Super Tuscan is a fairly new term in Italy, but it is not a regulated term nor does it represent an official designation. Rather its what many refer to as a ‘consumer term’. Super Tuscan wines are from Tuscany but are not made from the most popular Tuscan grape, Sangiovese. Instead, they are made predominantly from international grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
If you’ve heard of Sassicaia, Tiganello, Ornellaia, these are all examples of Super Tuscans.
The first “super Tuscan” was made in the 1940’s when Mario Incisa della Rochetta planted Cabernet Sauvignon on the coast in Bolgheri, which is in western Tuscany. It was almost unheard of for an international grape variety like Cabernet Sauvignon to be planted. However, his grapes grew successfully, and he called the wine he made from these grapes Sassicaia, which basically translates to ‘rocky place’ in Italian, which described the soil in which these grapes were planted. However, only the family consumed this wine until the late 1960’s when it was first sold commercially.
After seeing its success, other producers began to grow international grape varieties and make similar style wines. However, because these wines were not made with Italian varietals in a style similar to Chianti, which the region is known for, these wines could only be labeled ‘table wines’. They were not allowed to be labeled with the more prestigious Italian designation of DOC or DOCG until the Italian government created new DOCs in the 1990s after many of these producers fought for this change.
Now these wines can be labeled Bolgheri DOC or Maremma Toscana DOC. Toscana IGT may also be seen to represent this style of wine. You will not see the term ‘Super Tuscan’ on a label.
While many of these wines are made with more international grapes than native Italian grapes, they still radiate notes associated with their distinct Italian origin, which is difficult to put into words. Thus, the best way to experience it is to sip a glass!
If you want to learn more about the DOC/DOCG and Italy’s wine laws, check out are fascinating podcast with the Italian Wine Girl in Season 3 Episode 1. It’s like an Italian Wine 101 course!