If you know anything at all about wine, you already know that certain regions are very picky about how their wines are made, not to mention how they are named. For example, a winemaker cannot refer to their product as Champagne unless the grapes were grown and the wine made in that region. You might therefore assume that a Super Tuscan would be a wine that had its origins in Tuscany, but that is not exactly the case, as that particular name is reserved for what some may describe as an unnatural marriage of grapes and regions.
The Chianti hills lie just outside the city of Florence, and it is there where the Super Tuscan originated. This is a part of the world that has been producing wine of the highest quality for centuries, with the Chianti wine made in that region all produced from grapes grown on those rolling hills. The grapes most commonly used in these wines were the Canaiolo, but that changed when a man by the name of Barone Bettino Ricasoli came along. He believed that the Sangiovese grape delivered better flavors, so he decided to use that grape to create a Chianti blend.
As the 1960’s rolled around, the Italians decided that they wanted stricter controls over the wines made in specific regions, which was something that had been done with great success in France. Italy created a system known as the DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), which would control everything from the blends to the alcohol content in each region in the country. The Chianti region received their DOC in 1967, with the blend created by Ricasoli being the one that was used as the standard for the region. As strict as the rules were, there was a little bit of a grey area in that 20% white wine could be added, with no specific white named in the original blend.
The problem that arose here was that winemakers took full advantage of the 20% rule, creating wines that essentially started to give the Chianti region a bad name. An area that was once considered to be among the best in the world quickly became one of the least respected. Serious winemakers who operated in the Chianti region wanted things to change, which was why they went out of their way to create wines that did not meet the DOC. These folks were up against it, because the wines they created needed to be sold as table wines, which is a designation that is low on the totem pole.
It wasn’t until the wine media started to taste these wines that the revolution occurred. What was discovered was that these “rebel” wines were in fact better than anything else being created in the region, and rather than having to refer to them as table wines, the media took it upon themselves to label them as Super Tuscans. They are still immensely popular today, and they are wines that can make you feel like a little bit of an outlaw when you taste them.
By: Chris Hartland