Super Tuscan is not actually an official classification of wine, it’s a term that came about in the late 1970s when winemakers were frustrated with the slow, unyielding wine laws in Italy. Everyone knows you can only use Italian grapes like Sangiovese in Tuscan red wine right? Wrong!
In Tuscany they started to introduce non-indigenous grapes into the wine, like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot which caused a lot of controversy. But the result did produce incredibly high-quality wines and so the Super Tuscan was born. The first Super Tuscan was Sassicaia from the Bolgheri estate, a 1968 vintage released in 1971 and this was soon followed by Tignanello from Antinori.
Tuscany is probably one of the most well-known and easily recognisable areas of Italy, everyone has seen images of rolling hills and cypress trees. It’s central with a Western coastline along the Tyrrhenian sea. The vineyards don’t just produce the famous reds but also dry white wines like Vernaccia di San Gimignano and sweet reds too. The predominant grape is of course Sangiovese which produces a very fresh wine with plenty of red fruits aromas and if aged in oak, more complex notes of herbs and tobacco.
So, the thing about Super Tuscans is, that they also come with a super price. But don’t let that put you off! There is a very good reason for this and it’s all down to the wine making process – hand harvesting, hand sorting, very brutal selection of clusters from the vine meaning that if it’s a bad year, hardly any wine is produced. Add to this some ageing in expensive oak barrels and you have a lot of quality, which never comes cheap. If it’s a special occasion and you want to try a Super Tuscan – then definitely do it, it is worth every sip.
At Rimini we have three of the best (but not the most expensive!) on our special reds selection and we always treat ourselves on birthdays or family visits from home. Tignanello from Antinori is possibly one of the best-known, we particularly like the 2014 which is instantly recognisable from the distinct labelling. Dominant Sangiovese, but with just enough blackcurrant and cherry to let you know that there is Cabernet Sauvignon in there too. Lovely and fresh with a really full feeling in the mouth and beautifully soft tannins, hints of leather and spice and wonderful length. The thing about this wine is that you could wait another 10 years and it would still be amazing to drink, and the tannins would be incredible. Try this one and you’ll love it and probably want to progress to another Antinori special which is Solaia.
We recommend the 2011, which was a fairly varied year in terms of climate but this was optimal for the Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon harvests. The colour of this wine is superb and delivers everything it promises on the eye and on the nose. Deep ruby, intense, ripe black fruits and a complexity of spices, nutmeg, rosemary and chocolate. Rounded tannins and another lovely long finish, we think this is at its best now. This wine has won so many awards and continually scores very high points from wine experts all over the world. If you only ever try a Super Tuscan once, this could be the one!
Finally, the other Super Tuscan in our cellar is the Sassicaia from Bolgheri, another 2014 but we’ve chosen this one because it was a cool year and they bravely harvested late for optimum ripeness which gave the Cabernet grapes distinctive flavours that you won’t find in other vintages. Sasso means stone in Italian and the name reflects the gravelly soil of the region. This wine is vibrant on the nose, highly aromatic cherries and blackcurrants with some rosemary notes. Full-bodied and delicate tannins in the mouth with hints of earth, spice and even flint that follow the fruit. This vintage caused quite a stir because of the unusual climate and there was much speculation around it when it was released, but with the late harvest and French oak ageing, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Super Tuscans are definitely one of the diamonds of Italian wine because they are unique. In the restaurant, we would recommend these with steak or lamb but we actually think they equally deserve your full attention to appreciate the amount of work and care, not to mention undisputed knowledge of the terroir that all of our producers put into them.