The History of Super Tuscans
Today I want to take you to a trip to the Tuscan coast. To be exact to the comune Castagneto Carducci. The surrounding area is better known by the name Bolgheri. In fact, Bolgheri is a suburb of Castagneto Carducci. Only recently I bought (and tried) a “Super Tuscan” from Podere Guado al Melo at half price off. This occasion is therefore the perfect opportunity to talk a little bit about the development of Bolgheri wines but before that I want to share my tasting notes for the Guado al Melo Superiore with you. I uncorked a 2004 vintage.
Podere Guado al Melo produces next to Grappa five red, two white and one pink wine. Gualo al Melo Superiore is their flagship wine. In Europe the wine retails for around 27€ (I bought the wine for just 13.50€). According to wine-searcher, the Guado al Melo Superiore is not available in the US but the Guado al Melo Rosso (“simple” version of the wine) is available for 33$.
Tasting notes Guado al Melo Superiore
Prior to drinking the wine was decanted for two hours.
In the glass, Guado al Melo Superiore had an intense ruby red color with purple reflections.. On the nose, very fruit forward. Ripe red and black fruits – especially raspberry and cherry. After a swirl, aromas of tobacco came forward. Next to these aromas, there was also something that smelled “funky”. I cannot really name what it was but it smelled a little bit like vinegar.
In my opinion a sign that the wine was in decline. Maybe that was the reason why the wine was on sale. Even though the sommelier, who sold me the wine, promised that the wine was still good.
After taking a zip I noticed mellow tannins and I tasted some red fruits again. Guado al Melo Superiore was medium bodied. The finish was short. Another sign that the wine was in decline – the website claims that the wine has an extremely long finish. The short finish was not as bad as it sounds though. The wine was quite drinkable and for 13.50€ it was still an decent buy. I won’t buy this particular vintage again but I’m looking forward to try a newer vintage of the Guado al Melo Superiore from Podere Guado al Melo. Maybe in April at VinItaly.
Super Tuscans: From Table Wine to Bolgheri DOC
The second part of today’s article is dedicated to the history of the Super Tuscan. I have mentioned Super Tuscans few times obefore but have never talked about them in detail. Not even in my Tuscan Wine Guide. Well, that is about to change.
The term Super Tuscan is, unlike most other Italian wine terms, not legally defined. Therefore, it rarely appears on wine labels these days. The Super Tuscan was born in the 1970s when a few Tuscan vintners broke the traditional Chianti DOC wine making regulations. In a first step, these vintners replaced the white grapes with Bordeaux-style grapes.
Back then, the Chianti industry was very angry about this and therefore decided not to allow the newly created wines to be labeled under any of the Tuscan wine appellations. Therefore, Super Tuscans were simply labeled Vino da Tavola (table wine) or IGT Toscana.
Antinori, an Italian winery whose history dates back to the 14th century, is said to be the first winery which successfully sold a Super Tuscan in 1970. Antinori named the wine Tignanello after its vineyard of production. The blend of 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet-Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet-Franc has not changed since 1975. Today, a bottle of Tignanello costs often 60€-70€.
A few people claim that Sassicaia was the first Super Tuscan but I disagree with that.
The immense success of the Tignanello was the start for an era of great Super Tuscans that still continues today. Tignanello is a perfect example for a high-quality “table wine” because until today the Tignanello is still classified as ordinary table wine (IGT Toscana).
Yes I know that VdT and IGT differ but in the end they are both table wines.
Over the years, the Tuscan coast around Bolgheri developed as a center of Super Tuscan production. In the 1980s, a small vineyard in Bolgheri, owned Tenuta San Guido, rose to fame. Tenuta San Guido is the winery behind the world famous Sassicaia. Sassicaia is probably even more famous than the Tignanello and there is no doubt that it is one of Italy’s most wanted wines. With the success of the Sassicaia, Bolgheri finally got its own appellation in 1983 – Bolgheri DOC.
Sassicaia is one of those wines that I really want to try. Sadly, a bottle of Sassicaia usually sells for over 150€ which, unfortunately, is out of my price range. I red that Tenuta San Guida will be present at VinItaly in Verona. So I have high hopes that I finally get to try this wine. I heard that the Sassicaia is live changing.
11 years after Bolgheri became a DOC, Sassicaia became its own appellation as well, which became known as Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC. Rumor has it that Bolgheri Sassicaia will soon get upgraded to DOCG status.
Let’s talk about food pairings: Most aged Super Tuscans pair well with beef tenderloin on Mediterranean vegetables. Veal works very well with a few Super Tuscans that have soft, mellow tannins.
Sassicaia is the only Italian wine from a single vineyard to enjoy the privilege of being its own DOC. This could make a perfect question for an upcoming wine quiz so remember this.
That said, I am looking forward to read your opinion about Super Tuscans. And of course the question arises: Have you tried Sassicaia and Tignanello before?
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