This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Monday, Jul. 14, 2008 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20080714.php.
It's been a generation or so since "Super Tuscans" started grabbing the attention of wine lovers. Certain Chianti producers, seeking to break out of their region's ancient traditions and try new things, began mixing "forbidden" grapes like Cabernet and Merlot in with the local Sangiovese, and even experimented with keeping the wine in French oak.
But if the wine wasn't made by the Chianti method, it couldn't be called Chianti, even if it remained recognizably Tuscan in style. Nor could it bear the sought-after "Denominazione di Origine Controllata" designation on the label, indicating that the wine met the traditional standard for the source of its grapes and the purity of its technique.
Instead, turning necessity into a virtue, the innovative producers proudly claimed the simple "Vino da Tavola" ("Table Wine") designation that had previously been reserved for the cheapest, simplest wines, presenting them not as the bottom end of their portfolio but the top.
These new styles quickly captured the taste of that increasingly sophisticated wine-buying public, and the nickname "Super-Tuscan" was born.
Nowadays, the old wine laws are catching up with reality. The Chianti formula is more flexible, and "non-traditional" wines can qualify for the "IGT" ("Indication of Geographical Type") designation, which allows just about any reasonable experimentation.
Super Tuscans, of course, have generally become frightfully expensive through demand, with big-name labels like Ornellaia and the grandfather of them all, Tignanello, commanding three-digit prices for a bottle.
But the concept has spread through much of Italy, with just about every region producing new wines - "Super" wines, if you will - that add modern variations to the traditional style.
Today we feature a popular variation from Umbria, Falesco 2005 Vitiano, a blend of equal parts Sangiovese, Cabernet and Merlot. A fine, interesting table wine with at least moderate cellar potential, it still sells for $10 or less in many markets. That's a "super" deal. My tasting notes are below.
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Falesco 2005 Umbria "Vitiano" Cabernet-Merlot-Sangiovese ($14.99)
Very dark ruby with crimson glints against the light. Ripe black cherry aromas add a back note of warm brown spice. Full and fruit-forward, black fruit and food-friendly acidity come together in balance. U.S. importer: Winebow Inc., NYC; Leonardo Locascio Selections. (July 9, 2008)
FOOD MATCH: Pan-seared medium-rare rib eye steaks make a classic red-wine match.
VALUE: Up from $10.99 for the 2003 last year, still a good buy for a solid Italian table red. If you like it enough to buy in quantity, though, shop around, as it's widely available in many markets for well under $10.
WHEN TO DRINK: Not really a cellar candidate, but there's be no harm in keeping it in a cellar or cool wine rack for a year or two.
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Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns. Please note that for a small summer break, we've put the FoodLetter on a short-term vacation and are skipping some (but not all) Friday editions.
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