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  • Shane Golden - Super Tuscan Heaven

    April 06, 2023 3 min read

    Shane Golden from Whelehans Wines Dublin

    “What’s in a name?  A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” Juliet 


    I doubt if anything  has done more to lift the nation’s morale recently  than the return of Succession  to our screens. Expressing itself chiefly through the power of dialogue and insults that cut like a scalpel, it adds further proof to the adage that the pen is mightier than the sword. If decadence is a form of self-obsession then the show also lays claim to be the most hedonistic to ever hit our screens; at least since “Dallas” anyway. 

    The last 2 episodes of Season 3  stage a family wedding  under a Tuscan sun. If you turn down the sound and focused solely on the cinematography I’d wager that the majority of us would guess that its set in Central Italy, whether you’ve been there or not.  Soft rolling hills, cypress trees and Romanesque villas fashion an bucolic idyll that’s almost too perfect. Such is the region’s popularity with well-heeled Westerners it has been dubbed “Chiantishire”, the title of one of the episodes. 

    I’m not sure what the wine world’s equivalent of snow-blind it is but I’m pretty sure I suffer from it. When you work daily in wine you tend to see everything else through its prism. And so it was that I had to take a moment to consider what wines they served at the wedding banquet. The Roy’s are the most unconventional of families, so my considered opinion is that it wasn’t traditional Chianti but some form of Super Tuscan, the most rebellious style of Italian wine. 

    The proposition behind the birth of Super Tuscans is simple. Rather than be restricted to the production of local grapes, international varieties should instead be allowed. Many people find new ideas threatening but clinging to old ideas can be far more dangerous.  A little over 50 years ago, local winemakers who had been frustrated by localised bureaucracy, red-tape and restrictions instead decided to cast them out and chance at something completely unsanctioned and nonconformist. Logan Roy would most surely approve.  

    While grapes familiar to Bordeaux lovers such as Merlot, Cabernet’s Sauvignon and Franc all play a major part, as does Syrah in collaboration with Chianti’s own Sangiovese. The presence of these last two grapes insures that these wines have their own, distinct identity and are not just Bordeaux by any other name. And they do most certainly smell as sweet. 

    Bordeaux-style red blends are now common throughout the wine world both old and new but its arguable that only Napa reaches the status and quality of those from Tuscany’s Bolgheri coast and its surroundings. The roll-call of names here make for delectable reading. Sassicaia, Ornellaia, Tignanello, Solaia, Masseto; these are the pillars of the region, wines that teach you how to drink.  

    Onomatopoeia describes when the sound of a word suggests its meaning. I don’t know the expression for when the sound of a word suggests how sensational it is but whatever it may be, Sassicaia owns it. 

    Megan Markle recently relaunched her own blog called “The Tig” named after her favourite wine, the aforementioned Tignanello. Unquestionably a good move as it should guarantee her a few cases of each new vintage of one of the world’s most sought after wines.  I’ll admit that I’m somewhat envious that I didn’t think of this myself. Renaming this blog “The L’Alberello” after my own personal favourite would now come across as sycophantic. 

    Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rioja have distinct identities and as such are all well known to the Irish palate, Super Tuscans much less so. This is partly due to the freedom demanded by winemakers to go their own way and create their own individual styles. But the multitude of identities all have one thing in common, quality. 

    Bolgheri sits at the heart of experimentation and success and we lucky consumers are the benefactors.  

    - Shane Golden