On the surface, the concept of a wine that is made outside the governing controlling bodies is an idea we as Americans applaud. After all, we tend to celebrate individual efforts, and revel in Horatio Algers rags to riches stories. Pioneers in every art form and industry take the norm and follow the old adage “necessity is the mother of invention” to create something unique, even if appreciated only posthumously. Not so for so called Super Tuscans, incredibly rich, opulent wines crafted by the hands of a maverick with the means and a dream. Add to that great terroir and old vines, necessary components, and the result is the possibility of a great wine.
The problem is that these conditions help to create a sort of wine cult following, driving the price through the roof. Yes, you get what you pay for, but how much are you willing to pay? You have to ask yourself why you want to seek out these particular wines. If you’re buying these wines to enjoy, be sure to check out other wines with the same flavor profile for the price to compare value. You might find similar wines for less. If you’re collecting for later consumption, buyer beware. Do your research, because as super as some of these wines are, some do not age well past five or six years. That’s good news if you want instant gratification, bad news if you sunk over one hundred dollars on a wine, and then stored it for ten years, only to have it take a turn downhill.
Recently I tasted a 2000 Super Tuscan by Castello Di Querceto called Cignale. The wine boasts a signed artistic drawing of a wild boar to commemorate when these creatures wiped out the first vintage. The wine is 90% cabernet sauvignon, rounded out by 10% merlot and is fashioned in an international style, yet another factor to consider, should you be an old world fan.
It was luxurious, smooth, and a pleasure to drink. The tannins were well integrated. It was not an intellectual or complex wine, just a wine to enjoy. But here’s the thing, after an hour in the decanter, the wine started to fade. It lost its luster, its pinnache, its joie de vivre. Which is to say that this wine wouldn’t improve if it spent one more minute in the cellar. I suspect this isn’t the only Super Tuscan that won’t hold up under old age. Perhaps if the style is old world, the wine is constructed for the long term. If the style is new world, drink it within its first ten years of life. This is not a hard and fast rule, but certainly a guideline to consider.
When treading through the treacherous world which is the wine market, know what you like, and don’t be swayed by critics. That is to say seek out as much info from as many sources possible, and buy according to your drinking needs and budget. So depending on your scenario, a Super Tuscan could be just right for you, or fall back on some other wines, old, reliable friends.