In the last week, as cases of COVID-19 in the United States have continued to sky rocket, much of the news has turned to the domestic response to the pandemic. But as the shift in focus has moved closer to home, I continue to watch what happens in Europe, particularly in Italy, with heartbreak. Josh and I have spent almost a month in Italy when you combine our two trips through the country, and have met some of the warmest people, experienced some of the richest history, and enjoyed some of the most delicious wines on our travels through the country.
So this week, in honor of Italy and its place in my heart, I’m throwing it to a new Super Tuscan wine we found about a month ago that we happen to have stocked up during our shelter at home time.
Super Tuscan wines are red wine blends that exist outside the Italian wine ranking system. Generally speaking, certain wine varieties have to contain certain percentages (or less than certain percentages) of grape blends in order to qualify for a certain wine label. Chianti, for example, is a Tuscan wine that can contain NO MORE than 70% of Sangiovese grape, and MUST include at least 10% of local white wine grapes. If the wine blend does not meet those specifications, it can’t be sold as Chianti, and instead earns the lowest label ranking: “Table Wine.”
The inherent flaw in the system is that sometimes forcing wine into certain blend ratios, though it meets standards, doesn’t make for very good wine. Such was the case with Chianti, which experienced a decline in public opinion through the 70s and 80s as the wines produced at the regulated ratios was largely lacking in quality. As a result, wine makers developed wines outside of the given regulations, marketing them as red blends of labels of their own making and design. One of the first of these blends was the now widely popular Tignanello, which soon surpassed traditional Chianti in price and quality. As the market for these wines grew, the unofficial designation of “Super Tuscans” was established, and now the “Toscana” label designation is widely distributed throughout the world.
This week’s pick, Brancaia TRE 2015, was a wine sale find where we scored the last four bottles on the shelf. Still, it’s pretty widely distributed through major wine and liquor stores, so you should be able to track a bottle down on your “essentials” errand run.
A blend of 80% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, this medium bodied lands nicely in the “middle” of the red wine spectrum. It’s well balanced in tannins and acidity, and trends slightly drier. When allowed to breathe for 15-20, opens up nicely and has a pleasant finish. The Sangiovese grape shines, but the Merlot and Cabernet round out the flavor profile with notes of blackberry and black cherry.
The winemaker suggests it will age well through 2025, but since we’re all stuck at home, you’ll be hard pressed to keep it that long! Pair it with pasta and red sauce for an authentic Tuscan exeperience at home.