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Take on the Super Tuscans

Published in Man's World Magazine | November 2006

ANYONE WITH A nodding knowledge of Italian wines knows the joys of wines from Tuscany, Italy. So is the name Super Tuscans an all embracing term for very expensive wines from Tuscany. The Simple answer is No.

In last month’s issue of Mans World, I wrote about the recent popularity of Brunello di Montalcino wines putting Tuscany in the spotlight. The wines are named after the ancient town and region after the same name in South West Tuscany.Brunello is the result of the masterful vinification of a simple varietal called Sangiovese grape.

Tuscany however is also home to a large number of other grape types. Varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. It is these wines that are called Super Tuscans, and are not sub-ject to the stringent regulations that govern Brunello. But they are still, very good wines. So good, that in fact to call them table wines would be a sin. By the end of the 1980s, these wines became so popular that their price and demand began rivalling those of Brunello, reinforcing Montalcino’s fame as a region that produces a variety of world-class wines.

Banfi, which is also the agent for Brunello di Montalcino, now offers three of these Super Tuscans. Excelsus, Summus, Cum laude. All three reds are blends, all from the Sant’ Antimo region. Drink up. Sante.

EXCELSUS:

Blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon , 40% Merlot

Produced only in favourable vintages. The two varieties are vinified separately. Alcoholic fermentation is followed by malolactic fermentation which takes place in barriques in temperature-controlled areas. In the first 12 months the varieties age separately and then are blended and aged as a blend for the following eight months.

Colour: Intense ruby red with garnet tones.

Taste: Full and round with a framework of very fine wood.

Food Pairing: Goes well with spicy food, not fish.

SUMMUS:

Blend of 40% Sangiovese, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon , 20% Syrah Produced only in favourable vintages. The three varieties are vinified separately. After alcoholic fermentation, the individual varietal wines, are transferred to barriques where they stay separate for 12 months. Subsequently, they are blended and the wood aging continues for an additional 10 months. Bottle aging follows for six months.

Colour: Very intense ruby red.

Taste: Full, powerful, muscular, but balanced.

Food Pairing: Any spicy Indian food.

CUM LAUDE:

Blend of 25% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet Sauvi-gnon, 30% Medot, 15% Syrah The four varieties are vinified separately with a cold maceration (14°C) prior to fermentation for two days. After the alcoholic fermentation, the wines are separately racked into barriques where malolactic fermentation takes place and where they age approximately for six months. The cuvee (blend) is made and then aged an additional six months, and another six months in the bottle.

Colour: Very intense ruby red.

Taste: Powerful body, wide and soft tannin texture thanks to the good ripening in the vineyard and vinery.

Food Pairing: Perfect with bean soups, grilled meat and medium aged cheese.

A FIASCO BY ANY OTHER NAME …

The round, straw-covered bottle nearly every Chianti used to be bottled in is called a fiasco. The word, probably of medieval Italian origin, described a glass bottle with a long neck and a bulbous body covered in wicker for protection. According to the Oxford Dictionary, fiasco — meaning a failure or break down—comes from the Italian expression fare fiasco, to make a bottle. How this Italian expression came to mean a foul up is unknown. Some wine experts have speculated that the poor quality of past Chianti may be the reason.