What’s the difference between Tuscany and “super Tuscan” wines?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What’s the difference between Tuscany and "super Tuscan" wines?

—Avdhesh, Delhi

Dear Avdhesh,

Tuscany is a region in central Italy. You’ve probably heard of Chianti, the most famous red wine from the region. Brunello di Montalcino and Montepulciano are a few of Tuscany’s other traditional wine designations. For a wine to carry these labels, it must be made following strict rules about which grapes it’s made from, in the case of these wines, mostly or entirely Sangiovese, a late-ripening red variety native to Italy. There are also rules for how those wines can be made and aged. There are dozens of these Denominazioni di Origini Controllate (DOCs) and 11 Denominazioni di Origini Controllate e Garantita (DOCGs) in Tuscany.

But in the late 1960s and ’70s, some Tuscan producers felt that the legal rules governing the production of Chianti were too restrictive. For example, they required the use of some white grapes in this red wine, and they prohibited blending in non-traditional international grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah. They decided to make wine using those international grape varieties, but their wines could only be labeled as vino da tavola ("table wine"), the lowest and typically cheapest designation.

But these were serious wines with serious wine prices, and they also earned critical praise; people started referring to these high-end wines made from entirely or in part from Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah or other grapes (including Sangiovese) as “super Tuscans.”

Today, many super Tuscans use the legal appellation of IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) Toscana, which gives producers more flexibility than Chianti and other Tuscan DOCs but more prestige than vino da tavola. The Bolgheri DOC was created in 1994 specifically for these red blends. Super Tuscans tend to be modern, big and rich—and often carry high price tags.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny labeling-regulations Red Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Sangiovese Merlot Italy Tuscany

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