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Super Tuscan Wine: The Rebel of Reds

What exactly does “Super Tuscan” signify? Why do these wines usually carry a three figured price tag? Read on to find out.

If Italy is a booted leg, than Tuscany is located at about mid-thigh. Chianti is a district within this scenic region, and wine from Chianti must follow strict national guidelines (called “Denominazione di origine controllata,” or DOC) to be labeled as “Chianti.”

In the early 1970’s, some Tuscan wine producers began making dry red wine that didn’t adhere to the DOC production rules. Wine writers soon called these oaky, fruity, and boozy wines “Super Tuscan.”

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Unrestricted by the DOC, Tuscan winemakers let their hair down to experiment with other grape blends (DOC rules insist on at least 10% white grapes in the red wine), work with grape varieties easier to manage than the Sangiovese grape (which the DOC requires), and follow the California trend of making more oaky and intense “fruit bomb” wines.

These wines are not blushing maidens—they are proud divas with an intense bouquet, deep ruby coloration, and vivid taste impressions.

Certainly, not all Super Tuscans are equal; some wine aficionados find that these wines have spent too much time in heavily oak barrels or that they mask the true nature of the varietals by blending and over-extraction of fruit flavors.

But a well-balanced Super Tuscan can be an unforgettable experience worth every cent paid for the bottle.

Super Tuscans are usually priced higher than most similar wines because of different production techniques, higher-quality grapes, and, simply, because that’s what people will pay. It’s not unusual to see these wines sell for over $100 per bottle.

However, it is possible to find affordable Super Tuscans that offer many of the characteristics of much higher priced wines.

When selecting a Super Tuscan wine, read the label to determine which grapes were used , and then go with the type you’ll enjoy best. You might be pleasantly surprised when you experience lesser-known varietals such as Sangiovese or Cabernet Franc (one of the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon).

Look for red wines from Tuscany without the DOC or DOCG seal (a circle around a black rooster) that is featured on Chianti labels. The labels will have “Toscana” rather than “Tuscany” and sometimes “Vino da Tavola” or “Red Table Wine” to denote that the wine does not adhere to DOC requirements.

Aeration is even more important for these Super Tuscans than with other reds. An aeration device or simply decanting, the wine will help release the fruity bouquet and smooth out some of the tannins.

Letting the wine sit for an hour as you admire its deep color further improves its flavor.

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When your friends ask what great red wine you are serving, tell them that this rebel of a wine is from Tuscany, and then let their senses do the rest.

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