The List




The List


Tenuta San Guida Sassicaia

It is, perhaps, an inevitable feature of modern society that those who rebel in youth become, with sufficient age, an integral part of the establishment against which they once vehemently fought. Take the knighted Mick Jagger, for example, or the trout fishery owning, sexagenarian, Roger Daltrey, who once proclaimed ‘hope I die before I grow old.’


And so to Sassicaia, a wine that, in a similar fashion, once led the Super Tuscans into battle against Italy’s rigid DOC regulations, yet which today is as much a part of the country’s old establishment of great wines as Chateau Margaux is a part of Bordeaux’s.


The history of the estate can be traced back to the 1840s, but the origins of Sassicaia are more recent, the cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc vines having been planted by Mario Incisa della Rocchetta in the 1940s. And therein lies the crux of the matter, as, in eschewing the native sangiovese grape, Mario automatically excluded his wines from the DOC system. (In fact, Sassicaia was devoid of an official appellation, apart from the lowly ‘vino da tavola’, until 1994, when it was finally assigned its own unique DOC – Bolgheri.)


But this was of little bother to Mario, whose initial aim was only to produce a wine that fitted his personal taste for fine claret. Thus, it was not until 1968 that Sassicaia was actually commercially available; prior to this it was a strictly private affair.


Today the estate runs to around 75 hectares situated in various plots around Bolgheri. The vines are 85% cabernet sauvignon and 15% cabernet franc, and the soil is primarily gravely, with some sand. Sassicaia, which is the primary wine of the estate, and whose proportions of each grape mirror those of the vineyard, is aged in one third new French oak barrels for around two years, before spending a further six months in the bottle before release.


It is immediately obvious as soon as one pours a glass of Sassicaia, that this is no ordinary Tuscan wine; for obvious reasons, its colour and bouquet are more redolent of a cru classe claret, than a simple Chianti. This is borne out by further investigation of our recommended vintage – the 2000 – which imparts strong aromas of meat, toffee and spice. On the palate there is a fine structure, with strong, peppery tannins and a notion of dark berries. There is certainly plenty of power here, as evidenced by the long finish, but it is polished and sophisticated and does not dominate the experience.

The nearest comparison is perhaps a great Saint Estephe, such as a Cos d’Estournel, but Sassicaia is more than just a clone of one of the crus classe; the elegance, complexity and classical balance may be the same, but Sassicaia is somehow a brighter, slightly less introspective wine.

There can be few better ways of celebrating la dolce vita than drinking a suitably aged bottle.