Sunday, July 6, 2014

Revolution in Tuscany, Part 2

We defined what Chianti was forty years ago in the previous segment.  So what we really need to do now is define what a Super Tuscan wine actually is.  In the 1970s it was a Sangiovese-based red wine which incorporated the legally disallowed international varieties; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc; into a blend that was big, rich, and modern and immediately competitive with the finest wines in the world. 

Because this industry is never static, today a Super Tuscan may be one of four wine types: It may be 100% Sangiovese, completing a trend from the early twentieth century of increasing the percentage of Sangiovese in Tuscan reds.  It may be a blend of Sangiovese with the international varieties like in the '70s.  It may also be a Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend, or a 100% varietal of either.  In other words, it's pretty much wide open as to what a Super Tuscan is today!

So what is a Chianti today?  Today Chianti is minimally 80% Sangiovese (up to 100%) with the rest being local and international varieties.  In other words, Chianti is now what a Super Tuscan was a couple generations ago.  And that, folks, is what constitutes a revolution.  The outside agitators have now donned the mantle of normalcy and it's their template that is out there for a future generation to rebel against.  So organically has this process evolved that most Chianti producers now make a Super Tuscan red blend as if it were just their reserve wine.

So why have Super Tuscans at all if the boundary has been so blurred?  First of all, the Merlot or Cabernet-based models still fall outside of the Chianti definition.  Secondly, that freedom to experiment with other varieties allows the flexibility to improve a blend and the Toscana IGT category allows for that.  Thirdly, the Super Tuscan category has accrued a certain prestige over the decades.  And fourthly, there is more latitude for marketing on a Super Tuscan wine label as opposed to the staid Chianti label.

Please join us for the class on Thursday, the weekly event on Friday, and the Dmitry Paladino tasting on the 18th.  And for gosh sakes become a follower of this here blog!

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