Wine Talk

Snooth User: JonDerry

Chianti and Super Tuscans

Posted by JonDerry, Feb 27.

Read up on Lindeman's thread, and thought this would be a good topic to discuss.

To Greg's point about blending Merlot and sometimes Cabernet in with Chianti blends, I hear that trend had been on the downswing, which is probably a good thing for Chianti proper, though there will be some really good "Super Tuscan's" made from the blending as well. Though I wonder what progress they've made in finding the Sangiovese to blend and other parts that are better as 100% Sangiovese.

Here's a quick summary of what a Super Tuscan is, taken from Wine Enthusiast magazine: "Some people define super Tuscan as a Tuscan blend made with Cabernet Sauvignon or other international varieties like Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. Others define it as a wine that breaks ranks with Italy’s strict Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) quality regime. Others define it as any expensive wine from Tuscany."

Anyhow, back to Chianti, from what I understand, lot's of experimentation in the 90's and 00's, but things are getting more focused in Chianti now. It must be a frustrating place to be, having the historically more recognized Italian region being outshone by Piedmont, and not being as "in" as Sicily. 

I suppose, back-tracing a bit, that Sassicaia (one of the most famous Super Tuscans) taking Wine Spectator's wine of the year last year, it's only added more fuel to the fire back to blending and breaking with tradition! As we see in the old world all over, you have your traditionalists, your modernists, and everything inbetween.

 

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Replies

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Reply by jackwerickson, Feb 27.

Hasn’t Chianti always been blended with other wines canaiolo and colorino, i believe it’s been the last few years they have started adding Cabernet and Merlot and probably some others, I know there are a few that say they are 100% Sangiovese I think Felsina and Monsanto,not sure. It hasn’t been too many years 2005-07 when they had the Brunello scandal for adding other wines. Lately I have been looking for Montalcino Rosso, can get them for about same price as a good Chianti 

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Reply by jackwerickson, Feb 28.

Am I correct that California and other states require only 75% of the grapes to be say Cab the other grapes can be any approved grapes and still sold as a Cab?

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Reply by JonDerry, Mar 1.

Ha Jack, to your point about blending (a small percentage) of native grapes together with Sangiovese in Chianti, absolutely agree with that and good of you to bring up. I was speaking to the fairly recent trend of blending international varieties, with merlot being the most common. 

I believe in California the composition stil only needs to be 75% of the grape variety to label and market it as such. Though I’m not really sure how, or if it is ever “checked”.

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Reply by EMark, Mar 1.

Am I correct that California and other states require only 75% of the grapes to be say Cab the other grapes can be any approved grapes and still sold as a Cab?

 

U.S. law dictates that for a varietal wine, it must be, at least, 75% composed of a single grape variety.  So, yes, if you buy a bottle of California Cabernet Sauvignon and there is no other disclosure on the bottle, you do not know if it is composed of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon or 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.

I don't think there are any rules about what other grapes can be added,  I may be wrong, but I suppose that they could put in Thompson seedless if they wanted.

Also, I know that the standard for Washington varietal wines is 80%.  Exceeding the U.S. 75% minimum is OK.  Other states may, also, have a higher minimum.  California is 75%.

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Reply by jackwerickson, Mar 1.

I guess my question is .using a cab as example, at what point does it become a “Bordeaux Blend”? I don’t know that it makes much difference in my drinking habits. I am now curious how many of the wines I drink are 100% varietal 

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Reply by EMark, Mar 1.

I don't think there is a legal definition of a "blend" wine, Jack.  It is just a wine made from some combination of grape varieties.  Wine geeks use the nomenclature "Bordeaux Blend" to describe a wine made from some combination of grape varieties that are typically grown in the Bordeaux region,

My guess is that very few of the domestic Cabernet Sauvignon varietal wines that you or I have enjoyed are 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.  In my case, If I do not see something like "Made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon" on the back label or some other reliable source from the winery, I assume that there are some other grapes in it,  So, to me it is a blend.

"I don’t know that it makes much difference in my drinking habits."

It, certainly, hasn't affected mine.

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Reply by zufrieden, Mar 1.

There are different laws in differnt jurisdictions, and they change fairly frequently, which is actually a good thing... and, I am afraid, a bad thing, because it leads to confused ideas of what the product was, is and shall become.  Personally, I don't have strong opinions on this except for the confusion aspect I just mentioned.  However, I think the 75% percentage seems like something determined by a committee that spawned several subcommittes.  If it is Cabernet Sauvignon, let it be at least 95% so... otherwise, it is a blend.  I also challenge all of you reputable and knowledgeable people to be able to determine some Merlot in those 5% Merlot and 95% Cab blends.  Ridiculous.

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Reply by zufrieden, Mar 1.

Coda.  When five to ten percent Merlot, Cabernet Franc or perhaps some other grape added as a teinture (essentially, in English, a dying agent) to the blend, this is often for appearance purposes or a means of ridding the vineyard of excess grapes.  Suspicious?  Well, it can be... the basis for such action may be entirely economic..Doing something for purely economic reasons or appearance is valid, only, let's be up front about it... quality may have little or nothing to do with the decision to use additional grape varieties.

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Reply by JonDerry, Mar 2.

Have found that the state and federal laws are often behind the times, and are often somewhat irrelevant, or apply more to the mass produced wines. I’ve found most producers I support are all very forthcoming about their processes and contents, including the assemblage of grapes.

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Reply by jackwerickson, Mar 2.

I looked at my wines , the only one that calls itself Cab is Quilceda Creek and it suggests that it has small amount of Merlot.all of the rest identify themselves as blends

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Reply by GregT, Mar 2.

Jack - the idea of blends in Chianti isn't the only thing that makes them "super Tuscans". The idea is that they are wines that could have been called Chianti or even Chianti Classico, but instead are labeled as "Toscana" rather than the more "prestigious" appellation.

Antinori felt that there was no prestige to Chianti when he made his wine so he didn't call it Chianti and he charged four times as much as any Chianti was selling for. There's no legal definition of Super Tuscan - it's just a convenient term. But a so-called Super Tuscan can definitely be 100% Sangiovese.

One other key to look for is whether it's a "name" wine, as it's the branding of the wine rather than the region that matters.

So something like Tignanello, which is actually about 80% Sangiovese and in the US could be sold as a varietal wine, or Fonterutoli's “Siepi”, which is an equal split of Sangiovese and Merlot, or Luce Della Vite “Lucente”, which has only about 25% Sangiovese, or Sette Ponti's “Oreno”, which has no Sangiovese at all, can all be termed Super Tuscans.

Tasted a bunch of them yesterday actually and next week is the Tre Bicchieri tasting if anyone is going, which will be another opportunity to taste more.

 

 

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Reply by dvogler, Mar 3.

Greg, how many Ornellaia, Sassicaia and Flaccianello do you have?  I'll drink those if you have them.

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Reply by JonDerry, Mar 3.

I have exactly 1 mag of 2006 Sassicaia, one of the first trophy mags I’ve bought.

Sold off all my Flaccianello, those wines need so much time and just not worth the wait I don’t think.

Also have a bottle of 2008 Masseto. Not sure if or when I’ll drink that puppy. Maybe along with the Sass in 2026?

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Reply by zufrieden, Mar 3.

BTW, my point on blends is that the addition of 5% "something" cannot possibly affect taste.  So what is the reason for it?

On another note, a magnum is a trophy indeed - if a Super Tuscan.  

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Reply by jackwerickson, Mar 4.

While looking at some Amarones ran across Brigaldara,which is being touted by Italian Wine Merchants. The interesting part of it is, a blend of 70% corvina 20% Rondinella 5% Sangiovese and 5% Cabernet. I know Amarone is a blend but have never seen one with Sangiovese or Cabernet. I have seen Ripasso with Merlot 

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Reply by EMark, Mar 4.

BTW, my point on blends is that the addition of 5% "something" cannot possibly affect taste.  So what is the reason for it?

Well, if your palate is as coarse as mine, you certainly can't taste anything.

However, there are winemakers who insist that 1-2% of Viognier is exactly what a Syrah needs.

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Reply by jackwerickson, Mar 5.

EMARK I would suspect that my palate is probably coarser, when you consider age and smoking a pipe for 65 years. I would agree adding 5% of something will not change the taste nor will I be able to taste it. My question is the same as yours “what is the reason” I can only surmise it is for marketing 

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Reply by JonDerry, Mar 5.

That does strike me as strange on the Amarone Jack. Tomasso has been my favorite of the few Amarone producers I’ve tried.

Thats a good question on the small % of a blend making a difference.

It no doubt affects the chemistry and overall composition more so than taste it would seem. For Zinfandel, blending is important for color and acidity.

I feel like Viognier can pop at small percentages when found in Syrah. Sometimes maybe you feel it’s there when it isn’t said to be in the wine...thinking of an Ogier Cote Rotie has last year.

I have a hard time guessing what is in a Bordeaux, unless it’s very Merlot heavy it’s tough, but I haven’t been drinking much Bordeaux the last few years. While on Bordeaux, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon have quite the marriage in Bordeaux Blanc.

Was at a pretty high end Piedmont and Burgundy tasting, and this 78’ Gaja Costa Russi was poured that stopped me in my tracks. Really one of the better wines I’ve ever had, but later one of the guys mentioned to me “that’s not really a pure expression of Nebbiolo”. Whatever % of Barbers that might have been in there resulted in a much fresher, electric wine than the others at the table, including some Giacosa’s and Giuseppe Mascarello.

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Reply by jackwerickson, Mar 5.

Would agree at a high end tasting,only disagree with “pretty high” I would classify it as Damn high with the Gaja at $400 no telling the cost of the Burgundy. I am envious.

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Reply by zufrieden, Mar 5.

Those who claim that 1% Viognier will affect your taste are certainly amazing people - if not idiots... while adimitting that Viognier is a highly aromatic grape.  These people appear to have lost all sense of proprortion and are, in all likelihood, just plain deluded, or perhaps subject to flights of fantasy and imagination, determined, most likely, by the acquisition of a free case of Côte-Rôtie.  Sorry, I may not be from Missouri, but I have sympathies with the motto of that state.

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