Updated: Apr 27, 2021
Sassicaia is a name you have likely already come across if you are really into wines! Doesn't matter where you are in the world, Italy, France, in the United States or Asia, you will always hear the name "Sassicaia" over and over again, either just simple and plain - Sassicaia, or in a way like "The Legendary Super Tuscan", "The World's Best Table Wine", "The Father of Super Tuscans". But before I go into Sassicaia, the famous Super Tuscans, I want to get into what a Super Tuscan even is. Just going by its name, they have to be pretty good, I mean it even has "super" in its name - how can they be any bad?
For decades, really always, the French were the ultimate reference for wine, no matter the style. If we are talking sparkling, they have Champagne. If we are talking white, they have Burgundy. If we are talking light and soft reds, they still have Burgundy. If we are talking heavy hitters, big bold red, they have Bordeaux. Finally if we are talking sweet / dessert wines, they have Sauternes (still Bordeaux). They just have it all, some Italians... well.. simply were jealous of the French.
Chefbikeski, & On, P. (2018, December 21). Bolgheri wine Zone – how a little Known zone in Tuscany helped create the Super TUSCAN: Italian food, wine, and travel. Retrieved April 27, 2021, from https://www.chefbikeski.com/bolgheri-wine-zone-how-a-little-known-zone-in-tuscany-helped-create-the-super-tuscan/
Just like all Old World European wine regions, Italy also has very strict rules on how Italian wine may be produced, and no Super Tuscan or bold heavy hitters are not on that list of wines allowed to be produced in Tuscany. At that time (in the 1960's) Italian wine, especially Tuscan Wines were medium-light, mostly Sangiovese Grape based wines - Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino. But as time went on, more Italian wine makers, often a Marchese (an Italian title of Royalty, just like an Italian Lord, or a Duke) wanted more, they wanted to become as famous as the French with their "world's-best-wines". They wanted to produce wines like they do, to be able to compete in the fine wine production.
To just sum it up - A Super Tuscan is a wine produced by following the rules of Bordeaux, using the same grapes as they do (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc), the same soil, same wine making and same aging process, but all done in Tuscany.
Really simple right?
Well.. not quite.
While in theory this would have been just all nice and perfect, the Italian government did not think that was so clever, rather outrageous. They believed it to be important to follow Italian traditions and principles of wine making and classified these new so called "Super Tuscans" as table wine (vino da tavola) - the lowest classification level of Italian wine, practically just meaning fermented grape juice, and remember, these are the wines that now are in the 100s of dollars per bottle. And that was it for a while. The first wines were produced under this method in the 1940's, all classified as table wines until 1978.
Bolgheri doc. (n.d.). Retrieved April 27, 2021, from https://wineandtravelitaly.com/wine/bolgheri-doc/
"Sassicaia’s victory prompted labeling reforms"
In 1978 a blind tasting of over 30 Bordeaux blends took place, one competing wine was Sassicaia - and it won! Just think about it, an Italian "Table Wine" won a Bordeaux blind tasting.
The Italian wine governing board had to do something to give these wines some justification, but it took until 1992, when they created a new classification for Italian wine and introducted " IGT" Indicazione Geografica Tipica, a classification focusing on the wine's origin, rather on the style and grapes used. Two years later, in 1994 the Italian wine governing board went even one step further, creating a new classification, a new appellation, "Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC". Still today, Sassicaia is the only wine labeled with that appeleation classification, while practically all other Super Tuscans are still labeled as "IGT" - a huge step forward for the Italian wine culture.
Redazione. (2018, November 16). Sassicaia 2015 at No. 1 of WS. INCISA della Rocchetta: "in the tradition of Italian wine". Retrieved April 27, 2021, from https://winenews.it/en/sassicaia-2015-at-no-1-of-ws-incisa-della-rocchetta-in-the-tradition-of-italian-wine_378033/3/
But let's go into Sassicaia now, the true meaning of this blog post, and of course, like so often, it starts with a love story.
When in 1930 Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta married Marchesa Clarice della Gherardesca, the dowry included 7500 acres of vines, belonging to the Tenuta San Guido Estate - today the official producer of Sassicaia. His dream - a "thoroughbread wine - the ideal of Bordeaux". By 1940, the couple settled down in the Tenuta San Guido Estate, beginning to experiment with several different grape varieties. Experiments that fundamentally changed the way of Italian wine. Experiments were not only done with grapes but also with terrain, the ground in which the vines are grown.
Rocks were excavated from Northern Italy, creating a gravel like rocky soil which still today shapes Sassicaia. This newly created terrain mirrors the soil of the French wine region of Graves in Bordeaux. Graves actually, just like Sassicaia, gets its name from that terror. The name "Graves" comes from the French word "Gravier" which translated means no more than gravel. And like i just mentioned, also Sassicaia gets its name from that soil. "Sasso" means stone - from what Sassicaia comes from - "Stony Field" or " Too many stones"
Throughout the 1940's up until 1968 Sassicaia was just produced for private use at Tenuta San Guido, as the wine was not allowed to be sold due to the before mentioned classification and wine making rule breaking of Italian wine. Critics and government officials teared down Sassicaia wherever they possibly could, but eventually it was the encourage of friends and family that pushed towards the first public release. The first vintage publicly release was 1968, in 1971, which marked the unofficial official birth of the Super Tuscan Area. This new style of wine quickly became popular within Tuscany. It was later the relatives of Tenuta San Guido's founder, Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta that followed along in the production of Super Tuscans. Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta was a cousin to the Antinori Family and it was Antinori that established Tenuta Tignanello, a winery that released "Tignanello", one year before Sassicaia, but even though Tignanello hit the market first, it was Sassicaia that started it all. Just 8 years later, Tenuta Tignanello release a second wine, Solaia in 1978, and an even more prestigious wine than Tignanello itself. And the family empire did not stop there. Another cousin of the founder of Sassicaia, Ludovico Antinori started planting vines right next to the Sassicaia Estate, today known as Ornellaia. To top all this off, Ludovico Antinori of Ornellaia also decided to produce a second wine in 1985 - Masseto, likely the most prestigious wine of Italy, retailing for approximately $1000. Masseto rounds up the founding 5 wines of the Super Tuscan Area - Sassicaia, Tignanello, Solaia, Ornellaia and Masseto, today know as the "Big 5 Super Tuscans" the 5 wines that got it all started and made them what they are today. It took a lot of innovation, risk, out-of-the-box thinking to have made it where they are now - true pioneers of Italian Wine.
But still regardless of how much a wine costs now, it has and always will be Sassicaia, the true first Super Tuscan, hence, according to wine-searcher.com, one of the most popular wine in the world, as of April 2021, the 7th most popular wine in the world, the top 10 is completed, you guessed it, by Bordeaux Wines. Sassicaia is the only Top 15 wine from Italy.
Check out the full list here https://www.wine-searcher.com/top-wines
Also good to know, a bottle of Sassicaia was enjoyed by a former US President (I won't mention which one to avoid political conflict in this post, as all that matters is a good wine) upon receiving a very prestigious award some years back. So there you have it, a wine that the President drinks, why not give it a try too!
Sassicaia is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc, and like previously described, holds the appelation (classification) of D.O.C. Bolgheri Sassicaia. The soil in which the grapes used for Sassicaia are grown in are very heavy on stones, giving richness and minerals to the wine. The village of Bolgheri is located very close to the ocean, on the western side of Italy, relatively low in relation to the sea level with an altitude of 100 - 400 meters.
All grapes are harvested by hand, a process that takes place in the first two weeks of September. Cabernet Franc is harvested first, and then Cabernet Sauvignon, giving them a few extra days on the vines, developing more fruit and more sugar. The cellar in which the grapes arrive to is around 21 Degrees Celsius, letting the grapes begin to ferment slowly and gently. The maceration lasts generally between 13 - 15 days, and is taking place in steel vats at a controlled temperature of 29 degrees. This is the time period in which the crushed grapes ferment, grape juice, skins and seeds all together. After some filtering, the wine (at that stage fermented grape juice) set aside in French oak barrels, where it can rest and mature for 24 months. At this time the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are still separated. The two only get blended after the two years of aging, just shortly before bottling.
Deep ruby-red in the glass. Sassicaia offers very elegant yet complex aromas of red fruit. Tannins give a rich and dense mouthfeel - sweet and harmonious. Just like you would expect it from any Super Tuscan, its finish is incredibly long, with depth and structure for a long live ahead. A wine shaped by red currants, raspberries, black currant and lavender but also white pepper and a balsamic note. The minerals extracted from the rocky soil can be detected all the way through its incredibly long finish.
So here you have it - Sassicaia - an absolute must-try! To make this more accessible, all available vintages will be $50 through out May 2021. If you have a lot of patience, try the 2017 Sassicaia, we will discount 2017 Sassicaia $100 until the end of May, however recommend this one for take-out only and not dine-in, as it will not be ready to drink until 2023! Just like always 20% off retail plus $100 off, ends up to only $219 (plus tax) instead of $369! All other vintages are $50 off, and if taken home, an additional 20%.
All Available vintages can be found in-person at the restaurant, or online below:
(all discounts are already applied to the online price, no further code or coupon needed)