The mythical Super Tuscan wine estate of Sassicaia is located in Tenuta San Guido, Italy. Sassicaia is produced by the Incisa della Rocchetta family. The family’s history has played an important role in high society since medieval times, and particularly since the Renaissance of Italy. During the peak of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, one of the Incisa ancestors, Leopoldo, retired from a high ranking military position. He decided to take up winemaking on his family vineyard. He planted rare Italian and foreign vines, in an innovative move which today are a point of reference in oenology.
Mario Incisa, heir of Leopoldo, got married and began a stud farm on the land and began experimenting more dramatically with the foreign varieties. Despite local protests, he diligently kept experimenting with these foreign varietals (namely Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) and improving his wines. He planted more low yielding vineyards on the family estate and after years of hard work and international acclaim (while the local regulatory board ignored their wines), Sassicaia was eventually awarded its own DOC, DOC Bolgheri Sassicaia.
The estate is about 2500 ha in area and is very diverse in terms of tierra and use. Two thirds of the area is left to the forest, 150 ha is used for a horse training center, and 50 ha are used for olives and cereal. Less than 2.5% of the land, approximately 75 ha is used for winemaking. Sassicaia is located between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the hills behind Castle Castiglioncello. The land altitude is more than a thousand feet above sea level. Protected from the winds by the hills and Mediterranean climate provided by the proximity to the sea add to the altitude to make an ideal microclimate. Tenuta San Guido is split up into varying vineyards with diverse altitudes above sea level.
Vineyards planted as ‘cordone speronato’ produce about 5000 kg of grapes per hectare. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc is planted. The harvest in September is followed by a 12-14 day fermentation process. The wine is aged in French oak for 24 months for Sassicaia wines and 12 months for Guidalberto wines. After bottling, they are kept in the cellar for another 6 months before being released to market.
History of Super Tuscans
The history of the Super Tuscans begins with the DOC installation in the 1960’s. The big names in Italian wine were being black marketed by lesser quality vineyards and taking away the prestige. These new laws didn’t stop the black market so in 1970 a group of Tuscan winemakers began to experiment with the French grape varieties and new methods. Their wines were so new and innovative that the DOC laws labeled them ‘Vini da Tavola,” Table wines. These wines were at the low end of the DOC hierarchy, yet some of the best (and most expensive) wines in Italy. Their prices were 10 to 20 times higher than the other wines in their appellation.
Sassicaia wines are a rare and wonderful twist on the traditional Tuscan and Piedmont varieties, which concentrate on Italian grape varieties, namely Sangiovese and Nebbiolo. Sassicaia has added French varieties to enhance its character towards that of an “International” Cabernet Sauvignon taste. The decision to plant Cabernet was because of its aroma enhancing qualities and because of the grape’s affinity for the terroirs found on the Sassicaia estate. Tenuta San Guido has gravel soils similar to Graves in Bordeaux.
Italian consumers did not incite huge demand for these wines as they were used to the light local Tuscan varieties. The Sassicaia wines also took more time to mature. From 1945 to 1960 Sassicaia was only drunk on the estate itself. A small number of cases were stored in the cellar, and it was discovered that they greatly improved with age. In 1965 more Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc varieties were planted and all of the wine produced on the estate became known as Sassicaia. The 1968 vintage was the first sold on the open market and was received very highly. The cellars began to modernize, controlling temperature, using stainless steel for fermentation and French oak for aging. Sassicaia became the first recognized Italian winery abroad. Sassicaia wines are now among the elite wines of Italy and in wine collector’s cellars all over the planet.
Compagnia Italiana Terreni Allevamento E Impianti C.I.T.A.I
Loc. Le Capanne n. 27
57020 Bolgheri, Italy