The Soul of the Super Tuscan
They are among the most enthralling and diversified wines in Italy, yet there is probably no term in Italian wine that is more slippery, vaporous and misunderstood than “super Tuscan.”
“When I first heard ‘super Tuscan,’ I thought we were talking about unleaded fuel, not wine,” says Roberto Guldener, who runs Terrabianca in Radda in Chianti and makes several super Tuscans.
Some people define super Tuscan as a Tuscan blend made with Cabernet Sauvignon or other international varieties. Others define it as a wine that breaks ranks with Italy’s strict Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) quality regime. Others define it as any expensive wine from Tuscany.
The truth is super Tuscan is all those things—and none of those things. A super Tuscan can be a 100 percent expression of Sangiovese with absolutely no international varieties. It can be a DOC wine, and in fact many are, and it can span any price point from $12 to $275.
And the definition is changing all the time.
To get a better grip on what these wines are, were and will be it’s best to start at the beginning—back in the Italy of the 1970s, when there was an enormous need to augment the rules governing Italian wine in order to achieve better quality and to become more competitive in foreign markets, specifically the United States. Super Tuscans (it’s no coincidence the term is in English) proved to be the instrument with which both goals could be achieved.