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So what is a Super Tuscan anyway? In the 1970s, some Tuscan producers believed the legal rules governing the production of Chianti were too restrictive. For example, the rules prohibited the use of non-traditional grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. A few maverick producers decided to forge ahead anyway and break the rules. The decision to make wines that sat outside the regulatory framework meant they were forced to accept the “vino da tavola” (table wine) designation on their labels, the most lowly designation in Italy, usually associated with cheap, mass-produced plonk. But to distinguish these high quality wines that had fallen foul of the law from other lowly wines with vino da tavola on the label, the term Super Tuscan came into being. (Although, a quick glance at the price tag is another fool-proof way to differentiate these wines from the rabble!). These days Super Tuscans use the designation IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica), because in 1992 the regulatory bureaucracy eventually yielded to growing pressure and created IGT as a new designation giving winemakers a little more freedom. Super Tuscan wines tend to be modern, big and powerful — with price tags that are equally modern, big and powerful. There is no rule of thumb as to what grape varieties or percentages may be used in a blend, they vary widely; from 85% Cabernet Sauvignon with 15% Sangiovese as in Sassicaia, to exactly the reverse proportions in Tignanello, to 100% Merlot in Masseto, and so on.

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