A good representative of the next step up in price, ranging from $16-$18, is the Podere Brancaia Tre Rosso Toscana.”Tre Rosso” means three reds: Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon; the grapes are in fact grown on three estates in Castellina, Radda, and Morellino di Scansano. The taste is medium-bodied, juicy, and loaded with wild berry and dark cherry fruit, balanced with velvety tannins.
I’ll share one last super wine for now – Uccelliera “Rapace” Toscana IGT. This blend is 60% Sangiovese, 30% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and runs around $26 a bottle. With flavors of sweet plums and cherries with tobacco-like oak spice and a rich, long finish, this wine is a must try.
Until next time ~ Cheers!