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Tenuta San Guido: The Importance
Not wishing to put too fine a point on it, but the importance of Tenuta San Guido is Sassicaia. Widely credited to have been the first-ever Super Tuscan, alongside fellow heavyweights Solaia, Tignanello and Ornellaia, this wine sparked a revolution in Italian winemaking. Sassicaia started as a Vino da Tavola because of its use of grape varieties not permitted under the restrictive DOC regulations. However, the quality and demand lead to these experimental wines being granted the right to use the Indicazione Geografica Tipica classification of Toscana and then later DOC Bolgheri. Such is the fame of Sassicaia that it went one step further by being awarded its own exclusive DOC Bolgheri Sassicaia, the only wine from a single estate to receive this privilege.
In the late 1970s Decanter arranged a tasting of “great clarets” judged by a panel including Serena Sutcliffe, Hugh Johnson and Clive Coates, which was won by Sassicaia. It was the first Italian wine to receive a perfect 100 points from Robert Parker, who claims to have misidentified it in blind tastings for Mouton Rothschild. In 2015 it was the second most searched for wine on Jancis Robinson’s Purple Pages and after a tasting of Sassicaia magnums Jancis asked herself the following question: “Does my working life get any better than this?” before answering: “No it does not.” Neal Martin has called it “the catalyst for modern Italian viticulture” and today Sassicaia remains one of the world’s finest and most sought after Cabernet Sauvignon wines.
Tenuta San Guido: The Insight
Sassicaia is the jewel in Tenuta San Guido’s crown. Its terroir inspired the Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc; the name means stony field in a similar fashion to Graves being named after its gravelly soils. Sassicaia deserves a place in the cellars of Italian wine lovers, Bordeaux collectors or fans of the innovative New World wines it encouraged.
In the early 2000s Tenuta San Guido introduced two new wines, available at a fraction of the price of Sassicaia. The first was Guidalberto, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend to act as, in Tenuta San Guido’s words, “a wine which could be appreciated at a younger age compared to our veteran Sassicaia.” This wine consistently receives over 90 points from Wine Advocate.
The second was Le Difese, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese, offers a lower priced alternative that more closely reflects the local Chianti.
Tenuta San Guido: The Background
Tenuta San Guido can be found just outside the village of Bolgheri in Maremma, Tuscany. Their 90 hectares of vineyards spread over 13km from the sea to the hills. Founder and racehorse owner Mario Incisa della Rocchetta particularly enjoyed the wines of Bordeaux, so when he married Marchesa Clarice della Gherardesca and received a large swathe of land as part of her dowry, he decided to plant a vineyard. He had noticed similarities in the terroir and so took cuttings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc in 1944 from a vineyard belonging to a friend near Pisa. For almost thirty years the wine was made purely for his family, until his son Nicolò and nephew Piero Antinori convinced him to sell his 1968 vintage in 1971. It proved such a hit that Mario Incisa della Rocchetta enlisted the help of the oenologist Giacomo Tachis, described by The Scotsman as “the king of Italian winemakers”, to help hone and perfect the wine.
The winery is still family owned and consists of four major vineyards; Castiglioncello (the first to be planted in 1944), Sassicaia (cooled by maritime winds), Aia Nuova and Quercione (planted from cuttings from Sassicaia on a high ridge).
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