Ratings: What Are Super Tuscans? Here Are Our Current Favorites
The Italian region of Tuscany is well known for the Sangiovese grape—a key player in the region’s famous Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino wines. But half a century ago, when local winemakers began popularizing wines made with international grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, the resulting wines—which often incorporated local Sangiovese—became known as Super Tuscans.
In the intervening decades, these wines have exploded in popularity. But unlike offerings like Chianti Classico, Super Tuscans aren’t made according to specific rules and regulations. The name “Super Tuscan” is, in fact, a marketing term—and a rather successful one at that.
Here’s everything to know about Super Tuscans and why they’ve managed to captivate the imaginations and taste buds of drinkers in the know.
What Is a Super Tuscan Wine?
Unsurprisingly, Super Tuscans hail from Tuscany. Most are “blends of Sangiovese and international varietals, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and others, just Bordeaux blends or Sangiovese aged in barriques, labeled as a Toscana IGT wine,” says Massimo Piccin, founder and owner of Podere Sapaio. But some Super Tuscans are 100% Sangiovese, while others don’t contain any Italian varieties at all.
Here’s how Super Tuscans came to be: By the late 1960s, Tuscan vintners had grown frustrated with the rules and labeling terms around local wine production, which was mostly bottlings made from Sangiovese and other local grapes. “There was a need for the producer to make wine without following the regulations,” explains Beatrice Contini Bonacossi, the fourth-generation owner of Tenuta di Capezzana in Tuscany.
International varietals had been in Tuscany since the 17th century, says Danielle Callegari, writer at large for Wine Enthusiast and wine reviewer for Tuscany and the Italian South. But this was when winemakers truly started experimenting, blending Italian grapes with international varieties with the goal of appealing to drinkers beyond Italy.
Many of the resulting bottles took influence from Bordeaux, with vintners using similar grapes and aging techniques to create much more structured wines. At the time, Bordeaux was growing rapidly in popularity, and using them as an influence helped these wines—eventually dubbed “Super Tuscans”—gain international interest, explains Wine Enthusiast Tasting Director Anna-Christina Cabrales.
The beginning of the name “Super Tuscan” is hard to track, though, notes Callegari. The term took hold in the early 1990s, when Italian journalists began using it. It’s thought to have spread from there. The term is used more conversationally and is not a legal designation or allowed on a bottle’s label, she says.
But from a consumer perspective, the new style of wine was confusing. Because it didn’t adhere to the Italian appellation system, these bottlings were first referred to as basic table wines, or Vino de Tavola, a designation that also includes lower-quality wines. As Super Tuscans gained critical praise, however, their popularity and prices skyrocketed, leading producers to push for a new appellation or distinction to differentiate their wines on the bottle.
A new Italian labeling term—Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT)—was made to differentiate Super Tuscans (and other Italian wines) from lower-quality wines in 1995. IGT rules allow winemakers to use different grapes and winemaking techniques from those required by the DOCG and DOC designations.
However, an IGT label is an imperfect way to spot a Super Tuscan, since it applies to a wide range of wines. Some IGT wines can be found for a few dollars (not a Super Tuscan), while others are priced well into the hundreds (potentially a Super Tuscan), Bonacossi says. Additionally, it can sometimes be difficult to ascertain what grape varieties are used in these wines.
What Do Super Tuscans Taste Like?
“Super Tuscans can, in theory, taste like anything since their creation was specifically designed to give Tuscan wine producers a chance to color outside of the lines,” explains Callegari. But they generally share some hallmark traits.
“What unites them is their rich, even brooding, dark fruit flavors, lush palates and long finishes,” Callegari says. “A great expression manages to be elegant and approachable right away even as it promises to develop yet more sophistication and depth over time.”
Super Tuscans remain different from other Italian wines, even other traditional Tuscan wines, says Piccin. “They usually have a deep red color,” he says. “On the palate, they are characterized by soft and sweet tannins.”
“Despite their international appeal, most of them are very territorial, meaning they express a great sense of place,” Piccin adds. “[They] have a very strong, personal identity.”
The Best Super Tuscan Wines
Antinori 2019 Solaia Red (Toscana)
This wine has a deeply savory nose, with seaweed, soy sauce, olives, tobacco, black licorice and a rich medley of cherries, blackberries and plums. The fruity, spicy palate brings more berries, dark chocolate and chili peppers, emphasized by palpable heat and sticky but gentle tannins through a seemingly infinite finish. It’s exceptionally drinkable now, but a few more years would guarantee a command performance. 97 Points — Danielle Callegari
Le Macchiole 2019 Paleo Cabernet Franc (Toscana)
A gripping high-wire act of balance and integration, with a nose of cedar chips, wild herbs, black pepper, bergamot and underbrush and a palate of bing cherry, mixed berries, soy sauce and licorice candy. Tannins that feel like a firm guiding hand and an acidic heat that simmers underneath come together for a showstopper. Drink now or enjoy through 2039. 96 Points— D.C.
Masseto 2019 Massetino Merlot (Toscana)
Dense fruit and woody, medicinal notes brood on the nose of this iconic Tuscan expression of Merlot. Aromas range from black cherry, plum, fig and raisin to eucalyptus, fennel, wild mint and damp soil. The palate feels austere, with unrelenting tannins and acid that nearly vibrates. It has a pure linearity that will only reveal itself with quite a bit more time. Drink 2029 through 2039, perhaps beyond. 96 Points— D.C.
Fattoria Le Pupille 2019 Saffredi Red (Toscana)
This Bordeaux blend has a celebratory nose, like eating a slice of birthday cake in a comfortable armchair. Cherries, blackberries, vanilla, spice and leather emerge on the palate, alongside candied orange peel and dark chocolate, with herbs and soil at the end. There’s a lot of room to breathe with tannins this tightly wound. Drink from 2024–2037. 95 Points— D.C.
Le Macchiole 2019 Messorio Merlot (Toscana)
Le Macchiole is always identifiable by its death-defying acts of balance and the Messorio is no exception. Cherries, cranberries, wild herbs and soil on the nose carry through onto the palate before pepper, charred meat and a juicy spiciness come out on the finish. Tannins that are unwinding with ease and a discernible heat keep things exciting; a delight right now but watching what happens next will be worth the wait. 95 Points — D.C.
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Marchesi Antinori 2019 Tignanello Red (Toscana)
The nose on the 2019 vintage of this Super Tuscan benchmark is soft and dense, with dark macerated berries in tension with green and black pepper, a hint of hibiscus or a cranberry tea, followed by tanned leather, wet soil and moss under a tree. The palate echoes the nose but adds more decadent notes of plum, fig and chocolate mousse, with tannins that feel like a good pair of loafers—supportive, but comfortable. It’s long and harmonious. 95 Points — D.C.
Bibi Graetz 2020 Colore Sangiovese (Toscana)
Cherries, strawberries, raspberries, seaweed and soy sauce mingle with the scent of freshly paved road, gun flint and pencil on the nose of this wine. It offers a very cherry palate, with wet stone, white pepper, rose petal and chocolate-covered orange slice. A bright and lively wine, it balances structure with playfulness, and delivers fruit that is mouthfilling without turning velvety. 94 Points — D.C.
Luce 2019 Red (Toscana)
Violets, fresh mint and raspberry come together with reductive notes of tar as well as tobacco, leather and spices—cardamom jumps out in particular—on the complex nose of this wine. Dark berries emerge on the palate, with more herbs, spices, bitter chocolate and coffee grinds. The dusty tannins and searing acid confirm time will elevate this even further. 94 Points — D.C.
Carpineto 2016 Farnito Cabernet Sauvignon (Toscana)
The restrained, reduced nose on this wine offers tar, roses and coffee, with a certain freshness from wild fennel and wet rocks. The palate stays savory with more tar and rocks, but also dense fruit including figs, raisins, dark cherries and chocolate. Assertive tannins are propped up by similarly substantial acid. 93 Points — D.C.
Luce 2019 Lucente Red (Toscana)
This wine has a subtle but classic and delicate nose, with vanilla, cherry blossom and candied orange peel before slate and graphite emerge at the back. The palate is richer, with cherry pie, orange zest, herbs and gravel. Harmonious and elegant. 91 Points — D.C.
San Felice 2018 Vigorello Red (Toscana)
San Felice’s Vigorello blend boasts flowers, figs and raspberries up front, with dark chocolate covered coconut and whiskey barrels underneath. Black cherries and plums come out on the palate, with hints of metallic earth tones (like black olives out of the can). The taut tannins harmonize with ease alongside the substantial fruit and oak aging. 90 Points — D.C.
What Grapes Are in Super Tuscan Wines?
This varies bottle to bottle, but most Super Tuscans are a blend of classic red Italian grapes, such as Sangiovese, and red grape varieties from outside the country, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah.
Do Super Tuscan Wines Age Well?
Generally speaking, yes. “It depends on the producer, but I can easily say most of the Super Tuscans can age pretty well,” Bonacossi says.
What Does Super Tuscan Wine Pair With?
Because Super Tuscans tend to be big, bold wines of very high quality, Bonacossi recommends saving a bottle for a very special meal that features meats, like Florentine steak, and very-aged cheese.
How Do You Identify a Super Tuscan Wine?
The term “Super Tuscan” is not on bottles, but many Super Tuscans are labeled IGT, boast high price points and may include the specific blend on the label.
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