Intense, concentrated and deep ruby-colored, this wine offers elegant, complex aromas of red fruit. In the mouth it is rich and dense, yet harmonious, with sweet, balanced tannins. The wine has a long finish with a depth and structure that ensure its extraordinary longevity.
The legacy of Sassicaia begins in 1944, when Mario Incisa acquired a number of Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc vine cuttings and planted them on a sloping hillside of the San Guido estate, called Castiglioncello after the 11th-century castle at the vineyard's upper edge. This tiny, 3.75-acre vineyard stood alone until 1965, when a second Cabernet vineyard was planted with cuttings from the Castiglioncello parcel; the gravelly, 30-acre plot would give the wine its name: Sassicaia, "the place of many stones". This and a slightly more elevated microclimate of 20 acres, called Aianova, were planted in phases between 1965 and 1985, bringing plantings to the present extent of 90 acres in vines averaging 20 to 25 years of age.
Since the late 1960s, Sassicaia has represented a standard of production that is without compromise. The grapes are hand picked, destemmed, crushed and fermentation is set off by natural yeasts in stainless steel tanks. For the first week, pumping over of the must takes place three times daily; during the second week, this is reduced to once daily until the end of the 14-day fermentation period. The wine is pressed from the skins and undergoes full malolactic fermentation. Aging takes place in 225-litre Allier and Tronçais oak barriques, approximately 30 percent of which are new, for 18 to 22 months depending on vintage.
GRAPE VARIETY: 85-90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10-15% Cabernet Franc
MAXIMUM YIELD: 30-32 hl/ha (134-144 cases/acre) Alcohol: 12.5%
Pair with braised meats and hard cheeses.
As a student in Pisa during the 1920's, the Marquis Mario Incisa della Rocchetta dreamed of creating a "noble" wine. Like most of Italian aristocracy at the time, his taste in wine ran strongly to fine Bordeaux.
After settling with his wife, Clarice, into their Tuscan estate at Tenuta San Guido on the Mediterranean Coast, he experimented with several French grape varieties and concluded, "the bouquet I was looking for” was found in the Cabernet.
A wine that had Cabernet Sauvignon as its primary component represented a radical shift from the traditional Tuscan and Piedmontese varietals of Sangiovese and Nebbiolo. No one had ever considered making a wine crafted along Bordeaux lines on Italian soil, much less in a region not yet established viticulturally. In addition to the Cabernet’s satisfactory bouquet, the Marquis’ decision to plant this grape variety at Tenuta San Guido was influenced by the Tuscan location’s similarity to Graves in Bordeaux. "Graves” means "gravel” in French, and similarly, the earth at Tenuta San Guido gave Sassicaia its name, which in the Tuscan dialect means "stony ground”.
However, accustomed to the light, local wines, consumers did not respond well to the first vintages of Sassicaia. Wines made from the more complex Cabernet Sauvignon grapes take more time to mature and develop. Subsequently, from 1948 to 1960, Sassicaia was consumed only at the estate.
Each year, a small number of cases were laid down in the cellars of Castiglioncello.The Marquis discovered that as the years went by, however, the wine greatly improved. As is often the case with wines of great pedigree, those things originally considered defects turned into virtues over time. Soon, friends and relatives were urging him to pursue his passion and to perfect his revolutionary style of winemaking.
In 1965, he planted two more vineyards comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc; the new "Sassicaia” vineyard was situated approximately 800 feet lower than the original Cabernet vineyard near Castiglioncello, and "Aianova” was slightly more elevated and thus exposed to the weather. Eventually, all of the wine produced on the estate came to be known by the name of Sassicaia.
The 1968 vintage of Sassicaia was the first to be offered on the open market, and it was as well received as the Premier Crus from Bordeaux. In subsequent years the cellars were moved to temperature-controlled quarters, wood fermentation vats were replaced with stainless steel ones, and French oak barriques were used for the ageing process.
The Marquis’ use of Cabernet grapes and his implementation of the barriques aging process soon spread throughout Italy. Sassicaia was the first Italian wine to successfully establish itself abroad, and is almost universally recognized as the father of the new Italian wine family or simply the Super Tuscan Pioneer. Mario Incisa della Rocchetta’s planting is now considered the birthplace of Italian Cabernet.