What is a Super Tuscan?
No one really knows who coined the term “Super Tuscan,” although many believe — including former Wine Spectator editor and Italian wine authority James Suckling — that the designation was first used by writer Burton Anderson, who covered Italy for Wine Spectator in the 1980s (Anderson’s landmark book Vino: The Wines and Winemakers of Italy, first published in 1982, was perhaps the fist comprehensive English-language overview of Italian wine.)
Although today the expression is used to denote a wide variety of red wines from Tuscany, the moniker Super Tuscan was originally adopted by English-language wine writers as an unofficial descriptor to describe fine wines that had been classified by the Italian government as vino da tavola (table wine).
International grape varieties — like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot — have been cultivated in Italy for centuries. But when the Italian appellation system was created in the 1960s, it did not account for many wines made with these grapes. As a result, some of the greatest wines of Italy were classified simply as table wines when, in fact, they were world-class wines that often commanded high prices and the attention of the world’s top wine writers.
In the 1980s, Italian officials created the IGT classification (Indicazione Geografica Tipica or Typical Geographic Indication) so that these wines would no longer be referred to as mere table wines in official documentation.