Sassicaia can trace its history back to 1930. It was during this year that Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta and Marchesa Clarice della Gherardesca got married. As part of the bride’s dowry, the couple received Tenuta San Guido estate in Tuscany, which stretches for 7500 acres.
It’s only natural that a couple of Italians would use such an enormous estate to produce wines.
These are the important things that you need to know about it.
The Wine Bucked Tradition From the Start
We have a soft spot at xtraWine for the wine rebels who fly in the face of convention so that they can try to create something unique.
That’s exactly what the couple did in 1944. Wines from their estate’s region typically featured the Nebbiolo and Sangiovese grapes. However, the couple knew about the popularity of wines from Bordeaux and decided that their wines needed a distinct French flavour. That led to the decision to plant Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon on the estate.
So from the very beginning, Sassicaia has bucked tradition and offered something totally different to what you’d expect to find in the Tuscany region.
It’s One of the Original Super Tuscans
When people talk about the Super Tuscans, they tend to point to Tignanello as the standard bearer for an entire generation of innovative winemakers. That’s no surprise seeing as the wine came from the Antinori family, which has one of the most respected reputations in the entire industry.
But a side-effect of this is that many of the other Super Tuscans get lost in the shuffle…including Sassicaia.
You could even argue that Sassicaia is the original Super Tuscan. At least, the wine that came from the estate pre-dated Tignanello by about a year.
Of course, this also means that Sassicaia played a key role in changing how the DOC operates. For a long time, the DOC refused to provide classification to this new generation of wines. Because they bucked so many trends, the organisation felt that they couldn’t carry their label. This led to Sassicaia and other Super Tuscans being classed as table wines, which is no indication of the sheer quality that they have to offer at all.
In 1992, pressure from the industry, combined with the brilliance of wines like Sassicaia, forced the DOC to create the IGT label. This label looks specifically at the region of origin, without paying as much attention to the grapes used to produce the wine.
For the first time, Sassicaia had a label that was actually fit to sit on the bottle of such a superb wine. And just two years later, the Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC was created. Now, it’s not uncommon to see Sassicaia with either the IGT or DOC label.
Simply put, this is a wine that played a part in transforming an entire industry.
The Wine Got Off to a Rocky Start
Let’s go all of the way back to when the estate first started producing wines.
We’d love to tell you that the fairly inexperienced couple behind the wines managed to achieve success from the get-go. But unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. In fact, it took a couple of decades of hard work, mistakes, and innovations to create the Sassicaia wine that we know and love today.
In fact, the wine didn’t even see a commercial release until the 1960s. Instead, only a few bottles were released to critics to get their opinions on the couple’s work.
The feedback wasn’t what the couple hoped for. Most of the critics who spoke of the wine were not complimentary. The problem seemed to be that the wine’s innovative nature threw them for a loop. They expected something traditionally Tuscan and couldn’t adapt to the different grape varieties used in Sassicaia.
This means that the family itself drank most of the wine produced on the estate during its first 20 years of operation.
Eventually, the couple elected to have a couple of friends try some of the older vintages that they still had in the cellar.
The response was much more enthusiastic and it helped them to realise that critics don’t always get things right. Uncoloured by pre-set expectations, the couple’s friends encouraged them to give the wine a commercial release, which happened in 1970.
And as we mentioned earlier, the release of Sassicaia was one of the key moments in the rise of the Super Tuscans.
It Beat a Bunch of Bordeaux Blends in a Blind Taste Test
Going back to the 1970s, Sassicaia still carried the table wine designation. The unfortunate truth is that this designation can put people off from buying a wine before they even consider its unique qualities.
Sassicaia broke that trend thanks to a blind taste test of 30 Bordeaux blends.
After much deliberation, the critics pointed to Sassicaia as the best of the bunch. This meant that it beat wines from the very region that inspired its creation in the first place.
Once people heard about this result, being labelled as a table wine didn’t stop consumers from snapping up bottles of Sassicaia. After all, it had to be something special if it could come out on top against such stern competition.
It’s Time to Try it Yourself
Today, Sassicaia is one of the most respected wines to come out of Tuscany in the last century. Its quality has led to a huge uptick in demand. However, the estate behind the wine has limited production to ensure they create the best drink possible.
That accounts for the high price tag. A bottle of this wine will set you back several hundred euros. But when you have your first taste, you’ll find out exactly where all of that money went.
There’s a reason why The Wine Advocate Robert Parker gave the 2016 vintage a rating of 100/100! Check it out for yourself here.