No Super Tuscans for Me! #ItalianFWT

Italian Food, Wine and Travel Explores Super Tuscans
Our Italian Food, Wine and Travel group is digging into Super Tuscans this month. Take a look at the bottom of this post for links to all my fellow bloggers thoughts on the subject!

Two Rebellions Against the Italian DOC System
Italians aren’t exactly the best rule-followers in the world, and Italian winemakers are no exception. The Italian DOC system was established to put some structure around regional Italian wines. In well known regions like Tuscany, a winery could label their wine with the DOC name, like Chianti, if they followed all the rules for grape variety, growing conditions, yield, and winery practices. Sounds great, but this didn’t work for everyone.

One group wasn’t satisfied with the Chianti DOC rules, wanting to produce a more polished and commercially successful wine – these became known as the Super Tuscans. Another group seemed like rebels, but they were most interested in producing truly traditional wines of the region, showing they place they were from. They hated all the chemicals being used in both the vineyard and winery, and they wanted to produce a more natural product – but it didn’t meet with favor from the DOC. Both these groups abandoned the DOC for the less glamorous but less restrictive Toscana IGT.  They are worlds apart!

Super Tuscan Image courtesy of (the auction house)

What’s a Super Tuscan and Why None for Me
Simply stated, a Super Tuscan is a red wine from Tuscany (Toscana) made with a blend of grapes which may include traditional Italian grapes along with popular French varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah. They are typically produced in a ripe style and aged in French barriques. Super Tuscans became tremendously popular in the 1980’s and achieved prices far beyond typical Italian wines of the region. To be clear, I think winegrowers ought to produce exactly what they want to produce.  They have every right to run a successful business and make as much profit as they can for all their hard work. These wines are delicious and very popular.

That said, does the world need another Cabernet / Merlot / Syrah / Cabernet Franc?

Those grapes are native to France and wines made from those grapes are renown the world over. In addition, those grapes are the major varieties used to make well known wines in many other geographies including the US, Australia, Chile, and others. Italy has thousands of indigenous grapes. There are a total of 25 principal red grape varieties allowed in the Toscana IGT, the original home of the Super Tuscans. 17 of those grapes are indigenous Italian grapes. There are producers in Toscana who continue to grow native Italian grapes and make their wines in a traditional style. Let’s support them!

So I say “Yes to Italian Toscana IGT with Italian grape varieties aged in traditional fashion,

No to Super Tuscans!”

Let’s support traditional Italian grapes produced in traditional fashion. Also: “Hey you kids, get off my lawn!”

Stumbling Upon the Other Rebels
I’ve been doing some research on natural wines, made from organically grown grapes with zero additions or subtractions in the cellar, save a bit of sulfur at bottling. In doing so, I’ve also been enjoying some natural wines. As part of my research, you understand! I searched for a non-Super Tuscan wine from the Toscana IGT and I stumbled upon one of the other rebels.

Pācina Societa Agricole Semplice is a farm, winery and agritourismo built on the grounds of a 10th century convent. They have a farm with cropland mixed with forest and other habitats. They farm grapes, olives and a variety of grains. Their products include not only wines, but olive oils, spelt, chickpeas and lentils. Their crops have always been farmed organically, and their winemaking follows tradition with indigenous yeast fermentation in concrete tanks, aging in large 500 liter and 17/25 hectoliter (hl) Allier casks. No additions or subtractions, no high technology, no fining or filtering.  Minimal sulfites are used only at bottling. At one time, they labeled their wine Chianti, but they ran into a number of problems with the DOC committee. They eventually decided to just leave the DOC and label their wines as Toscana IGT.

This story became more interesting when I found Pācina was one of the four Italian Natural Wine Rebels highlighted in Jonathan Nossiter’s film Natural Resistance.  You can rent the movie on Amazon Prime, it’s well worth your time if you’re at all interested in natural wines!

Naturally produced from indigenous Italian grapes, this is the flavor of Toscana!

Pācina Toscana IGT 2013 ($30 at Henry & Son or online here) 13.5%abv
The grapes in this wine are Sangiovese 95%, Canaiolo/Ciliegiolo 5%
Eye: Slightly hazy medium ruby
Nose: Clean, medium+ intensity aromas of ripe dark fruit: blueberries, blackberries, prunes, pine needles, leather, a touch of vinegar. Julie says:”smells Italian”
Mouth: Dry, medium+ intensity flavors with medium acidity, pronounced ripe but slightly rough tannins, medium+ body, medium+ finish, medium alcohol. Flavors follow the nose.
Conclusions: Overall, a good quality wine, rich and quite rustic. Enjoyable, not polished or elegant. Drink now, not suitable for aging. That said, I enjoy rustic wines very much and like this wine, especially with our medium-rare grilled steak.

Rustic and quite tannic, Pācina was delicious with our medium-rare grilled steak

Super Tuscan Posts from Italian Food Wine and Travel Group
Whether you’re for Super Tuscans or against, I hope you’ll enjoy the posts from my fellow Italian Food, Wine and Travel group. We’d be happy to have you join our chat on Saturday June 27 from 10-11am CDT. Just search out the #ItalianFWT hashtag on Twitter. See you then!

22 Responses to “No Super Tuscans for Me! #ItalianFWT”
  1. culinarycam says:

    I love your take on this and really appreciate your insight into the history. I’ll be honest: of the three Super Tuscans I poured, only one was really likable. I think I’ll stick to indigenous Italian grapes, too. Also, I’ll take a look at that movie recommendation now that my boys have finished their “Terminator” marathon.

  2. Personally I love Italian wines because of the indigenous grapes themselves. I try wines from everywhere and I am still drawn back to them. I believe as you said every producer is entitled to produce what they want but these come with hefty price tags many times in this case and I think there are a bunch of producers marking it up for the term “Super Tuscan”. To each his own, right? People like what they like.

  3. robincgc says:

    I feel like I really agree, however, I did find a wine that I think could be considered a Super Tuscan that I really did enjoy. I suppose when rebelling, that could include making a more elegant style.
    But to your point…Do we really need another Cab, Merlot…blend?

    By far though my favorite line in here was “Let’s support traditional Italian grapes produced in traditional fashion. Also: “Hey you kids, get off my lawn!” LOL!

  4. joyofwine says:

    I love that you featured a “Toscana IGT”…I myself am not a huge fan of Supers either, and given a choice I will always choose the autochthounous grape! And I often find I prefer the “baby ST’s” over the “regular” ones anyway! I just want a balanced wine in my glass no matter what it’s made from!

  5. Nicole Ruiz Hudson says:

    It looks like you found a beautiful wine! In general I agree with you and do tend to typically prefer wines from indigenous grapes, but I do love the rebellious origins of Super Tuscans.

  6. So pleased to learn of the Italian Natural Wine Rebels – a new movement of winemakers committed to working in harmony with the land. This is the “super” innovation we need now!

    • Thanks Linda. As it turns out, the (modern) natural wine idea and movement was started in the late ’70’s. Of course for some vignerons, this is the way they have always worked.

  7. wendyklik says:

    I’m surprised that not all Super Tuscans contain Sangiovese. I would have thought that would be the main component. I like the wines that you found that blend only Italian grapes.

  8. This wine and this movement sounds really interesting and thanks for sharing it with us! I’ll be on the look out! I found two wines that are organic, one that’s commercial; I have a biodynamic wine in my cellar but that’s where it stills for now!

  9. Andrea Lemieux says:

    I feel like I’m echoing everyone else but still, well said, Jeff. I think the initial push behind Super Tuscans, to break free from constraints winemakers no longer wanted is fascinating. But why look to France’s grapes when there are literally hundreds of others in Italy? Is the Super Tuscan moniker all just hype anyway? Last year for my birthday I opened a bottle of Tignanello I’d been saving and…It was a beautiful wine to be sure but the Heavens didn’t open with the fanfare I expected.

    • Thanks Andrea. I agree, go ahead and rebel from the DOC rules, but why not stick with Italian grapes? Anyway, we can’t argue with their commercial success.

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