a tuscan super in price

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Being time-challenged this morning, I turn to Wikipedia for a cogent synopsis of the history of Super Tuscan wines:

“Super Tuscans are an unofficial category of Tuscan wines, not recognized within the Italian wine classification system. The origin of Super Tuscans is rooted in the restrictive DOC practices of the Chianti zone prior to the 1990s. During this time Chianti could be composed of no more than 70% Sangiovese and had to include at least 10% of one of the local white wine grapes. Producers who deviated from these regulations could not use the Chianti name on their wine labels and would be classified as vino da tavola – Italys' lowest wine designation. By the 1970s, the consumer market for Chianti wines was suffering and the wines were widely perceived to be lacking quality. Many Tuscan wine producers thought they could produce a better quality wine if they were not hindered by the DOC regulations.

“The Marchese Piero Antinori was one of the first to create a "Chianti-style" wine that ignored the DOC regulations, releasing a 1971 Sangiovese-Cabernet Sauvignon blend known as Tignanello in 1978. Other producers followed suit and soon the prices for these Super Tuscans were consistently beating the prices of some of most well known Chianti. Rather than rely on name recognition of the Chianti region, the Super Tuscan producers sought to create a wine brand that would be recognizable on its own merits by consumers. By the late 1980s, the trend of creating high quality non-DOC wines had spread to other regions of Tuscany, as well as Piedmont and Veneto. Modification to the Chianti DOC regulation attempted to ‘correct’ the issues of Super Tuscans, so that many of the original Super Tuscans would now qualify as standard DOC/G Chianti. While many producers have brought their Super Tuscans back under DOC regulations, many have not and instead continue to use the less restrictive IGT designation Toscana.

“In addition to wines based on the Sangiovese grape, many well known Super Tuscans are based on a Bordeaux blend, meaning a combination of grapes typical for Bordeaux. These grapes are not originally from the region, but imported and planted later. The climate in Tuscany has proven to be very good for these grapes.”

PG: Sassicaia and Ornellaia are perhaps the most famous Super Tuscan Bordeaux blends. These are not cheap wines! Current vintages of both are selling for around $140 and up. Last night I enjoyed a comparable blend, from a very good vintage, at roughly one sixth the cost.

The 2009 Tenuta Frescobaldi di Castiglioni is 50% cabernet sauvignon, 30% merlot, 10% cabernet franc and 10% sangiovese. Full-bodied and supple, with lovely details of spice and tobacco, this generous and thoroughly delicious wine delivers far more flavor and pleasure than its humble price would suggest. In the large pantheon of releases from Frescobaldi, it is truly a standout.

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