Super T’s

What do Super Tuscan and IGT have in common?  For starters both of these designations were created to label “outlaw” wines. Who knew wine could be so edgy? There are quite a few regulations and laws of Italian wine making. VdT stands for Vino de Tavola a table wine. DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) began in 1963 and the first DOC wine was actually a white wine, the 1966 Vernaccia di San Gimignano.

DOCG Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) was added in the 1980’s as a special guarantee that the regional wine laws were being followed.

Having this status meant the vintner was required to follow very specific laws regarding permissible grape varieties, yields, minimum and maximum alcohol content, specific vineyard practices and even chemical analysis.

The original “recipe” for Chianti was a blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo and whites, Malvasia and/or Trebbiano. Chianti was established in 1716 by the Duke of Cosimo and it was Baron Betino Ricasoli who came up with the original blend.

In the 1940’s Marchese Mario Incisa started to plant Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc in the Bolgheri area of Tuscany. Using these grapes he produced a wine called Sassicacia. This wine was not only made with non-traditional grapes but aged in French barriques not the Slovenian barrels that Tuscan producers normally use. There was not enough of this wine to satisfy demand but it did make quite a splash in the world of wine.

In 1971 Piero Antinori really broke the mold with Tignanello. Tignanello was almost all Sangiovese and as time went on Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Cab Franc was added. This wine was also aged in French barriques. Antinori had enough clout to pull this off.

A lot of maverick vintners became restless and wanted to “break out of the box” using non-traditional grape varieties which they could blend and combine as they saw necessary or use 100% Sangiovese if they wanted. In other words, there was a desire for freedom from the restrictive DOC laws. Tradition was upended.

These wines became some of the most expensive wines of their region, the Maremma in Tuscany, but they could only be labeled as VdT, not a great marketing tool.  During the 80’s and 90’s as these wines caught on there had to be a new designation to define these new styles. The birth of the Super Tuscan and a new designation, IGT’s! Super Tuscan’s have no rules. Any red wine from Tuscany that doesn’t fit DOC or DOCG regulations could technically be considered a Super Tuscan but it is a term more often used for marketing purposes as these wines historically command high prices. The vintners finally had freedom of expression.

IGT’s (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) are wines that are better (usually) than mere table wines VdT. The government officially added IGT as a third level of designation in 1992. However, the wine labels must still contain region, varietals and of course vintage.

Super Tuscans may be 100% Sangiovese or blended with nontraditional grape varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Cab Franc. All this adds to the creativity of the winemaker who hopefully puts out a better wine for us, the consumer.