Sassicaia, arguably the most famous wine in all of Italy, is a wine unto itself – literally. One can say that as the wine has its own DOC – Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC – a status that no other wine in Italy has. Produced by Tenuta San Guido at its estate in Bolgheri amidst the famous “avenue of cypresses,” Sassicaia is a wine that has been a true trailblazer.
The history of Sassicaia dates back to 1944 when Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta decided to produce a novel wine at his Tenuta San Guido estate, which sits at an elevation of 1300 feet, only one mile from the Tyrennhian Sea in western Tuscany. Though warned by some that the proximity to the sea would make proper ripening difficult, the marchese sensed that the high elevation would mean more sunshine, a critical factor for maturation. He decided upon Cabernet Sauvignon for this land, as he believed the area’s chalky soil resembled that of Bordeaux. He called his wine Sassicaia, “the place of many stones.”
As Cabernet Sauvignon was a “foreign” variety to much of Tuscany, there was a great deal of skepticism that this project would endure; as a result, only friends and family enjoyed the wine for the first ten to fifteen years. But as the older offerings started to round out beautifully after a decade in the bottle, it was evident that this was a very special wine. Finally in 1968, winemaker Giacomo Tachis released the wine to the market where it was greeted with unanimous praise from media and consumers alike.
Over the years a few changes were made by Tachis to the wine, such as fermentation in steel tanks instead of wood; also 15% Cabernet Franc has been introduced into the blend. Current winemaker Sebastiano Rosa has pretty much kept the course over the past decade and the wine is as powerful and complex as ever. It is one of the world’s most celebrated wines; with each vintage anxiously awaited by wine lovers everwhere; in fact, during my most recent visit to the estate, Rosa told me that “even airline stewardesses know Sassicaia!”
As for the current 2008 bottling, I tasted the wine with Rosa at the estate in early 2010 after it had been bottled, but a year before its release. I was greatly impressed by the overall balance and structure of this wine then and am even more of a fan now. The 2007 and soon-to-be released 2009 are also stunning wines and are more full-bodied on the palate; certainly there were be many who prefer these two vintages. But for me, there are two principal factors that make the 2008 a great bottling: the finish, which is extremely long with outstanding persistence and the pinpoint acidity. When I write that the 2007 and 2009 are bigger wines, well it’s all relative, as even the lightest example of Sassicaia is a powerhouse of a wine. So with the 2008, you not only have the depth of fruit you expect, you also have a wine with marvelous structure as well and one that I think is even better balanced than those other two vintages.
Of course the 2008 received a Tre Bicchieri rating from Gambero Rosso and a cingue grappoli rating from Duemilavini, the annual guide of the Association of Italian Sommeliers. News of this in Italy is about as surprising as learning that the sun rises in the east. So Sassicaia is a superb wine every year. It’s just that the 2008 is an extraordinary wine, one of the three finest releases of the decade, along with the 2001 and the 2004.
Sassicaia is imported into the United States by Kobrand Corporation.