• Sassicaia 2015

    Sassicaia 2015

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     Wine Spectator: " Sassicaia, like many of the best things in life, began as an experiment, a passion project that came to fruition thanks to good fortune and hard work.

    The wine began in the 1940s as a homemade red crafted by a curious Renaissance man trying to emulate Bordeaux on his Bolgheri estate near the Tuscan coast. It became the prototype of the nascent Bolgheri region, inspiring many others while establishing itself as one of the great wines of Tuscany and Italy. And now, in 2018, 50 years after the wine’s first commercial vintage, Tenuta San Guido Bolgheri-Sassicaia Sassicaia 2015 is Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year.

    Sassicaia is an iconic wine, as blue-chip as first-growth Bordeaux, grand cru Burgundy or Napa Valley cult Cabernet. Although its character is austere in comparison to other Bordeaux-style blends from Bolgheri, it ages magnificently, as a tasting of the 1985 vintage at the estate late last year proved. In a stellar vintage like 2015, Sassicaia has everything: rich and concentrated black currant, blackberry, violet, mineral and spice flavors allied to a dense structure; vibrant acidity that drives the long aftertaste; and beautifully integrated oak, providing impeccable balance.

    But the Sassicaia 2015 is very different from the early vintages made by Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, the wine’s creator. Those wines were produced from Cabernet Franc cuttings taken near Pisa and planted high on an inland hillside, near Castiglioncello. Though the original vineyard still exists, the bulk of Sassicaia’s vineyard parcels today are located at lower elevations.

    “He was experimenting,” explains Mario’s granddaughter Priscilla Incisa della Rocchetta, who now manages the estate. Few innovators get it exactly right the first time around.

    Ironically, the locals found Incisa della Rocchetta’s wine too green, preferring the light, fruity reds made from high-yielding Sangiovese. Nevertheless, after aging in cask and bottle for 10 years, Sassicaia was a revelation. It caught the attention of Piero Antinori, Mario’s nephew, who was enlisted to make Sassicaia known to the world. The debut commercial vintage was 1968.

    With Antinori came his enologist, Giacomo Tachis, who applied his knowledge and skill to the development of Sassicaia. Vineyards lower on the slope and closer to the sea were planted, mostly to Cabernet Sauvignon, which became the backbone of the blend. Sassicaia today is typically 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 15 percent Cabernet Franc.

    The new Sassicaia soon caught the attention of wine lovers worldwide. Yet it never lost its Old World character or its Tuscan roots. The 1985 and 1988 vintages are legendary, and the 2015 reveals all the hallmarks of a great Sassicaia that will one day enjoy a similar reputation.

    Though the Tenuta San Guido estate grows other crops and raises and trains thoroughbred horses, wine became its main economic focus by the early 1970s. Mario’s son Nicolò Incisa della Rocchetta took over from his father in the early 1980s; Nicolò’s daughter Priscilla now represents the third generation.

    Since 2009, Carlo Paoli has been the estate director, overseeing a team of vineyard and cellar workers. Sassicaia is fermented in stainless steel and then aged in French oak casks, one-third new, for 24 months. Average annual production is 10,000 cases, making the wine widely available.

    Tenuta San Guido produces two other red wines. Guidalberto is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60 percent), including some young vines of Sassicaia, and Merlot. Eighty percent of the grapes come from a leased vineyard near the Sassicaia vineyard; the remaining fruit is purchased. Le Difese is the only San Guido red that contains any Sangiovese (40 percent), with the remainder Cabernet Sauvignon. Fruit for Le Difese comprises a combination of estate-grown and purchased grapes.

    The Sassicaia story might never have been written at all if it weren’t for the personalities involved: fully committed and with the deep pockets to tackle the project. But it is a story with a happy ending, an amazing journey that began with the vision of its creator, shepherded along the way by some of Italy’s most respected vintners. Sassicaia has taken its rightful place in the pantheon of the world’s great wines and, spotlighted by the success of the 2015 vintage, it earns the honor of being named Wine Spectator Wine of the Year.

    Rich and concentrated, this red features black currant, blackberry, violet, mineral and spice flavors. Dense yet lively, structured yet impeccably balanced, with vibrant acidity driving the long, fruit-filled aftertaste. The oak is beautifully integrated. Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Best from 2023 through 2042." Jul 2018

    Decanter: "The first Cabernet grapes were picked on September 10th under perfect conditions, with yields a little lower than average. As is usual at Tenuta San Guido, the fruit for Sassicaia was gently crushed and fermented in stainless steel using natural yeasts. After the malolactic fermentation, the wine spent two years in French oak prior to bottling. This is certainly an exceptional Sassicaia, with a sumptuous nose of ripe, creamy black and red fruit with cedar and spice notes. The colour is by no means dark (as is often the case with Sassicaia), and the impression on the palate is one of controlled power underpinned by gorgeous sweetness and flowing elegance. This is a very confident wine with real authority and presence, beginning with a magnificent attack of rich cassis and ripe griotte cherry followed by cigar box and leather notes, and a long finish of savoury bay leaf and minerals. It's deceptively structured, the tannins wonderfully ripe, creamy and finely textured, while the juicy acidity also suggests that this wine has a very long life ahead of it. This 2015 exhibits everything that you’d want from Sassicaia - and more - because of its winning combination of winemaking savoir-faire, world-class terroir, old vine fruit, and an outstanding vintage. It is unarguably stunning. Drinking Window 2022 - 2050." Jan 2018

    James Suckling: "Bright and aromatic with black currant, orange peel, flower, and hot stone. Full-bodied, dense and rich yet always refined and beautiful. Incredible harmony already. Wait and see. Wonderful barrel sample to follow. Tasted at the winery." Oct 2016

    Robert Parker, Jr.'s Wine Advocate: "Having followed this wine's evolution in barrel for the past few years, it is an honor to evaluate the final product. This Sassicaia has blossomed since my previous encounters with it as a young, awkward adolescent. The long-awaited 2015 Bolgheri Sassicaia represents a tremendous effort that comes together with seamless precision and focus. This is a confident and proud red wine from Tuscany. Starting with the primary material at hand, you sense the quality of fruit thanks to the wine's beautifully dark appearance and the rich texture it offers to the palate. The acidity is integrated, but more freshness still would have been welcomed in my view (and would also contribute to its longevity). The bouquet is amplified both in terms of volume and length. Its playlist includes dark berry fruit, spice, leather, licorice and roasted coffee bean. Yet, the mouthfeel is extremely graceful and silky. The wine's undisputed pedigree is showcased on the palate. It should also be noted that this edition of Sassicaia feels more ready and open to me. It will age and evolve beautifully, but the 2015 Sassicaia can also be enjoyed in the medium-term. This wine is all about the here and now. Drink 2020-2045." Feb 2018

    Winery: "In the 1920s the Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta dreamt of creating a ‘thoroughbred’ wine and for him, as for all the aristocracy of the time, the ideal was Bordeaux. This is how he described it in a letter to the esteemed wine critic, Luigi Veronelli dated 11 June 1974:

    "…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…."

    In the 1940s, having settled with his wife Clarice on the Tenuta San Guido on the Tyrrhenian coast, he experimented with several French grape varieties (whose cuttings he had recovered from the estate of the Dukes Salviati in Migliarino) and concluded that the Cabernet had "the bouquet I was looking for".

    750ml, cork
    Varietal 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc
    Aging 24 months in French oak barriques, 4 months further refining in bottle 
    Tuscany, Italy