On Fridays, Deb Harkness of Good Wine Under $20 drops by with Serious Grape. This week, Super Tuscans, the superhero of wines.
It's a bird.
It's a plane.
It's a Super Tuscan.
What's a Super Tuscan?
Some people love their big, bold flavors. Some people hate them, and find them too modern and fruity. But what are they? And how can you recognize this wine superhero when you see it?
The history of Super Tuscans goes back to the 1970s, when Italy's notoriously strict wine regulations made it impossible for winemakers in Tuscany to make wines that deviated from the following recipe: no more than 70% Sangiovese and at least 10% juice from local white grapes. The penalty if you made your wine with 80% Sangiovese? Or if you made it without white grape juice? You were forbidden from putting the highly marketable "Chianti" name on your wine and were instead required to label your wine "vino de tavola" (table wine) which was reserved for simple wines at the bottom of the Italian wine hierarchy.
In 1978, Piero Antinori released a wine made from grapes harvested in 1971. It was made from a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, and Antinori called it Tignanello. The wine quickly earned enthusiastic reviews and fans who loved the richer, fuller-bodied wine. Though Tignanello was labeled as vino de tavola, it was given the nickname "Super Tuscan." This name stuck, and soon other winemakers followed suit. Today, the Chianti regulations have been recast, and many former Super Tuscans can now be sold as Chianti.
Super Tuscans can be super expensive, but it is possible to find some good value versions of these rich wines, perfect for winter roasts and stews. One that I like is the 2005 La Brancaia Il Blu.
This Super Tuscan is made from 50% Sangiovese, 45% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is still quite young, but with a bit of time in the glass and some air it opened up to reveal beautiful aromas of tobacco, black tea, and leather along with red currants and plum. The texture of the wine was lovely and silky in your mouth, and the plum and currant flavors turned spicy picking up notes of allspice and cinnamon in the aftertaste. I liked the way the black tea aromas in the wine developed in the flavors, as well, which kept the wine interesting and engaging to the very last drop.
I'd certainly recommend the La Brancaia Il Blu to someone looking for a special bottle of wine to go with a holiday meal that included beef or lamb. Like most big red wines it is age worthy. In this case, you can enjoy your Il Blu now and over the next five or six years if you can keep it in an appropriately cool dark place.
If you have a favorite Super Tuscan leave your recommendations in the comments below.
Author's note: I received this wine as a sample. However, the La Brancaia Il Blu is available at many retailers for between $44 and $70.
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