What is a Super Tuscan?

A great Super Tuscan is, without question, an unofficial star of the Italian wine scene and yet there it is no single definition of the term ‘Super Tuscan’ — largely because these wines are not defined by either grape variety or specific origin. What we can say is that Super Tuscans are red wines made from either a single grape or blend of certain classic varieties generally (but not always) including Sangiovese (plus a handful of other indigenous Tuscan red varieties) as well as international cultivars that have made their home on certain soils in Tuscany, principally Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc.

It all began with Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta. The Marchese was a Piemontese nobleman who married a Tuscan noblewoman of the della Gherardesca family, who owned large tracts of Tuscan coastland. The Marchese was fond of claret and, in the late 1940s, he decided that his farmland in and around Bolgheri was sufficiently similar to Bordeaux to warrant the planting of Bordeaux varieties. Initially the wine produced was solely for family and friends but in the 1960s, as the wines matured in bottle, he realised he was onto something special. In 1968, he turned to Marchese Piero Antinori for assistance (Antinori’s mother was della Rochetta’s wife’s sister). Antinori introduced both Giacomo Tachis, the oenologist at Antinori, and the famed French oenologist, Prof. Emile Peynaud, and it is thought that the ‘recipe’ then devised remains in place (give or take) today – 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc.

Not one to be left out, Antinori introduced two prominent Super Tuscans into his line-up, both from the Tenuta Tignanello estate in Chianti Classico. Located just over the hill from Montecalvi, Tignanello is a 57-hectare vineyard, south-west facing on limestone soil. Tignanello, the first Super Tuscan to blend Sangiovese (80%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) and Cabernet Franc (5%), was introduced in 1971; and Solaia, with an initial blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (80%) and Cabernet Franc (20%) but now with Cabernet Sauvignon (75%), Sangiovese (20%) and Cabernet Franc (5%), was introduced in 1978. In the years that followed, a raft of other producers followed suit: Pergole Torte (1977), Solaia (1978), Flaccianello (1981), Cepparello (1982), Fontalloro (1983), Ornellaia (1985), L’Apparita (1985), Masseto (1986), Saffredi (1987), Redigaffi (1994), Galatrona (1994). And the list goes on.

These wines were part of a rebellion against the strictures of regulation by the Chianti Classico Consorzio. Feeling constrained by the historical recipe, these producers set about making a style of wine with more structure, more complexity, and with the intention of being taken more seriously than Chianti Classico. All these wines either broke the rules or invented new ones.

The wines had to be released outside the Chianti Classico appellation as Vino da Tavola (the lowest rung) because the Chianti Classico regulations forbade non-Italian varieties and required the inclusion of white grapes alongside Sangiovese. It wasn’t until 1992 that Italy introduced the IGT denomination and this has since been the way that Super Tuscans are labelled, allowing for fine wines on great soils to be made, even when they don’t conform to the DOCG regulations.

Why ‘Super Tuscan’? There are a few versions as to its provenance. The one we like best is that the term was coined by the late Nicolas Belfridge MW in the mid-1980s who (along with others, notably the American critics swayed by the heft of these new wines) identified the great potential of this new style.

We at Montecalvi produce three Super Tuscans: our Vigna Vecchia, the San Piero, and the Alta Valle della Greve. The VV 2019 is a field blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Ciliegiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon. The San Piero 2016 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (95%) and Merlot (5%). The AVDG is a blend of 50% Sangiovese and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. We share some recent reviews by one of the best palates going around, Tony Wood.

SOME RECENT REVIEWS OF OUR SUPER TUSCANS BY TONY WOOD

Montecalvi Vigna Vecchia IGT 2019

Deep salmon with pale garnet undertones. Delicate floral aromas, pink rose petal to the fore. Wild strawberry, loganberry, dried Mediterranean herbs. Faint liquorice notes. Long grain black pepper. Silky smooth entry. Showing class immediately, completely seduces the palate. A charming and pretty wine.
Points 94 TW

Montecalvi Alta Valle Della Greve IGT 2016
Medium ruby red in colour.
Aromatics of old red rose and violet. Bing cherry on a bed of alcohol, raspberry, cassis, eucalyptus. Dried Mediterranean herb nuances. Juicy and inviting. Broadens on the mid palate. Silky tannins encircle fresh fruit with baking spice dusting. Full of character.
Points 93 TW

Montecalvi San Piero IGT 2016
Pale purple in colour. Dark floral canopy. Red and black berries, wild cherry, blood orange. Green tea and ginger nuances. Superb intensity. Terrific persistence. Savory and earthy. Triumph.
96 TW points

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