super tuscans to rescue

The history of Super Tuscan wine fascinates me as much as its taste. This varietal is notoriously bold in flavor, but the winemakers who defied convention to create it may be even bolder, and certainly more notorious. In the 1970s, Super Tuscan producers broke with Italian tradition to create a wine that would be valued on its own merit rather than its affiliation with the revered Chianti brand. Because Super Tuscan winemakers refused to obey protocol that had weakened Italian wines for years, the Italian DOC relegated Super Tuscans to the rank of “table wine,” but the new varietal’s undeniable richness and complexity made it even more popular than most Chiantis. Eventually, the Italian government was forced to grant the wine its own appellation to accommodate the growing demand for Super Tuscans and to improve the quality of Italian wines overall. This entrepreneurial grit and dedication to excellence are exactly the same qualities that drive me and my business. Whether you are growing grapes or growing capital, you MUST think outside of the box to make any mark on the world. Here are three Super Tuscans that have made their mark on my world… I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Solaia: A typical Solaia is roughly 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Cabernet Franc. Cigar box flavors of tobacco and sweet cedar meet a spice rack of vanilla and nutmeg in this smoky, jam-jar wine. The perfect culmination of fruit and soil, Solaia is best described as “intellectually satisfying,” a term I borrow from wine critic Robert Parker, who assures us that “if you are not satisfied by this wine on a hedonistic and intellectual level, then you don’t deserve to drink it.”

Ornellaia: Big tannins with a firm structure, Ornellaia are predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc with a dash of Petit Verdot. A bouquet of sweet herbs and rich spices balance freshness with lushness in this elegant varietal. Because of Ornellaia’s fruit-forward density, its tannins are almost imperceptible in later vintages, so I suggest trying a 2006 or earlier vintage for optimum quality.

Sassicaia: Very similar to a French Bordeaux because its vines originated in the Chateau Lafite-Rothschild region of France, Sassicaia is usually a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc, resulting in a ruby-red color and intense flavor. The first of the Super Tuscans, Sassicaia means “the place of many stones,” a tribute to the gravel soil from which the wine was raised and from which it takes its slightly mineral flavor. From the 1940s until the 1970s, Sassicaia was only enjoyed around the winemaker’s family dinner table, but in a 1978 tasting of great clarets, Sassicaia won best wine over a field of 33 wines from 11 different countries, thus securing Italy’s reputation as winemaker of the world.