What I love most about Super Tuscans is how diverse these wines are. Some are almost purple in color, with bold, fruit-forward flavors, while others are bright red, finessed, and racy. No matter what type of wine you prefer to drink, there’s a Super Tuscan out there that is perfect for you. However, this diversity also makes these wines more difficult to shop for based on vintage alone. When you drink a red Bordeaux blend or a white Burgundy, you usually know exactly what to expect before you uncork the bottle, based on what critics have said about the vintage. But with Super Tuscans, finding the best vintages isn’t always so clear-cut. The best vintage for a bold Syrah blend, for example, might differ from that for a Sangiovese blend. To find the highest-quality Super Tuscan vintages, you need to take into consideration the weather conditions and how they affected the primary grape varieties in the blend.
Top-Quality Super Tuscans: The Best Vintages of the Past 30 Years
Last year, I was on the hunt for a few new wines from the best Italian producers to add to my collection. Specifically, I wanted a Super Tuscan that I could lay down for a number of years–one that wouldn’t reach full maturity until at least 2030. At a tasting event hosted by a local wine bar, I sampled a few glasses of fine Super Tuscans, including the 2010 San Guido Sassicaia. From the moment I took my first sip, I knew it was the right choice for my collection; it had fine tannins, subtle spice, and a super long finish that lingered for minutes. I could tell that it still needed some time in the cellar to completely develop, but even in its youth, it was already an elegant wine. I decided to buy four bottles from this particular vintage and I don’t plan on opening the first one until at least 2025. Most critics don’t expect this wine to reach peak maturity until around 2040.
If you’re shopping for exceptional Super Tuscans, the best vintages generally come from years when the weather was cooler than usual, especially if the blend is mostly Sangiovese.
What made this vintage so age-worthy? The weather in Tuscany in 2010 was especially cool, which made the grapes ripen more slowly than usual. Not only did this allow the berries to develop more complex flavors, but it also resulted in more acidic wines that could age for longer periods of time. If you’re looking for top-quality Super Tuscans, the best vintages often come from years like this and are fresh, tannic, and racy in their youth, with complex flavors that evolve over time. To find wines that fit this description, consider the following vintages:
- 2013: The 2013 harvest didn’t take place until October due to months of cool temperatures in Tuscany. As a result of these cooler conditions, Super Tuscans made in 2013 are fresh-tasting and have bracing acidity. It’s still too early to tell exactly how this vintage will age, but critics anticipate it will be one worth laying down. A bottle of 2013 San Guido Sassicaia is a great choice.
- 2012: When it comes to Super Tuscans, the best vintages don’t always come from cool years. In 2012, temperatures were blisteringly hot in July and August, and winemakers were worried that the grapes would ripen too early. Instead, late-August rains stopped the grapes from over-ripening and offered them some much-needed acidity just before harvest. The resulting wines are fresh, light, and elegant. The 2012 Pupille Saffredi is a great representation of the vintage.
- 2010: The 2010 vintage was a welcome change in Tuscany following the extremely hot 2009 vintage the year before. A wet spring delayed ripening by as much as two weeks on some estates, pushing the harvest until the third week of October in some cases. This extra ripening time paid off, however, as the top producers crafted well-balanced, age-worthy wines that still haven’t reached full maturity. If you have a 2010 Super Tuscan in your collection, plan on keeping it in storage for a few more years at the very least. The 2010 Antinori Solaia is especially fine.
- 2004: A chilly spring, mild summer, and dry fall resulted in perfect, even ripening across the region. In fact, the ripening was so even that winemakers had to reduce yields during harvest by being more selective than usual. If you love aromatic wines, the 2004 vintage is ideal for you. The bouquet on these wines is incredibly focused and clear, like fine perfume. You’ll also notice many subtle flavors in Super Tuscans from this year, such as cedar and sandalwood. Ornellaia made exceptional wines this year.
- 2001: The 2001 vintage wasn’t as impressive in its youth as it is today. A cold, wet harvest season slowed down the ripening process and yields were especially low as winemakers struggled to find fully ripened grapes. Many wines from this year were unapproachable in their youth due to high acidity. However, now that the wines have had time to mature, this vintage is proving to be a quality investment for collectors. The wines are structured and well-balanced and are only getting better with age. Try Solaia from this vintage.
- 1999: If you love big, bold red wines, then 1999 Super Tuscans will appeal to you. Warm summer weather led to an early harvest (in September on most estates). Wines from this year tend to be fruit-forward and bold, but they still have finesse and elegance. They’re also exceptionally tannic and structured, which makes them ideal for aging long-term. You can drink these wines now, but the best wines from top producers will benefit from another ten years in storage. Look for 1999 San Guido Sassicaia.
- 1997: This vintage is similar to 1999 in that the weather conditions were hotter than usual. In their youth, these wines were rich and luscious, yet they lacked some freshness due to lower acidity levels. Now that they have aged for a couple of decades, the 1997 vintage has developed more complex aromas that balance out the bold fruit flavors. This is an ideal vintage if you love big, bold red wines. Ornellaia Masseto from this year was particularly high in quality.
If you’re shopping for exceptional Super Tuscans, the best vintages generally come from years when the weather was cooler than usual, especially if the blend is mostly Sangiovese. That’s because Sangiovese grapes, which are high in acidity and very tannic, tend to thrive when they are able to ripen slowly well into the fall harvest season. If the weather is too warm, the grapes will ripen too quickly and may lack some of the bracing acidity that makes these wines so iconic. However, the ideal weather conditions for Super Tuscans vary depending on what’s in the blend. A Syrah-based blend will benefit from warmer weather, for example, as these grapes require more heat than Sangiovese to ripen fully. As well as looking at the weather conditions of the year overall, consider the percentage of grape varieties used in the blend and how those varieties respond to different weather conditions.
Using Grape Variety to Determine Vintage Quality
To find top-quality Super Tuscans, first identify one or two grape varieties that make up the highest percentage of the wine, then consider how those particular grapes might have responded to the weather conditions that year. Use the following guide as a reference to what conditions different varieties favor:
- Sangiovese: Cooler conditions.
- Merlot: Warmer weather, especially during bud break.
- Cabernet Sauvignon: Warm or cool conditions; warm weather makes the wine taste fruitier, while cool weather results in higher acidity.
- Syrah: Hot, dry conditions.
- Petit Verdot: Warm, dry weather.
As well as looking at the weather conditions for the primary varieties in the blend, you can also research trustworthy critics’ tasting notes and wine ratings to deepen your understanding of the wine’s overall quality. One good way to do this is by shopping for Super Tuscans online. Brick-and-mortar wine shops only offer limited information about the wine they sell, and will rarely provide scores from multiple sources or detailed information about the blend and weather conditions of the vintage. When you buy wine online, you can easily find and compare all of these details, gaining better insight into the vintage and label before you invest in it. This, in turn, helps you narrow down your results to only the finest Super Tuscans in the world.
Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s finest wine.