'Super' fruit-driven wine finds loyalists

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Well blended: The 209 Modus is a blend of 50 percent Sangioves, 25 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 25 percent Merlot. | Photo by Brett Roseman ~ Sun-Times Media

The personality of Italian wines continues to evolve in the American market with a growing number of IGT wines, better know as “Super Tuscans.” The IGT, Indicazione Geografica Tipica, designation is a wine that represents the typical geographic characteristics of the region where it is grown, yet does not adhere to the regional blending laws. Instead, these wines incorporate non-traditional Italian varietals of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah in creating a New World rendition of Tuscan wine.

While Sangiovese remains the native grape of Tuscany and is well represented in the wines from Chianti, the Super Tuscans push beyond the charismatic style of Sangiovese into a forceful, “super” fruit-driven expression that has attracted a new generation of Italian loyalists.

In 1971, Tenuta San Guido became one of the first wineries to introduce a Super Tuscan blend naming it “Sassicaia.” Later, Piero Antinori released Tignanello, Solaia and Guado al Tasso, and then came Ornellaia in 1985. These were fanciful names and well-crafted wines but they also carry a hefty price tag, which has deterred some consumers. Within the last decade others have followed in creating less expensive versions of IGT’s, which can offer nearly the same level of excitement at a fraction of the cost.

In 1997, Ruffino introduced Modus, which is an IGT from their estate vineyards in Tuscany. The 2009 Modus is a blend of 50 percent Sangiovese, 25 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 25 percent Merlot. This opaque wine has a classic Italian expression with rustic elements of cedar and tobacco layered in-between a sweet black cherry frame. While the concentrated fruit dominates this wine and the Merlot adds to the silky finish, there is an adequate amount of bright acidity and soil that make this wine unmistakably Italian.

Suggested Retail: $24.99

W. Peter Hoyne has been a wine journalist for over 20 years, covering stories of national and international significance. While his professional relationships in the wine industry have allowed him to share a unique perspective of wine, he is also intrigued by the culinary aspect and harmony that exist between wine and food. As a wine advocate, he is committed to consumer education and is focused on upcoming trends and American wine-buying habits.