Expanding your wine collection means seeking out the best wines from around the world. Whether you want to acquire wines that age well and have exceptional taste, or whether you seek wines that command a higher price tag for investment purposes, Super Tuscan wines should definitely be included in your collection.
What Is a Super Tuscan Wine?
A Super Tuscan wine is one that doesn't follow Tuscany's Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) classification system.
Starting in the 1970s, some Chianti-region wine producers felt that the DOC government labels allowed for lower-quality wine and prevented experimentation. Super Tuscan wines arose from this experimentation, which typically involved blends with international grape varieties – especially Bordeaux grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, as opposed to only Italian grapes like Sangiovese, Canaiolo Nero and Ciliegiolo.
However, some Super Tuscan wines contain mostly Italian or 100 percent Italian grapes, with the difference coming down to other factors like how long they were aged and the aging process used. The year 1992 brought in the official term Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT), and in time, IGT Toscana became synonymous with the product known as a Super Tuscan wine.
There is wide variety with the quality and taste of Super Tuscan wines, but they have been exceedingly popular since the 1980s; many have come to make a name for themselves.
All About the Tuscan Wine Region
The province of Tuscany is home to deeply rolling hillsides and winding country roads, with its western side facing the Tyrrhenian and Ligurian seas and its eastern side sitting high in the Apennine Mountains. This region has been known for its wine production for hundreds of years, especially for its production of red wines like Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino.
The climate has rich diversity, with typically Mediterranean warmth along the coastal regions and cooler inland temperatures that match the rise in elevation. Sangiovese grapes make up the majority of vineyard plantings, but other Italian grapes like Canaiolo Nero and Ciliegiolo feature as well. Since the 1970s, international grape varieties have become more common.
Tuscany has several red wine-producing regions: Montepulciano and Montalcino in the south, Chianti in the north-central part, and the Tuscan Coast that includes Bolgheri and Maremma. San Gimignano is found within the Chianti region and primarily focuses on white wine. Of these regions, Chianti and Bolgheri in the Tuscan Coast produce the most extensive array of Super Tuscan wines.
Below you'll find 10 wines famed for their Super Tuscan wine provenance.
1. Tenuta San Guido "Sassicaia"
Considered the first Super Tuscan wine, Sassicaia first took shape in the 1940s as a private wine for friends and family of the Tenuta San Guido estate near Bolgheri. It appeared commercially with the 1968 vintage and enjoyed immense popularity. The first vintage was 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 15 percent Cabernet Franc, a blend they have maintained with each new vintage. Sassicaia is known for medium to full body with plenty of berry, chocolate and spice notes.
2. Tua Rita "Redigaffi"
Found along the Tuscan Coast in Suvereto, Tua Rita produces Redigaffi, a famed 100 percent Merlot wine. In production since 1994, Redigaffi took off in 1997 with a 100 rating that captured worldwide attention. This Super Tuscan wine ages for 18 to 20 months in French oak barrels and is known for intense flavors like sweet fruit, chocolate, vanilla and licorice, and a lingering finish.
3. Antinori "Solaia"
Antinori, located inland in the Chianti Classico subregion of Chianti, first released its Solaia in 1978. The blend at the time was purely Bordeaux-style – 80 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and the remaining 20 percent Cabernet Franc. By 1980, the blend changed to include 20 percent Sangiovese, leaving 75 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 5 percent Cabernet Franc. This wine ages in French oak barrels, but it only appears in years with exceptional harvest.
4. Le Macchiole "Messorio"
Bolgheri-based Le Macchiole began producing Messorio in 1994, following the success of their first wine, Paleo Rosso. Their Messorio wine originated as and remains 100 percent Merlot, which gives it rich tannins and bold notes of berries, florals, spices and espresso. Messorio ages for about 18 to 20 months in new oak barrels, and it evolves well over time.
5. Tenuta dell'Ornellaia "Ornellaia"
From its location along the Tuscan Coast in the hamlet of Bolgheri, Tenuta dell'Ornellaia puts its focus on wines that bring out the best of this Mediterranean environment. In 1985, they released Ornellaia with a blend of 80 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 15 percent Merlot and 5 percent Cabernet Franc. This blend remained fairly constant until 2003, which introduced Petit Verdot and a more balanced blend – with Cabernet Sauvignon still in the lead. Ornellaia delights with its balance, silky texture and rich fruits.
6. Antinori "Tignanello"
Apart from Sassicaia, Tignanello is considered one of the first of the modern Super Tuscan wines. It originated from Antinori's Chianti Classico-region vineyard in 1971 from a proprietary blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The wine is typically 80 percent Sangiovese, although percentages vary by vintage. Tignanello remains highly sought-after for its complex notes of cherry, rose and other florals, berries, minerals, herbs and warm spices.
7. Fontodi "Flaccianello della Pieve"
Situated in Chianti Classico near Panzano, Fontodi produces a high-class Sangiovese that holds its place among the Bordeaux-style Super Tuscan wines. First made in 1981, the 100 percent Sangiovese Flaccianello first came from a single vineyard; in 2001, that source extended to the best grapes of the harvest. It ages for 24 months in oak barrels and releases a rich mix of black currant, sweet herbs, minerals, mushrooms and ripe berries.
8. Castello di Ama "L'Apparita"
Castello di Ama sits in the Chianti Classico hills around Ama, where it has produced L'Apparita, a rich 100 percent Merlot, since 1985. The estate was the first in the region to produce a pure Merlot wine, and it helped set the standard for high-quality grapes with the use of a vertical-growing open lyre vine system. L'Apparita ages for 14 to 16 months and, once bottled, releases balanced tannins and acidity, plums and other fresh fruit, chocolate and subtle violets.
9. Antinori "Guado al Tasso"
Antinori's estate along the Tuscan Coast in Bolgheri produces Guado al Tasso, a mainly Bordeaux-style blend. Guado al Tasso included Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah grapes from its first bottling in 1990 until 2006. By 2007, the estate removed Syrah from the blend and replaced it with Cabernet Franc. Today, this Super Tuscan wine is elegant and supple, with bold fruits, complex spices, tobacco and licorice.
10. Tenuta dell'Ornellaia "Masseto"
First produced as "Merlot" in 1986, Masseto received its official name the following year. Originating in the Bolgheri region, this Super Tuscan wine is made from 100 percent Merlot grapes and is known for depth, structure and bold flavors, especially plums, berries and chocolate.
Enhance your collection with the best Super Tuscan wines that combine the richness of Tuscan terroir with exquisite flavors of both local and international grapes. If you're not sure where to begin, please view our guide on how to start a wine collection.