Since the introduction of Tignanello by Marchesi Antinori, many other Tuscan wineries came up with similar wines.
They are all vibrant, well extracted, deeply flavoured, mostly sangovese based and blended with French grape varieties. Some are simply pure French grapes grown on Tuscan soil.
Tignanello was instantly successful, both in Italy and abroad, because of its extraordinary fruit, balance, depth and superb mouth feel.
The trade was quick to dub it Supertuscan due to its flavour characteristics described above. The tannins are ripe and softy, although the wine can be cellared for several years to become even more refined.
Marchese Antinori, the owner of the venerable eponymous Chianti winery established well over 600 years ago, was unhappy with the wine laws promulgated in the 1960’s and then revised in the 1980’s.
He felt they should have been stricter, also upholding the “old reputation” of Chianti. Then he had the idea of improving the flavour at least one of his Chianti wines with the addition of cabernet sauvignon. This the law did not permit, and the wine was declassified to the lowest common denominator of the Italian Wine law – vino da tavola (table wine).
Undoubtedly, Marchese Antinori went ahead and started marketing Tignanello. It was soon recognized as a superior quality Tuscan red wine with more structure and appeal.
When other wineries noticed Tignanello’s success, they quickly began to blend their own versions.
Supertuscan wines today are generally blends of sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and syrah. Some are pure merlot, others cabernet sauvignon, but most contain a portion of sangiovese.
Frescobaldi’s Lamaione consists exclusively of merlot. Frescobaldi, another fine, and old Tuscan winery with an extensive line of Chianti wines has a few other Supertuscans.
Supertuscan wines are aged for at least 14 months, mostly 18 months, in Allier or Vosges barriques (225 Liter). All offer both more flavour (toasty, coffee, and spice) dimensions, moth feel and appeal. The wines offer flavours, and complexity that even the best Chianti cannot.
Tignanello originally contained 80 pre cent sangiovese, 15 per cent cabernet sauvignon, and 5 per cent cabernet franc. Today. The blend changes according to the vintage, and how well the component grape varieties ripened.
Solaia, another Antinori Supertuscan, is a blend of 75 cabernet sauvignon, 20 sangiovese and 5 per cent cabernet franc, aged for 14 months in Allier oak.
Ornelaia, by Tenuta de Ornelaia in Bolgheri, contains cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and sangiovese from a 20 hectare property owned by Ludovico Antinori, a family member who was pursuing his own goals, but is now reconciled with the family. Sassicaia by Tenuta San Guido in Bolgheri is an excellent cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc blend, and sought by connoisseurs everywhere.
Bolgheri is a new region close to the Adriatic Sea, with more heat units during the growing season. This ripens grapes so that resulting wines offer a deep red, vibrant colour, high alcohol, and more flavour.
Solengo by Argiano, a Brunello producer, blends sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah successfully., that offers an interesting combination of flavours derived from sangiovese (cherries), cabernet sauvignon (berries); merlot (plums) and syrah (stone fruits).
Gauda al Tasso, a blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot is another Supertuscan by Marchese Antinori.
Supertusans are expensive due to additional expenses of barrel aging in expensive barrels, reduced yields, and limited quantity.
All are widely available in New York, Chicago, and by mail order in the U S A.
In Canada, Tignanello is on the Vintages Essentials catalogue in Ontario. Others are offered form time to time by Vintages bi-monthly releases, and in the Classics Catalogue.