From the first bottling of Tignanello back in the 1970s, Super Tuscan wines have played the part of the rebellious youths of the Italian wine industry, daring to step outside of conventional prescriptions of what Italian wine should be to deliver bold, powerful, unforgettable experiences. Born of necessity in the same region that sparked the Renaissance centuries before, Super Tuscan wines were created as part of an effort to revitalize Italy’s wine industry—and they continue to surprise and delight us to this day.
These wines keep us on our toes with their diversity and variety. Sangiovese grapes, which are included in many Super Tuscan blends alongside Bordeaux varieties, are notoriously variable in flavor and quality due to the numerous clones and mutations of this grape variety as well as its sensitivity to terroir. Likewise, the region of Tuscany is also difficult to pin down, with its many distinct subregions. Add to all of this the fact that every Super Tuscan blend is utterly unique, and it becomes easy to see why finding the perfect Super Tuscan food pairing isn’t always easy. Our guide below, however, can help streamline the process for you.
How to Identify The Best Super Tuscan Food Pairings
As with any wine and food pairing, you’ll want to match bold with bold and choose flavors that either mirror or pleasantly contrast with one another. The high acidity and structured nature of the best Super Tuscan wines mean that salty and high-fat foods will pair well with most Super Tuscan blends.
Of course, every Super Tuscan wine is different, so if you have a particular favorite, it’s a good idea to deepen your understanding of that wine and research pairings specifically for that label’s top vintages. However, there are a few basic rules of thumb that can be applied to most of these wines. Try using the following Super Tuscan food pairings as a guide when matchmaking:
|Appetizers: Rich platters of foie gras, pâté, and older pecorino cheese pair well with high-acidity, high-tannin Super Tuscan wines, especially blends with a high percentage of Sangiovese. Bruschetta and mushrooms stuffed with Italian herbs also do nicely.||Try: 2015 Marchesi Antinori Solaia|
|Meat Dishes: Salty meats are the perfect tango partners for high-acid wines. For a truly Tuscan experience, go with braised or grilled beef, veal, or pork, or if it’s chilly out, consider a hearty stew filled with fresh herbs and lamb. You won’t go wrong with a good, meaty pizza, either.||Try: 2016 Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia|
|Seafood Dishes: Most fish dishes are too delicate to dance with the bold, flamboyant flavors of a Super Tuscan wine. However, if you do want to pair the two, strong garlic and onion flavors can amp up already potent pescetarian dishes like swordfish to make a better match.||Try: 2016 Tenuta di Trinoro Toscana Rosso|
|Vegetable Dishes: Tomato-based dishes and lots of mushrooms are your go-to for vegetarian meals or sides. Grilled vegetables, saucy pasta dishes, and creamy polenta are all popular choices.||Try: 2004 Le Macchiole Merlot Messorio|
|Desserts: Super Tuscan wines aren’t often paired with sweets, but if you’re feeling adventurous, they tend to go best with desserts that have a bitter edge, like dark chocolate.||Try: 2012 Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi|
Because Super Tuscan wines are so diverse, another way to create a food pairing is to take into consideration the percentage of each grape variety in the blend you’re drinking and look to classic red wine pairing guidelines to gather additional inspiration.
- For Sangiovese-prominent Super Tuscan wines like Tignanello, focus on herby, spicy meats and mushrooms, and tomato-based pasta dishes like lasagna.
- Pair Sassicaia and other Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines with grilled or roasted meats, such as filet mignon or lamb steak with rosemary.
- Merlot-based wines like Redigaffi are also well-suited to seasoned red meats and veggies, as well as braised poultry—particularly in tandem with fruit-based sauces or chutneys.
- For Cabernet Franc-heavy wines like Paleo Rosso, focus on grilled vegetable dishes with strong mushroom or olive flavors, though roasted meats and goat cheese won’t go awry, either. These wines will also make the best matches with seafood.
If the wine you’re considering contains equal, or close to equal, percentages of two or more grape varieties, look for pairings that complement both.
Finding the Perfect Super Tuscan Food Pairings for Any Occasion
No matter what Super Tuscan food pairing you choose, the experience is guaranteed to be memorable. However, keep in mind that wine and food pairings are incredibly subjective. In the case of Super Tuscan wines, in particular, your experience may vary widely based on both the specific blend you choose and your own personal tastes. In the end, your judgment will be your own best guide, so take note of the flavors and aromas you get from your Super Tuscan bottle of choice, and consider those when choosing dishes to either complement or contrast with the wine.
And of course, when in doubt, there’s always the famous Italian trio: wine, bread, and olive oil. Super Tuscan wines are practically made for this classic combination.
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