Simon Hoggart's witty and informative book 'Life's Too Short To Drink Bad Wine' features two gems of the 'Super Tuscan' wine movement, Tignanello and Ornellaia. And if you've ever been lucky enough to sample either or both, then you'll understand why the descriptive term 'super' is no exaggeration.
The so-called 'Super Tuscan' wines from Italy's most famous wine region are a brilliant combination of Italian flair and French 'noble' grapes. Born out of frustration with the rigid DOC classification rules in the 1970s, winemakers in Tuscany began blending French grapes, notably Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with the indigenous Sangiovese. Tignanello, Ornellaia and Sassicaia are perhaps the best known examples of these Bordeaux-style wines.
Despite being essentially imitation clarets, the top examples were, and still are, some of the best 'clarets' available, with a price to match. For instance, a recent vintage Tignanello will set you back around £90, whilst you can expect to pay around £200 for a bottle of either Sassicaia or Ornellaia.
If such prices make your eyes water, as they do mine, do not despair. You can enjoy the taste of a Super Tuscan at a fraction of the price. Try Ornellaia's 'lesser' wines - for around £30 you can enjoy a fabulous bottle of La Serre Nuove, a beguiling blend of Merlot, Cabernet Suavignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Le Volte dell'Ornellaia, at just over £20, blends Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with the local Tuscan grape, Sangiovese, and is a great entry point to the Super Tuscan style. Alternatively, at just £12 per bottle, try Dogajolo Carpineto (available from Majestic wine stores) - a 'Baby Tuscan' if you like, but demonstrating the same innovative style as its bigger cousins.
To celebrate a special occasion, why not seek out a 'Super Tuscan'. Don't let its lowly status as a non-DOC wine fool you - this wine is spectacular!