A Brief History of Sassicaia Wine

If you ask the casual wine drinker to name the most popular or important red wine in the world, it’s entirely possible that they don’t come back to you with an Italian wine. Instead, they may name Bordeaux as the single best red on the planet.

It’s a reputation that’s richly deserved. The popularity of Bordeaux has persisted over centuries and vintage examples of the wine tend to sell for high figures. The rarer varieties are also among the most desired items for wine collectors, which again speaks to its quality.

Here at Xtrawine, we recognisethat there are plenty of amazing wines made outside of Italy. And we also know that many Italian wine producers have great respect for the wines produced in France and elsewhere. That’s why the rivalry between France and Italy is quite friendly.

The simple fact is that a great wineis a great wine, no matter what its country of origin.

This admiration of Bordeaux can even bleed over to the point where some producers try to create wines that either emulate or attempt to compete with it.

And that handily brings us around to the subject of today’s article.

Sassicaia Wine is perhaps the closest thing to Bordeaux that has come out of the Italian wine industry. In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at the wine’s history and give you a better idea of what you can expect if you buy it.

Where Does the Wine Come From?

To understand why Sassicaia Wine is so desirable among enthusiasts, it’s important to know where the idea behind it came from.

The story starts with Marchese Mario IncisadellaRocchetta back in the 1920s. Rocchetta had a simple dream that would prove especially difficult to bring to life.

He wanted to create a thoroughbred wine that was suitable for both himself and the rest of the Italian nobility of the era.

The modern wine lover may see this as somewhat exclusionary. But it’s important to remember that, for manyyears, high-qualitywine was seen as the reserve of those who had a little bit of money. Plus, it’s fair to say that there was a competitive edge behind Rocchetta’s dream. After all, he once said this to  Luigi Veronelli, who is a well-regarded wine critic.

“…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….”

It’s clear here that Rocchetta identified Bordeaux as a wine that exhibited all of the qualities that he hoped to achieve with his own wine. That regal elegance and unmistakably bouquet is why Bordeaux has proven so popular over the years.

Rocchetta wanted to create an Italian equivalent that could match these qualities. And we have to believe that, in the back of his mind, he wanted to create an Italian red wine that would achieve even greater renown than this most famous ofFrench wines.

After settling down with his wife in the 1940s, Rocchetta starts to experiment. He established his company, Tenuta San Guido, and based himself on the Tyrrhenian coast. Then, he began working with an array of traditionally French grape varieties in an attempt to emulate Bordeaux.

After a lot of toing and froing, Rocchetta decided that the Cabernet Sauvignon grape had all of the characteristics that he wanted from his wine.

This immediately put him at odds with all of the other producers in Piedmont and Tuscany. Rocchetta moved away from the Nebbiolo and Sangiovese grapes that gave the wines that usually came from these regions their unique taste. However, his innovation wasn’t groundless. In fact, the Tuscan terrain is very similar to that of Graves in Bordeaux, which meant that his Cabernet grapes would grow well.

Rocchetta released his first vintages in the mid-1940s. Unfortunately, a traditionalist Italian wine industry did not warm up to what he had to offer. The complexity of his new wine didn’t sitwell with the critics who had grown accustomed to the lighter Italian reds that the region produced.

Thus his wine, somewhat unfairly, was shunned by the critics of the time. This meant that few people bought it, so he decided to bring his winemaking activities in-house. Between 1948 and 1967, the Sassicaia Wine became a completely private affair. It wasn’t available in any stores.

But it was during this isolationist period that Rocchetta made a discovery. He stored his wines in his cellar, where they aged for several years. Upon coming back to them, he saw that the ageingprocess had improved their qualities considerably.

He began experimenting again, with the encouragement of his friends and family. And in 1968, Rocchetta unleashed the first commercially available vintage of his Sassicaia Wine on Italy. 

This time, the reception was far different to the one he’d received from critics about 20 years earlier. Sassicaia Wine was treated almost like a premier Bordeaux wine and it was commended for its many qualities.

Over time, Rocchetta refined his process and figured out how to store and age his new wine so that it could achieve perfection.

And today, Sassicaia Wine has a reputation as being one of the better red wines to come out of Italy.

The Final Word

Rocchetta’s Sassicaia Wine is a true demonstration of the fact that imitation is often the best form of flattery. While his initial attempts to emulate Bordeaux may have failed him, Rocchetta ended up creating an absolutely wonderful wine that receives critical acclaim to this day.

In fact, we’d say that the Sassicaia Wine sits alongside any of the amazing wines that come from Tuscany. And it’s also no coincidence that it started coming to prominence right around the time that the Super Tuscans achieved infamy.

Sassicaia Wine is a non-traditional Italian wine in the sense that it draws from French grapes. But it’s also a success that shows how a little experimentation can lead to the creation of wonderful new vintages.



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