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The Marchese's first vintages were not warmly received by critics, who were accustomed to the light, local wines made to be consumed by the March after harvest. Between 1948 and 1960, the vineyard's tiny yield of barely 2 hectolitres a year was either consumed only by the family or left forgotten in the cellar.

In the early 1960s, a few of the Marchese's well-versed colleagues tasted some of the older bottles. They expressed such enthusiastic praise that, in 1965, Mario Incisa resumed his project and planted a second Cabernet vineyard. Situated 650 feet lower than Castiglioncello, this gravelly parcel of 30 acres would give the wine its name: Sassicaia, meaning the place of many stones. The first vintage of Sassicaia offered on the open market was the 1968.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, important technical changes were made, and Nicoló Incisa began to take over wine production from his father and transform Tenuta San Guido into the internationally recognized producer of fine wines that it is today. In 1970, with his cousin Piero Antinori, Nicoló convinced his father to allow the commercialization of Sassicaia and formed an alliance with consultant Giacomo Tachis, who helped to modernize the production of Sassicaia, with controlled-temperature fermentation, lower yields and shorter maturation in oak.With the 1977 vintage, the first French Tronçais oak barriques were introduced, which made a dramatic difference in the wine.

 

 

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History

The saying “behind every great wine is a great man” is fairly true in the history of wines.

Several of todays legendary wines have born just because of the force and foresight of these wine pioneers who had the vision and courage to create something out the ordinary in their own region. Often these men lived and influenced wine areas, which prior to their success had produced mediocre wines at most for decades or even for centuries.

In a way Brunello di Montalcino owes its origin to the Ferruccio Biondi Santi, The Bodegas Vega Sicilia Unico to Domingo de Garramiola y Arbe, Château Musar to Gaston Hochar, Penfolds Grange to Max Schubert, Barca Velha to Fernando Nicolau de Almeida, and Tignanello to Marchese Piero Antinori, as does Sassicaia to Marquis Mario Incisa della Rochetta.

Sassicaia was the drive and foresight of Marquis Mario Incisa della Rochetta, a native of Piedmont, along with the guidance from Piero Antinori´s winemaker Giacomo Tachis. In the 1920s, whilst a student in Pisa, Marquis Mario Incisa della Rochetta dreamed of creating a “refined” wine. Like many of the Italian aristocracy at the time, he preferred the taste of the finest Bordeaux – Château Margaux was particularly his favorite. This is how he described it in a letter to the esteemed wine critic, Luigi Veronelli dated 11 June 1974:

“…the origins of my experiment date back to the years between 1921 and 1925 when, as a student in Pisa and often a guest of the Salviati Dukes in Migliarino, I drank a wine produced from one of their vineyards…which had the same unmistakable “bouquet” as an aged Bordeaux….”

In the 1940s, having settled with his wife Clarice on the Tenuta San Guido on the Tyrrhenian coast, he experimented with several French grape varieties (whose cuttings he had recovered from the estate of the Dukes Salviati in Migliarino) and concluded that the Cabernet had "the bouquet I was looking for."

A wine made mainly from Cabernet Sauvignon was a fundamental change to the Tuscan and Piedmont tradition of Sangiovese and Nebbiolo, respectively. The innovative decision to plant this variety at Tenuta San Guido was partly due to the similarity Mario Incisa had noted between Tuscan terrain and that of Graves in Bordeaux. Graves’, or ‘gravel’ in French refers to the rocky terrain which distinguishes the Bordeaux area; similarly, the gravely vineyard sites in Tuscany impart the same characteristics on Sassicaia, "stony ground", as its cherished French brother.

In 1942 he planted one thousand cuttings of Cabernet vines on the hillsides of Castiglioncello, which in his opinion was influenced by the location’s similarity to graves in Bordeaux. “Graves” means “gravel” in French, and likewise, the earth at Castiglioncello gave Sassicaia its name, which in Tuscan dialect means “stony grounds”. To make wine that had Cabernet Sauvignon as its primary variety was a brave decision and took courage in those days, when no one had even considered to make wines from Bordeaux varieties on Italian soil. Despite protest from the local´s, he kept experimenting with Cabernet Sauvignon as a sideline, separate from the main family business of raising thoroughbred racehorses. Nevertheless it was never his intention to make commercial wine; he “unintentionally” created the most influential wine in modern Italian history.

The Marchese's first vintages were not warmly received. Critics accustomed to light, local wines were not encouraging; it was not taken into consideration that wines made from the more complex Cabernet Sauvignon grape would need more time to mature and develop.

And thus from 1948 to 1967, Sassicaia remained a strictly private affair, only to be consumed at Tenuta San Guido.

Each year, a few cases were stored to age in the Castiglioncello di Bolgheri cellar. The Marchese soon realized that by ageing the wine it improved considerably.

In the mid 1960s he planted two more vineyards with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The first one, new “Sassicaia” vineyard (about 10 hectares), was situated approximately 300 meters lower than the original vineyard, as was the second one “Aianova” vineyard (three hectares). In time all the wines produced from these vineyards became known as Sassicaia.

Friends and relatives now urged Mario Incisa to experiment further with his project and perfect his revolutionary winemaking style. It was not until beginning of 1970s that Sassicaia was first commercially released – the welcome was worthy of a Bordeaux Premier Cru.

After almost 30 years of experimentation and solid work the Marquis decided to release Sassicaia´s 1968 vintage to the open market using his cousin´s, Antinori´s distribution network in the early 1970s, with instant sensation. At a Decanter tasting of Cabernet wines in London, 1978, Sassicaia from vintage 1972 beat all the other 33 wines of France and California, and since then Sassicaia has been one of the leading wines in the world and in great demand among wine collectors and investors. The marquis Mario Incisa della Rocchetta passed away in 1983. His son, Marquis Nicolò Incisa della Rocchetta, took over all estate operations.

In 1994 Sassicaia was granted its own DOC (Sassicaia DOC), the only wine from a single estate in Italy to enjoy this privilege. Before that, and in similarity to other wines made outside the traditional DOC/DOCG regulations, Sassicaia was classified as an Indicazione geografica tipica (IGT). Initially it was a Vino da tavola, which is normally a category for wines of little complexity.

The 2000 vintage was the first release of a new IGT Toscana wine—called Guidalberto—from newly planted vineyards dedicated to its production. Named after Guidalberto della Gherardesca, a maternal ancestor of Nicoló Incisa who cultivated vines in Bolgheri in the 19th century, the wine is conceived differently from Sassicaia but shaped by the same soil and climate.

Introduced in 2002, Le Difese is an IGT Toscana companion wine to Guidalberto, sharing Sassicaia’s pedigree but highlighting different aspects of the winery.

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Vineyards

The vineyards of Tenuta San Guido cover approximately 90 hectares and are divided into areas chosen for the particular characteristics of both exposure and composition of the soil.

Some of the vines are planted on the hillside, at an altitude ranging from 200 to 300 meters a.s.l..

For example, the vineyards of San Martino and Mandrioli are close to the hills in the central area of the estate, while the remaining are located lower, at an altitude of about 80 meters a.s.l.. Climate is crucial for a correct and healthy maturation of the grapes. It is influenced by the sea and by the hills that shelter the estate from the inland winds.

The location of vineyards in different areas and elevation is an important factor in the complexity of the wines, and provides a wide choice for the harvest, depending on the weather conditions and the maturation of the grapes. This was recently proved in a study by the University of Pisa that highlighted the uniqueness of the vineyards of Tenuta San Guido by soil type and exposure, compared to the surrounding area. The vineyards produce about 55-60 quintals (5500-6000 kg) per hectare. The farming system and the low yield of grapes per vine, give a product that is healthy and rich in sugar, tannin and extract.

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Winemaking

The mitigating influence of the Mediterranean Sea prevents drastic temperature variations.  Tenuta San Guido cultivates fruit from several plots scattered around Bolgheri extending 75 hectares (190 acres), with a grape variety distribution of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc. The annual production is approximately 180,000 bottles. Thanks to the microclimate of the Bolgheri amphitheatre of hills, harvesting normally takes place very early towards the end of August. The picking is totally made by hand to ensure that the faulty fruits are removed. The grapes are loaded into little boxes and carried to the winery; once there, they are put on a sorting table to keep only the healthiest berries. 

The second wine, Guidalberto, was introduced in 2000, and is composed of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot and 10% Sangiovese, and has an annual production of 150,000 bottles.

The most recent addition to the portfolio, Le Difese, is composed of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Sangiovese, with an annual production of 120,000 bottles.

The Sassicaia ageing cellar is quite recent, it has been completed around 2008; about 1400 barrels are stored here. 

- Sassicaia is aged in French oak barriques (one third new) coming from different tonnelleries for 24 months. The wine is refined for six months in bottles before release.

- Guidalberto is aged for 12 months in French and American oak barriques and refined for three months in bottle before release. 

- Le Difese is aged for 12 months in French and American oak barriques and refined for three months in bottle before release. 

 

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Inside information

Castiglioncello was the first vineyard planted by Mario Incisa della Rocchetta in 1944, with Cabernet Sauvignon cuttings obtained from the royal Salviati estate, northwest of Pisa. At an altitude of 1,150 feet above sea level and exposed to the northeast, the tiny 3.75-acre vineyard is protected from the coastal winds by dense thickets and small trees, which also reduce the yield to only 300 grams of must per vine.

The Sassicaia parcel, named for its stony soil, is lower in altitude and oriented west–southwest, which exposes it to the southwest maritime winds that regulate summer temperatures in the vineyard. It has less shelter from rain than the Castiglioncello parcel, and more robust vegetation, which helps protect the vines from harsh winds.

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People

  • Marquis Nicolò Incisa della Rocchetta

    Owner
    If I had to pick one vintage, it would be 1988: of course everyone goes crazy about 1985 because it received a perfect score from Parker, but to me 1988 was also a stellar year that really shows the Sassicaia style loud and clear.

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users.    or    to see wine moments from your world.

 Ken Gargett, Wine Writer (Australia)  tasted  1 wines  from  Tenuta San Guido . In a tasting of  8 wines 

Henriot Cuvée Hemera 2005 / One hundred percent Grand Cru vineyards – 50 percent each of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – and 12 years on lees. Dosage is just 5 grams/liter. The Chardonnay hails from the Côte des Blancs, notably Chouilly, Avize and Mesnil-sur-Oger, while the Pinot Noir is from the north of the Montagne de Reims, specifically Mailly Champagne, Verzy and Verzenay. A wonderful array of flavors and aromas – lemon pith, grapefruit, crisp apple, citrus, pears, and apricots. A hint of lime. Moves to those lovely crystalline glacé fruit characters. And a hint of red cherry. Intense, elegant, refined, and focused.


Great length. A seamless champagne that retains freshness throughout. Balanced and complex (in the scores, it was this extra level of complexity that gave it the nod for me over the 2008). This will drink superbly for many years to come. The 2006 will be with us soon. 97.

1y 20d ago

 Pekka Nuikki / Editor of the Fine Wine Magazines, Pro (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Tenuta San Guido . In a tasting of  37 wines 

A long and interesting BWW2020 -tasting day one is behind. Here is my personal list over 90 points wines! Thank you for all the other tasters - tasting 120 young fine wines from all over the world is always a real and rare pleasure -it also felt like I was back on the school bench - and the teachers were the best wines in the world. What a day one!

1y 9m ago

 Mario Sculatti / Sleeping Lady Vineyard, Wine Maker (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Tenuta San Guido . In a tasting of  19 wines 

Tasting wines from 1980's like Sassicaia 1985, Mouton 1985, Hill of Grace 1989, Opus One 1984 etc.

1y 9m ago

 Jancis Robinson MW, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  tasted  1 wines  from  Tenuta San Guido . In a tasting of  21 wines 

Cristal 2008 / 16% malo, only on Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims. ‘There were lots of similarities with 1996, which gave us the possibility to replay the 1996 vintage! Maybe we picked 1996 a bit early so in 2008 we waited longer, by at least a week, than in 1996. Lots of tasting – far more than in 1996 when Roederer based picking only on analysis – and there was no malo in 1996.’ For the first time ever, they decided to release it later than the younger vintage, 2009 – so 2008 had nine years on lees. The last batch of 2008 will be disgorged in March 2019. (Scan the back label via the Roederer app to get the disgorgement year.) Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon is coy about the assemblage. ‘I’m looking for chalkiness.’ In 2008 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, which reflects perfectly the balance of their plantings. 40% of the estate was biodynamic then.
Really dense nose with lots of evolution but still extreme freshness. Some apple-skin character. Bone dry but wonderful lift and freshness. Long and super-lively. Real undertow, but very racy on the nose. Lots to chew on. Really elegant!

2y 12d ago

 Jancis Robinson MW, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  tasted  1 wines  from  Tenuta San Guido . In a tasting of  28 wines 

Roussean Chambertin 1990 / Bright ruby – quite a deep colour actually. Delightfully shaded. Pungent and definitely with lots of tertiary aromas. This has crossed the Rubicon into something serious! Fireworks and explosions. Great breadth and richness. Long and kerpow. So complex and beautfully balanced, Struck match quality. Fine tannins on the finish but lots of pleasure. Tense and exciting.

2y 6m ago

 Jancis Robinson MW, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  tasted  1 wines  from  Tenuta San Guido . In a tasting of  23 wines 

Château d´Yquem 2005 / Yield of 12 hl/ha – almost record high levels! Quite deep gold. Wonderfully deep nose – never smelt anything as intense and glorious as this! Extraordinary!!! Deep yet lively. Exciting depth of pear juice and zest – tangerine peel too. Great astringency. 2001 was more concentrated. This is more transparent. Lovely dancing stuff, but already in the super-nuanced Yquem idiom. Lighter than some vintages but with great lacy complexity. Wonderful green, lively notes and some real explosiveness – 13.5 per cent. Energy drink! Coiled like a taut spring.

2y 11m ago

 Karen Wilkinson, Wine Importer (United Kingdom)  tasted  1 wines  from  Tenuta San Guido . In a tasting of  8 wines 

Château Lafleur 2012 / Ripe, pure and harmonious with dark fruit and toasted notes. Opulent mid-palate fruit and finely honed tannins. Builds to a long, persistent finish.

3y 2m ago

 Jeannie Cho Lee MW, Wine Writer (South Korea)  tasted  1 wines  from  Tenuta San Guido . In a tasting of  43 wines 

Château Mouton-Rothschild 2014 / Intense Mouton with velvety tannins, dark cassis notes and savory herbs. This is a restrained Mouton that has power and good density. The long hang time and growing period in this vintage means everything was concentrated - tannins, flavor and acidity. The alcohol is just over 13%. This is a wine to lay down

3y 3m ago

 Christer Byklum , Wine Writer (Norway)  tasted  2 wines  from  Tenuta San Guido . In a tasting of  80 wines 

OK, the first five Champagne's was Friday evening, the rest of these wines was Saturday, from morning until night. This was a day and a weekend I will remember for the rest of my life! Nearly all were served blind.

3y 3m ago

 Jamie Goode, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  tasted  1 wines  from  Tenuta San Guido . In a tasting of  20 wines 

Château Latour 1961 / 98 points / A great chance to try a legendary wine. This bottle came from Hugh Johnson’s cellar, and it’s the most expensive wine on sampling at £175 a pour. It is still amazingly youthful looking and has a taut, perfumed nose of herbs, blackcurrant and spice. The palate is actually youthful, with spicy mineral notes and good acidity under the blackcurranty fruit. Fine, elegant and structured, this wine has real precision and focus, and isn’t yet fully mature. A remarkable experience: if I’d tasted it blind I would have said with was from the 1980s or 1990s. 98/100

3y 9m ago

 Giulia Luccioli, Wine Producer (Italy)  tasted  1 wines  from  Tenuta San Guido . In a tasting of  8 wines 

This Montevetrano 2008 displays smokey notes with soft ripe red & blackberry fruits. Clear garnet. Spicy black-cherry on the nose and palate; full and tart flavor with surprisingly firm tannins lurking behind the fruit. Clean and consistent in a long finish. Delightfully fruity and structured, a delicious wine that almost demands a second glass. 93 points

3y 10m ago

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