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 top Tuscan wines, usually not recognized within the Italian wine classification system.
It was only later, in 1992, that the IGT denomination was introduced to Italy and many Super Tuscans producers decided to join the regulation. The term Super Tuscan was coined by English-speaking journalists who were searching for a term which captured the excellent wines produced in the area of Bolgheri, which didn't have a DOC classification but which were far in quality from a common table wine. Since then the Bolgheri DOC classification has been created, but the term is still widely used.
Today, even if suspected to be out of fashion Super Tuscan wines still appear in the most prestigious wine rankings.
The pioneering examples include Sassicaia, Tignanello, Ornellaia and Solaia:
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).
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.