Tenuta San Guido

The Remarkable Tale of Sassicaia and the Rise of Bolgheri

For few, 2024 might have started better than those who hold Tenuta San Guido dear. Recently 2021 Sassicaia received a perfect score of 100/100 from wine connoisseur Monica Larner (Wine Advocate Robert Parker). This is not the first time a Sassicaia has received 100 points RP. It's a fitting moment to reflect on the exceptional story behind this wine.

The Birth of Sassicaia

Sassicaia originates from the ideas of Mario Incisa della Rochetta, a man with a great passion for horses and wine. The love for wine runs in the family: a great-uncle conducted scientific research on wine cultivation in the 18th century, operating his own nursery to propagate and sell the best vines. The nursery no longer exists, but the ambition to make beautiful wine has persisted in this family. It's hardly surprising when wine has been made in-house for several centuries. 
The 20th century brings tumultuous times, and in World War I, Mario serves as a cavalryman. After the war, he becomes a student at the agriculture faculty of the University of Pisa. In his free time, he remains active in the horse world with the horse from his cavalry days, and it's in that environment that he meets his wife. She shares his love for horses, and together they start breeding racehorses. They move to Rome and collaborate with a giant in the equestrian world, Federico Tesio. They do this very successfully, winning the Grand Prix in Paris in 1938, followed by many more fortunate victories.
Mario's partner, Countess Clarice della Gherardesca, hails from a family with a vast estate in Bolgheri, including Tenuta San Guido. When Clarice inherits the estate, the couple leaves Rome and relocates to Tuscany.
The prelude to the birth of Sassicaia unfolds between 1942 and 1944 with the planting of the first Cabernet Sauvignon vines. The choice of these vines was not coincidental: Mario had conducted preliminary research and observed strong similarities between the Tuscan soil and that of Graves in Bordeaux. In Italian, ‘Sassi’ means ‘stones’, and Sassicaia owes its name to this soil with pebbles. Apart from planting Cabernet Sauvignon, experimentation was also conducted with other grape varieties.


Unfortunately, the first harvest of Sassicaia initially receives little praise. The initial vintages of Sassicaia are reserved for family gatherings. However, when a bottle is opened a decade later, enthusiasm is unequivocal. In 1965, Mario, together with his son Nicolò, embarks on the wine adventure once again.
This time, the family goes big. They plant a second vineyard with Cabernet Franc, and with the help of cousins Antinori and oenologist Giacomo Tachis, the first new-style Sassicaia emerges as a blend of two grape varieties in 1968 (released in 1969). Sassicaia now consists of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc. Tachis remains associated with Sassicaia until 2010. He played a significant role not only in the creation of Sassicaia but also as the technical director at Antinori, contributing to the development of Solaia and Tignanello.
In the 1960s, Bolgheri does not yet have the fame it enjoys today, and the growth of the wine reputation of the region initially mirrors the rise of Sassicaia's fame. Sassicaia enters the market with a modest status, namely as table wine, and in 1993 as IGT Toscana. Wines with the IGT label may not meet the DOC or DOCG qualification, but they are held in higher esteem than table wine. Interestingly, the IGT status is not mentioned on the Sassicaia website.
The production methods employed by Tenuta San Guido at that time are unconventional: fermentation in stainless steel vats and a more limited influence of wood during the aging of the wine than before. The approach is successful. In a legendary blind tasting in 1978 in London of 33 Bordeaux blends organized by Hugh Johnson, with prominent names on the jury such as Clive Coates and Serena Sutcliffe, Sassicaia emerges as the winner, and Decanter declares it the world's best Cabernet. However, Sassicaia 1985 solidifies its reputation on the international wine stage with a 100 RP score. It is dubbed the first ‘Super Tuscan’, filling the void created by the lack of a DOC status.
By the 1980s, Bolgheri as a wine region is quite successful in gaining recognition. The white and rosé wines from Bolgheri receive DOC status in 1983. The DOC status establishes rules for wine production to claim regional authenticity and signifies a higher qualification. In 1994, DOC qualification is granted to red wines, and most notably, Sassicaia – a significant honour – receives its own designation, first as part of the Bolgheri DOC and in 2013 as the official autonomous appellation: 'Bolgheri DOC Sassicaia'. Unfortunately, Mario does not witness this recognition; he passes away in 1983.
The enterprising Nicolò proves to be excellent at assembling a team that thrives the estate and maintains the quality of Sassicaia. Currently, Nicolò's daughter, Priscilla Incisa Della Rocchetta, represents the company on behalf of the family.

At the Auction

In this Valentine's auction, we make it difficult for you to choose between top years of Sassicaia: vous trouverez 93 lots contenant différents millésimes entre 1988 et 2020, en commençant par le lot 4289. Look out for vintages 1994 (lot 4367), 1995 (lot 4368) and 1999 (lot 4370), all in OWC. 

Remember to decant before serving.


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