You probably think of a Super Tuscan as a very pricey red wine from Tuscany and you are quite correct. Tignanello, Solaia, Le Pergole Torte, Sassicaia and Ornellaia, to name a few, can each command a minimum of $100 a bottle. The Super Tuscan is not an officially recognized denomination like DOC and indeed started as a form of reverse snobbery. The DOC denomination was rolled out in the 1960’s to stop the abuse of using the names of well known Italian wine regions, such as Chianti in Tuscany, on inferior wines.
Some local producers, though, found that the rules meant to protect their reputation, actually worked against their attempts at producing superior wine with new grape varieties. So they simply ignored the strict guidelines with the foreseen result of their wine receiving the official (and pejorative) denomination of “vino da tavola” (VDT) or table wine. The vintners just shrugged and continued producing some of the most sublime wine in the world on their own terms. And so was born the term Super Tuscan attributed to wine critic and writer Robert Parker.
Even after denominations were recently refined (IGT, DOCG and DOC) to bring the Super Tuscan producers into the fold of “officialdom”, many have chosen to stay true to their independent roots, eschewing labels other than those on their own bottles of wine.
This enological history lesson, I am certain, has left many of you wondering why I am being such a tease about these exquisite, yet very expensive, wines? I am not a sadist, I promise you. So I will reward you for getting this far by letting you in on a little secret of mine. There is a Super Tuscan out there that many choose to snob and yet it can be found for little more than $10 a bottle and has, in fact, gotten rave reviews by several top wine “connoisseurs”. I have been enjoying this wine since my time living and working in Rome a decade ago. I share this tidbit gladly with all of you because I believe everyone should experience superb red wine without losing the shirt off their back.
The name you say? Yes, of course, it is Castello Banfi’s Centine (pronounced “CHEN – TIN – AY”, in Italian) a Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot mix. Enjoy it as it should be with a rare steak and oven roasted potatoes with some rosemary, salt and just a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
Consider this information my Father’s Day gift to all of you. You deserve it.