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Vinformation – Super Tuscan Special!

Hello Vino Vultures,

Not long now, as we travel along the road of freedom, until we reach the junction that says pub/restaurant/social gathering (delete where appropriate but like me I’m sure you’re looking forward to all three). I’d say the outdoor heating manufacturing industry is experiencing a bit of a boom at the moment.

If Anything Can Then Super Tuscan

The name ‘Super Tuscan’ gets banded around quite often by us wine folk but what exactly does it mean? Well there is no official classification of a Super Tuscan but a loose description would be a red wine from Tuscany that uses a majority of French grape varieties in the blend, as opposed to the indigenous Sangiovese. They also usually have quite a hefty price tag but this is not always the case. How did they get this name? Well settle down with a nice glass of something and I’ll explain…

The story begins in the 1940s when Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta decided to experiment by planting Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc vines on his San Guido estate on the Tuscan Coast rather than the native Sangiovese. It has been rumoured that the cuttings were taken from the Premier Cru Bordeaux Chateaux Lafite and Mouton Rotheschild and although this is has not been officially verified it does add spice to the legend of the resulting wine which was given the name Sassicaia. The wine was at first not released to the public and the response of critics that did taste it was lukewarm.  They much preferred the lighter reds that were being produced in Tuscany at the time which  blended the native Sangiovese grape with other varietals including some that were white. However, the Marchese cellared a large proportion of his production and as more people tasted mature vintages it became apparent that this was a very serious wine indeed. In the late 1960s Mario’s nephew, Pieri Antinori, convinced the Marchese that he should release the wine commercially and finally, in 1971, the 1968 vintage was unveiled to the world to huge acclaim. Sassicaia, along with Antinori’s own Tignanello (then produced with 100% Sangiovese), showed the potential of high quality red wine that could be produced in Tuscany. Other wines followed including Masseto, Ornellaia and Solaia to name a few and all using Bordeaux varietals in the blend like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot.

When the first of these wines were released they had to be classified as Vino da Tavola (table wine) which was the lowest form of classification. This was because they were using international grape varieties that were not recognised by any of the Italian wine classification boards (known as DOC or DOCG). It was due to them not being grouped under any geographical assemblage that they earned the nickname ‘Super Tuscans’. Fast forward to the modern day and Bolgheri is now classified DOC and Sassicaia has a DOC of its very own and the just released 2018 vintage marks the 50th anniversary of when arguably Italy’s most iconic wine took the world by storm.

Super Tuscans do not have to cost an arm and a leg so here’s a few that I have recently tasted that might only set you back a finger or two –

2018 Dainero (Merlot/Cabernet Franc), Castiglion del Bosco @ £17.50 per bottle

From an 11 hectare estate on the Maremma coast just north of Bolgheri (home of Sassicaia), the grapes are grown on a well ventilated vineyard at an altitude of 450 metres. It is a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc and is matured for 6 months in a mixture of new and old French barrique. I was very impressed with this when I tasted it with its upfront bright red cherry character. Plenty of structure and concentration here but wonderful freshness too, the costal winds doing their job beautifully. Satisfyingly rounded and spicy on the finish. Plenty of pleasure to be had from this excellent example of yet another outstanding vintage in Tuscany. Drink now or hold for 2-3 years.

2015 Altrovino, Duemani, IGP Costa Toscana, Tuscany @ £29.75 per bottle

Ripe and lush Super Tuscan produced from organic grapes grown on biodynamic soils and is 50/50 mix of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The winery is owned by Luce d’Attoma who is a highly respected Tuscan wine consultant. He purchased a site in north Bolgheri in the 1990s and prepared the soils for biodynamic viticulture. The vines were planted in 2001 and are now all certified organic. 2015 was the first vintage to be aged in Amphorae and concrete vats as opposed to barrique. This aim of this is to allow more fruit expression. On first sip there was a lovely soft, but juicy expression of Merlot. After time, more of the herbaceous complexity of the Cabernet Franc showed through. The wine is beautifully harmonised and an absolute joy to savour. Excellent value when compared to some of the more illustrious names around the Bolgheri area.

2016 OSA, Maremma Rosso, Fattoria Querciarossa, Tuscany @ £11.50 per bottle

More of a ‘baby’ Super Tuscan but this little gem produced a few miles inland from the Maremma coast is one of the best value Tuscan reds around. This is a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot and a little dash of Canaiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon. A wonderful savoury nose with mature black cherry fruit its hard to believe that this has seen no oak at all as it has superb complexity. Rich and spicy on the palate it’s a joy to drink right now. Joe Fattorini loved it when he tasted it last year on The Wine Show @ Home featuring Songbird Wines.

 

Sassicaia, Tenuta San Guido (assorted vintages) @ £175 per bottle

Just in case you want to taste what the fuss is all about I have a small quantity of bottles of the 2010, 2011 and 2013 vintages. I purchased these last year with the mind of using them for a Sassicaia wine dinner at some point and are priced about £30-£40 below the rest of the market for these vintages. I haven’t tasted them yet but all three vintages have got outstanding reviews from world acclaimed wine critics.

Well on that note I bid you a very good evening – and it’s still light outside!

Best,

Jonny

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