The History of Super Tuscans and 2004 Podere Guado al Melo – Guado al Melo – Bolgheri Superiore DOC

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

2004 Poggio Guado al Melo - Guado al Melo - Bolgheri Superiore DOCGuado al Melo Superiore is a classic Super Tuscan blend of Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cabernet-Franc and Merlot. The wine ages 20 months in small barrique barrels.  Alcohol by volume was label listed at 13%.

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.

Antinori TignanelloBack 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.

Tenuta San Guido - SassicaiaOver 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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30 comments on “The History of Super Tuscans and 2004 Podere Guado al Melo – Guado al Melo – Bolgheri Superiore DOC”

  1. wineking3 wineking3 Reply

    Great post! I never had Tignanello and I also never tried Sassicaia before. And I probably will never unless I find a generous sponsor 😛
    I didn’t know that the super tuscan was considered table wine. That doesn’t make much sense I think.
    So there is no other producer of Sassicaia than Tenuta San Guido? That’s sucks. Same situation as with the French monopoles…

    • vino in love Reply

      Well regarding the classification of super tuscans you have to know that the large majority of the Italian DOC and DOCG appellations have very strict rules on which grapes are permitted and which are not. Bordeaux-style grapes are usually not permitted. In the 1970s the situation was even worse than it is now. Bolgheri DOC is one of the few Tuscan DOCs that actually limits the use of Sangiovese unlike most others. Take Brunello DOCG (100% Sangiovese) Chianti DOCG (at least 70% Sangiovese) or Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG (at least 70% Sangiovese).

      Sassicaia is only produced by Tenuta San Guido. And you are right, it is just like a French monopole.

  2. RiojaChianti RiojaChianti Reply

    I drank the Guda al Melo Rosso a few months ago. It was alright but a bit too expensive.

    Regarding super tuscans, I heard lots of great stories about Tignanello but haven’t had it yet. I plan to do so in the future though. A good friend of mine has a magnum bottle of Tignanello at home. He promised me that he’ll give me a call when he opens it 🙂

  3. Suzanne Reply

    I learn so much from each of your posts. I have never had (to my knowledge) a Super Tuscan wine. It’s possible when I was In Italy years ago that I did but can’t remember. It’s too bad that it’s not available in the US, I will have to ask my local wine merchant if he can get Tignanello or Sassicaia. They sound wonderful. I truly love Italian wine and really would love to give these a try,

    • vino in love Reply

      Thank you Suzanne!
      Sometimes it is hard to know whether a wine is a Super Tuscan or not since the bottle label does not indicate it. Tignanello and Sassicaia are probably the two best Super Tuscans out there. I tried the Tignanello a couple of times and it was pretty good. Worth trying for sure! Sassicaia is probably even better. I hope I’ll try it in April at VinItaly (a very large wine fair).
      Let me know how you liked them if you get a chance to try them!

  4. hannah-theis hannah-theis Reply

    Sassicaia – that wine brings up good old memories. Might be the best (Italian) wine ever.
    Didn’t try the Tignanello yet. In fact, I hadn’ heard of it before so thanks for letting me know about : -)
    Always learn something new when I come to your site!

  5. drinkforlife Reply

    Very nice summary. Straight to the point! That’s how I like it! I’m going to the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri Event in Chicago on February 12th. Hopefully, they’ll have Sassicaia there. I saw that it got the Tre Bicchieri award this year.

  6. Sean P. Reply

    The first vintner who planted Merlot, Syrah, and all thr other French grapes in Italy must have been genius! Tenute Loacker’s Levante is one of my favorte good-value Super Tuscans.

    • vino in love Reply

      I think it was only a matter of time. Sooner or later someone would start planting native French grapes in Italy. It is the same with the Italian grapes. You can find Trebbiano in many countries. Same goes for Sangiovese and many other Italian grapes.

  7. talkavino Reply

    Very nice article, Julian. Couple of comments.
    For the 2004 SuperTuscan to go bad would be very strange – I would question the storage conditions of that wine – it must be a culprit. I would expect SuperTuscan of any reasonable quality to last for 20+ years.
    I don’t remember trying Sassicaia, but I had Ornelaia. The problem with younger vintages of those wines which you try at the trade show is that it is hard to assess greatness. It needs time, it should open up, etc. I had the Ornellaia which was about 2-3 years old based on vintage, and it was just ok.
    Last note – you probably know this already, but still – for VinItaly, have a plan for the “high end” wines to visit them first – I can’t speak for VinItaly in Verona, but myself and Stefano missed on Biondi-Santi – by the time we came to the table, the wine was long gone…

    • vino in love Reply

      Thank you for commenting, Anatoli.
      I think it is quite strange, too that the wine went bad this quick. I bought it a few days before opening it and the sommelier at the wine shop assured me the wine was still in excellent conditions. I was quite excited before uncorking the bottle but it turned out to be just a decent wine. I hope the next time I try a Guado al Melo Superiore it will taste a little bit better.

      I had a young Ornellaia at a Gambero Rosso tasting in Rome two years ago and it was “not bad”. I heard though that Sassicaia is much better. An older vintage of the Ornellaia would probably have tasted better.

      You are right that at wine fairs the good wines tend to run out soon. Fortunately, this has never happened to me at VinItaly in Verona but I experienced this problem at other trade shows. Quite disappointing. VinItaly is 4 days long and I will be there probably the first 2-3 days. Hopefully that is enough time to stop by most wineries on my “to–visit” list.
      Another aspect that I like about VinItaly is the fact that many wineries bring older vintages, too. Last year. I tried a 2004 Trabucchi d’Illasi – Amarone Riserva, a 2005 Meloni Vini – Vasca 50, and a 2000 Agriverde – Plateo. Three really good wines. Not every vintner is that nice though.
      I red somewhere that at last year’s VinItaly, Donnafugata served 27000 bottles of wine. Just to give you an imagination.
      Sorry to hear that you missed out on Biondi Santi. They make good Brunello but other (maybe less famous) wineries make better ones in my opinion.
      The Gambero Rosso World Tour stops in NY, too sometime in February. If you have time you should consider going there.

  8. winetalks winetalks Reply

    Super Tuscan – that doesn’t ring a bell. Don’t think I ever had one. You got me curious about that Sassicaia.
    What a pity that the Bolgheri Superiore was more on the flop side of wine. If I buy a wine for $55 then I want something stunning. Let’s hope it was just a bad bottle.
    I wish I could go to VinItaly in Verona.. It’s just too far away 🙁

    • vino in love Reply

      Well the wine from Podere Guado al Melo simply didn’t deliver as much as I expected it to. But hey I got the wine on sale at 50% off. So I can’t and won’t complain about it.

  9. Marco van Puff Reply

    Love the post! I’ve been reading your blog for quite a while now and I learned so much here.
    Looking forward for more in the future. Will you plan to do more posts like this one that deal with the history of a certain wine? That might be interesting.

    • vino in love Reply

      Thank you for commenting.
      It makes me happy that you Vino in Love.
      I might do similar articles in the future. If there is a certain topic that you would like to have covered then I can see if I can write something about it.

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  11. Virginia Reply

    We discovered Super Tuscans when we were over there. Amazing wines. Unfortunately they are hard to find in my area. I always keep an eye out though just in case. We get them once in awhile.

    • vino in love Reply

      You are so right that Super Tuscans are fantastic wines! Whenever you get the chance to buy some in the States then take it 🙂
      When I lived in Houston, TX I always found it a pity that many Italian wines were hard to find.

  12. EatwithNamie Reply

    Hi, just discovered your blog and I find it really informative. I’ve recently taken a wine course and learned a bit of Italian wines, but mostly my knowledge revolves around French wines. So I will check here for Italian wines. I didn’t get to try many Italian wines when I was there 4 years ago and would love to visit Italy again for a wine tour. Thanks.

    • vino in love Reply

      Thank you for stopping by!
      Italy offers such a large variety of unique wines 🙂 There is something for every palate.
      If you need Italian wine recommendations or should you have a question regarding Italian wine then let me know and I try to help.

  13. the winegetter Reply

    I’ve had Tignanello in the past (being a lawyer by training means you have lawyer friends that can actually afford that stuff). I was excited to try it, but I thought it was just good. Definitely not outstanding or anything. And I would never pay that much money for it. That said, Nina really liked it a lot. Costco is selling Sassicaia for $180 per bottle I think. I always see it, but it is so much out of my price range…

    • vino in love Reply

      Thanks for stopping by Oliver.
      I know the price tag is so scary! Just too much money for a bottle of wine. I hope you get to try it at a fair or somewhere where you don’t have to pay that much for it. I don’t even know it the Sassicaia is that good since differently people told me different things about it.
      You are right regarding the Tignanello. The 70€ are better spent on multiple wines or on something better.

  14. Pingback: My first Super Tuscan experience: 2008 Tenuta San Guido ‘Sassicaia’ – Italy – Wine Talks

  15. Podere Guado al Melo Reply

    Dear Mr Rossello,
    I apologize for having read your review of our wine so late. Above all, I am sorry for your negative encounter with our Superiore 2004.Usually our Bolgheri DOC Superiore wine, now called ATIS, is very appreciated. Probably that particular bottle had not been stored properly. I am even a little surprised by the price you’ve paid for the bottle.The 2004 vintage we’ve stored in quality stock doesn’t show to be defective.
    But, very simply, it might even be that the type of wine doesn’t correspond to your personal taste.
    Because if you praise the qualities of a wine such as Tignanello, an outstanding wine produced in Chianti area, powerful and intense; then lets consider that our Bolgheri Superiore is quite the opposite, because characterized above all by elegance and balance (given by soil composition, climate and our artisanal work).
    Thanks anyway for your attention and please accept our invitation to a tasting and debate in our winery, next time you are in Bolgheri.
    Sincerely yours Michele Scienza

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Sorry for my late reply.
      I am looking forward to try a different vintage of the wine.
      You are very right that a Tignanello can’t be compared to a Bolgheri DOC – different style, different grapes and so on.
      Thank you a lot for the invitation. The next time I am in Bolgheri I will come and visit your winery. Looking forward to it 🙂

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