So what’s the deal with Super Tuscans?

Pardon the Seinfeld reference, but it is a question I get asked pretty frequently as of late. These wines are more popular than ever, yet many people still don’t know what exactly a Super Tuscan is, what it means and why the hell are they so Super anyway? I mean…do they fly around with capes on or something? So let’s see if we can clear this up a bit.

These blended wines that are made in the Tuscany region of Italy came about because of the strict regulations from the Denominazioni di origine controllata (DOC) that governs the region. For years, the wines made in Chianti had to have certain amounts of the Sangiovese grape to be called Chianti. So a few rogue wine makers felt they could make better wines going outside of the rules by blending the Sangiovese with Cabernet, Merlot and other red varietals. And thus the Super Tuscan was born (with the name being created by Robert Parker)

Since the late 1970’s some of the biggest cult wines to come out of Italy have been these Super Tuscans. Wines such as Tignanello, Ornellaia, Sassacaia and Solaia are some of the best in the world, and demand an extremely high price because of it. But as the popularity of these wines has grown, many wineries have produced Tuscan blends that offer a taste of the region at very friendly prices.

My three favorite Super Tuscans that you can usually find for around $10 or less have to be the Monte Antico Rosso, Centine by Banfi and the Vitiano by Falesco. All are Sangiovese, Cab and Merlot blends and all bring a lot to the table. Lots of lively cherry fruit and spice, very smooth and easy drinking wines. These are great for those large group pizza and pasta nights, but are big enough to hold up to your favorite beef dishes as well.

Argiano has been producing some of the best wines in this region for sometime now. Most fetch a hefty price tag, but their Non Confunditur (N.C., Green Label) can hold its own with any of them, and only costs around $20! They added Syrah to the classic mix of Sangiovese, Cab and Merlot and it brings a wonderful earthy, yet warm red fruit characteristic. This wine has beautiful balance and elegance to it; a real treat to drink on its own or with your favorite hearty brown sauce meat dish.

Ruffino has been synonymous with quality Tuscan wine, specifically Chianti, for over a century now. While they are best known for their low end Chianti and their higher end Ducale labels, their Super Tuscan Modus is one not to be overlooked. Also priced around $20-25, this is a full bodied, fruit forward blend loaded with blackberries and plum. Yet it also has hints of clove and vanilla from the oak barrels in which it has aged. A powerhouse, yet smooth and silky, this wine brings it home each and every vintage.

Of course if you have a couple hundred bucks to drop on a bottle, the cult Super Tuscans can be life changing. So don’t be afraid to pick up a bottle of Sassacaia or Ornellaia for that special occasion if it’s in the budget, as they are truly memorable wines.

Summer Whites and my Vino…. That’s all I need baby, don’t ya know?!

I hope the Van Halen reference in the title wasn’t totally lost… That song always gets me revved up for the summer. That means its time to start keeping a few more bottles of your favorite whites in the fridge, as they tend to be ultra refreshing this time of year. With it still being a buyer’s market out there in the wine world, there are some super values on some fantastic white wines.

The Finger Lakes region of New York has come a long way in their production of the Alsatian white varietals. Standing Stone offers a very reasonable Gewurztraminer that is perfect for those summer barbecues. Very floral in nature with a nice combination of lychee fruit, spice and just a hint of sweetness. Wine Express is one of the few places you will find this diamond in the rough, and at a great price.

http://www.wineexpress.com/shopping/prod_detail/main.asp?cat=WBR&sl=0&catid=19&productID=25264&uid=0B787E79-91C7-433E-A437-F3C64D9AFAC6

Provenance is better known for its Merlot and Cabs (as it is located in Rutherford), but they make a delightfully crisp Sauvignon Blanc as well. Plenty of lemon and lime zest, apple and grapefruit on the palate. It also has a pleasant mineral component and good acidity that make it a glorious summer selection. You can pair this Sauvi Blanc up with any light seafood or chicken dish as well. It usually runs around $12-19 but Rye Brook Wines has put this on a super sale price.

http://www.ryebrookwines.com/r/products/provenance-sauvignon-blanc-2007?id=WHmCINB7

If you want to know what summer in a bottle tastes like, look no further than King Estate’s Pinot Gris. Year in and year out it is one of the standouts of Oregon’s white wine arsenal. Hints of melon and floral notes interact wonderfully with the vibrant citrus and peach flavors that linger on the palate right through to the finish. This bottle typically runs about $15-20, but the Bottle King chain sells it for under $14 and sometimes under $12.

 http://www.thewinebuyer.com/sku20372.html

For those Chard fans searching for that wine around $10 that tastes like it should run closer to $20, the search is over. The Columbia Crest Grand Estates Chardonnay is a tremendous value and will please those who enjoy the clean, crisp style of this varietal as well as those who prefer it soft and rounded with that buttery mouth feel. It has generous aromas of green apple and caramel with just the right amount of vanilla and oak to round out the finish. Beautiful on its own or paired with some hearty shellfish right off the grill! You can find this one just about anywhere and it should run between $9-12.

As always if you have a favorite summer white feel free to share it with us! Cheers.