What are they?
A Super-Tuscan wine can be any Tuscan red wine that does not adhere to traditional blending laws established by the DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controlla e Garantita). Chianti Classico, for example, is guaranteed to be made only be from specified quantities of Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Malvasia Bianca, grapes typically found in Tuscany. Super-Tuscan wines, on the other hand, are usually made from grape varietals found outside of Italy, especially Cabernet Sauvignon. The Super-Tuscan wine movement began in the 1940s at the estate of Marchese Mario Incisa (della Rocchetta), who settled on a horse ranch in Bolgheri, a small region south of Florence near the Mediterranean Sea. Mario Incisa was not interested in making wines for the market. His desire was to make unique wines of the highest quality, only for his family and friends. He imported Cabernet Sauvignon vines from Chateau Lafite Rothschild in Bordeaux, France and aged his wine in French oak casks. Incisa worked for several decades to perfect his wine making skills. In 1968, the wine had reached such remarkable proportions that Piero Antinori, his cousin, persuaded Incisa to give the distribution rights to the Antinori's. The wine was called Sassicaia and became an immediate success. In a blind tasting in London in 1974, it was chosen as the "stand-out favorite" over the world best Cabernets, including those from Bordeaux. The wine is made from at least 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and up to 15% Cabernet Franc.
Even before the competition, Piero Antinori began to understand the potential of the terroir and climate of the Bolgheri, previously known for anonymous white wines and rose. He believed that he could make a better wine than the Chianti he was already producing and began eliminating the white Malvasia grapes from the blend, replacing it with a number of French varietals he was testing. In 1971, Antinori released a new wine called Tignanello. Since 1975 this wine has included about 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 80% Sangiovese, and stands head and shoulders above the DOCG hierarchy. Another commercial success for the Antinori family was Solaia. It was introduced in 1978, and is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc and 20% Sangiovese. It can also rival the finest French Bordeaux.
Other notable contributors to the world of Super-Tuscan wines include Lodovico Antinori, Piero Antinori’s older brother, who introduced Ornellaia in 1985. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (65%), Merlot (30%) and Cabernet Franc (5%). In addition to Ornellaia, Lodovico uses grapes from the Masseto vineyard to produce a wine of the same name, featuring Merlot, which has reached cult status. Vigna L'Apparita, is another Italian Merlot, produced at Castello di Ama. It is made in very small quantities and aged in French oak barriques. Castello dei Rampola's Super-Tuscan super star is Sammarco, which is made from 80% Cabernet and 20% Sangiovese. Some vintages of Sammarco rival Sassicaia and Solaia, but cost substantially less. And last , but not least, are producers who have tried to incorporate modern wine making techniques and traditional Italian varietals. I Sodi di San Nicolo is produced by the Castellare estate and is made from 85% Sangiovese and 15% Malvasia Nera. After a maceration period of 18-25 days, the wine is transferred to new French oak barriques and aged for 24 months. It is a noteworthy effort. A broad (and historical) collection of these wines is available from our cellars. Please contact us for further information and assistance.