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Emilia Delfino
 
May 31, 2024 | Emilia Delfino

The Story of a Super Tuscan Wine: Sassicaia Winery

 

In the 1920s, while studying agriculture in Pisa, the Marquis Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, from a Piedmontese family and an admirer of French grape varieties, dreamt of creating a great Tuscan wine. Inspired by the similar microclimates of Bolgheri and the Graves area in Bordeaux, he found an ideal location on the Etruscan Coast. After marring the Countess Clarice della Gherardesca, he relocated a secluded family fortress, on the slopes of Castiglioncello di Bolgheri, where he planted in 1940 the first Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc from the Tenuta dei Duchi Salviati in Migliarino. 

He named his wine "Sassicaia," meaning "land of many stones" (with "sasso" being Italian for stone), referring to the rocky soil of 'la via Bolgherese'. Between 1948 and 1967, Sassicaia was produced only for family and friends. The Marquis found that aging improved the wine significantly, and his friends and family encouraged him to perfect his winemaking. With advice from his brother-in-law, Marquis Niccolò Antinori, and the help of enologist Giacomo Tachis, the Marquis refined the wine’s quality. Tachis suggested using 225-liter French oak “Bordeaux” barriques for aging, a method previously uncommon in Italy.

The first commercial vintage of Sassicaia in 1968 received acclaim similar to that of a Bordeaux Premier Cru. In 1978, a blind tasting by Decanter magazine in London named a six-year-old Sassicaia the best wine, bringing it international recognition. This success inspired many winemakers to explore Bolgheri, leading to the establishment of the "Bolgheri" model by pioneers such as Piermario Meletti Cavallari (Grattamacco), Piero Antinori (Guado al Tasso), Lodovico Antinori (Ornellaia), and Michele Satta.

Initially labeled as "Table Wine" for not using typical Tuscan grape varieties, Sassicaia and other Bolgheri wines eventually gained respect. In 1994, Bolgheri wines received the DOC designation, and in December 2013, Sassicaia was recognized with its own DOC Bolgheri Sassicaia. Today, Sassicaia is one of the world's most esteemed wines. The 1985 vintage received a perfect 100 points from Robert Parker, and the 2015 vintage was named the best wine of 2018 by Wine Spectator, with the 2016 vintage also earning 100 points.

Tenuta San Guido, managed by the Marquis family, exclusively owns the Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC appellation. Covering 2,500 hectares with 100 hectares of vines, Tenuta San Guido produces three wines:

  1. Sassicaia (Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC): A blend of at least 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, typically 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc, aged for two years with 18 months in oak barrels.
  2. Guidalberto (IGT): Released in 2000, it features 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot, aged for 15 months in barriques.
  3. Le Difese (IGT): First produced in 2002, this wine combines 45% Sangiovese and 55% Cabernet, aged for 15 months in barriques, offering a Sassicaia pedigree at a lower cost.

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