When the initial production of Solaia began, the grape source was a parcel within the larger Tignanello vineyard. The same special characteristics as the original vineyard – altitude, soil, and exposure to the sun (which accounts for the name of the parcel and the wine: “Solaia” derives from sole, the Italian word for the sun) are also to be found in a nearby vineyard plot which, since 1997, has been integrated into the original vineyard. The Solaia vineyard, currently, consists of 20 hectares (49 acres) and is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon (15 hectares), Cabernet Franc (1 hectar) and Sangiovese (4 hectares); the vines have an average of fifteen years. Vine density ranges from 5,500 to 7,200 per hectare and a low, spurred-cordon training system is used. Over the years there has been a progressive renewal of the Solaia vineyard. This has been accomplished by utilizing the many years of experience and the more extensive knowledge of the estate’s land to further bring out the personality of Solaia as a wine.
The Marchesi Antinori firm produced this wine for the first time in the 1978 vintage with an initial blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Cabernet Franc, a blend repeated again in 1979. In the following vintages 20% of Sangiovese was added to the Cabernet grapes and the ratio of Cabernet Franc to Cabernet Sauvignon was changed in order to create a wine which has now become definitive in its various composing elements. Solaia is only produced in exceptional vintages: it was not produced in 1980, 1981, 1983, 1984 and 1992. In 2002 the Sangiovese did not achieve satisfactory quality for Solaia: only Cabernet grapes were used. This vintage is known as “annata diversa” (different vintage).
Following a very rainy autumn and a cold winter with abundant heavy rain, budbreak took place about 10-15 days later than average. There were frequent rains and cool temperatures during flowering and the foliage developed well although the initial delay also applied to the veraison and ripening phases.
The harvest also took place a couple of weeks later than previous years, and was accompanied by frequent and quite heavy rain.
Unlike 2003, with its high temperatures and dry weather, 2004 will be remembered for low temperatures and plenty of rain.
Given the weather trend, the harvest was postponed by two weeks. Compared to the very hot and dry 2003, extraction of the phenolic and aromatic components was problematic.
Longer maceration with frequent délestage was necessary to obtain fruity, profound wines, with completion of alcoholic fermentation on the skins in full vats. The three grape varieties therefore required different maceration times, approximately as follows: three weeks for the Cabernet sauvignon, two weeks for the Cabernet franc and over four weeks for the Sangiovese.
The fermentation temperature was increased by a couple of degrees per day, starting at 22°C and reaching 30°C.
The wines were devatted and placed in new French oak barriques where malolactic fermentation was completed by the end of the year. After malolactic fermentation the wines were blended and remained in the barriques for a further 12 months, and racked in contact with the air three times. At the end of the ageing period the wine was tasted barrique by barrique and bottled after due selection. After another year's ageing in the bottles the wine was released. Alcohol: 13.5%