It may seem contradictory that Tuscany, a region once constrained by viticultural traditions dating back three millennia to the Etruscans, is today much-admired by wine enthusiasts around the world for the revolutionary reds known as 'Super Tuscans'.
That term came into use in the 1980s in reference to wines devoid of official appellations, yet often the classic reds of Tuscany in prestige and price. Tuscan winemakers, happily abandoning age-old practices, began to put their best efforts into reds styled for modern palates. They replaced their massive old casks with new French barriques, while planting Cabernet Sauvignon and other popular varieties alongside the ancestral Sangiovese.
Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) - Denotes wine from a more specific region within Italy. This appellation was created for the 'new' Super Tuscan wines of Italy. Before the IGT was created, quality 'Super Tuscan' wines such as Tignanello and Sassicaia were labeled 'Vino da Tavola'. The wines they made were so avant-garde that they fell outside of the D.O.C laws and were labeled simply 'VdT' - table wines - the lowest of the low. These wines were and are some of the finest wines ever made in Italy, and their prices were 10 or 20 times higher than an everyday 'VdT'.
Despite being categorized 'VdT', the Super Tuscans were sold in elegant bottles and with designer labels. To Italians the lack of official credentials clearly heightened their allure. In a region where individual daring in the arts and crafts has always been more admired than collective accomplishments, the Super Tuscan paradox makes perfect sense.
Recently, producers have come to realize that they'll need to comply with EU regulations requiring that wines be officially classified. Yet even as the once fiercely independent Super Tuscans become classified in years to come, they'll be remembered for having revolutionized concepts of viticulture and oenology while building Tuscany's reputation as one of the world's great wine regions.