Tuscans or Super Tuscans wines: on top of the world

Good wine is open-minded." Giacomo Tachis

For those who have not yet figured it out, I'm not talking about superheroes but about wines. Back in the 1970s, Tuscan wine producers began to experiment with foreign grape varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. By combining (or not combining) these with the Sangiovese grosso grape, they created Super Tuscan wines, an unofficial category of Tuscan wines, usually not recognized within the Italian wine classification system.

Vineyards in Bolgheri
Vineyards in Bolgheri

The pioneering examples include Sassicaia, Tignanello and Solaia, which cannot receive a DOCG denomination, like many other great wines, because their grape blend does not conform to DOCG requirements.

Even if suspected to be out of fashion in the prestigious 2013 ranking of the Top 100 Most 'Searched-For' Wines, Super Tuscan wines occupy 5 out of 100 positions. France dominates the rankings with 79 labels (9 in the top 9 positions), but Italy appears thanks to these 5 big Tuscan labels: Sassicaia (No. 13), Tignanello (No. 28), Ornellaia (No. 33), Masseto (No. 39) and Solaia (No. 51).

Road to Bolgheri [Photo credits: Ste 71]
Road to Bolgheri [Photo credits: Ste 71]

But what's so special about these super wines?

Tignanello (Tenuta Tignanello, San Casciano) Obtained from a medley of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, it is aged in French oak barrels. Since 1982 the composition has remained the same as today. Tignanello is produced in the Chianti region, only in the best years. (Tignanello was not produced in 1972, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1984, 1992 and 2002.)

Bolgheri Rosso Ornellaia (Tenuta dell'Ornellaia, Bolgheri) The Ornellaia Bolgheri Rosso was launched in 1985. It is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, aged in barrels, and is produced in the hills around Castagneto Carducci (Bolgheri).

Masseto (Tenuta dell'Ornellaia, Bolgheri) This is a wine made entirely from Merlot grapes grown in the Masseto vineyard in the Bolgheri area (little more than an experiment, produced in 800 bottles).

Tignanello vineyards [Photo credits: Stefano Olmi]
Tignanello vineyards [Photo credits: Stefano Olmi]

Solaia (Tenuta Tignanello, San Casciano) Made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese, it was launched in 1978. The initial blend was made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Since 1979 a percentage of Sangiovese was introduced to the blend. Solaia is produced in the Chianti area only in the best years and was not produced in 1980, 1981, 1983,1984 and 1992.

Bolgheri Sassicaia (Tenuta San Guido, Bolgheri) It is a wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Sassicaia was born as "vino da tavola" (table wine), then it becomes a DOC in 1993, first Italian wine denomination for a single wine producer.

Sources Here you can find out which Italian wines are in the Top 100 most popular labels on www.wine-searcher.com

See also Top Tuscan wine denominations  Giacomo Tachis: "Good wine is open-minded"