|Goes well with||Beef, Duck, Game, Lamb, Roast Chicken, Roast Meats|
|Grape type||Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon|
|Drinking style||Tannic, well structured, dry|
An exploration of the history of the Sassicaia estate does not require access to ancient documents. Although the Incisa della Rocchetta family, who are still responsible for Sassicaia today, can trace their lineage back to the Medieval and Renaissance eras, their vineyard and its wine is a much more recent phenomenon.
Without wishing to give a detailed account of all Italy's history, the story of Sassicaia probably begins with Leopoldo Incisa, a family member who retired from his post in the Austro-Hungarian government to his family's estate at Rocchetta Tanaro in 1840.
Here he was able to pursue other interests, particularly agriculture and oenology; he was an avid collector of vines both native and foreign, and he published several works on these matters. It was not he, however, that planted the Sassicaia vineyard, as this action was down to his great-grandson Mario Incisa della Rocchetta. Although Mario, allegedly inspired by his ancestors work and his writings, planted Cabernet vines on the family estate it was not until he married Clarice della Gheradesca, the heiress to the Tenuta San Guido estate in Bolgheri, that we have the true origins of Sassicaia.
The couple were betrothed in 1930, and subsequently settled in Bolgheri after World War II, where they continued the family association with horses by establishing a stud farm which still exists today. Then, in 1940, on land below the castle at Castiglioncello, he began to establish a vineyard, populated with Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine was initially a very personal affair, for consumption within the family, but following an expansion of the vineyard in 1965 the wine of Sassicaia became a more commercial enterprise.
It was released onto the market with the 1968 vintage, marketed by the Antinori family - who are cousins - and the Incisa della Rocchetta clan have never looked back. Although Mario died in 1983, the estate is today in the hands of his son Marquis Nicolò Incisa della Rocchetta (above), who had the great pleasure of seeing the estate receive its own DOC, Bolgheri, in 1994. Today the vineyards amount to 75 hectares, in several plots scattered around Bolgheri. In the very northeast of the region there are vines at Castiglioncello, Doccino and Quercione, at an altitude of between 200m and 300m.
There are plots at San Marino and Mandrioli, and then Aianova and the Sassicaia - Italian for "place of many stones", I believe - vineyard itself, with an altitude of 80m. Not far to the south is the Mediterranean Sea and here there is the Bolgheri Natural Refuge, initially a bird sanctuary established by Mario Incisa della Rocchetta in 1959, today a 513 hectare nature reserve, rich in native flora and fauna, and regarded as wetland of international importance.
Turning our attention back to the vines, these are 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc, and they have an average age of 30 years. Once harvested the fruit is transported to the winery, which was once located in Castiglioncello, a convenient location for the first vineyards which were close by. Converted farm buildings, once in the possession of the della Gherardesca family, served the purpose.
With the passage of time, however, the Sassicaia vineyards became much more expansive and are scattered across the estate, and in the 1960s a new winery was established near the church of San Guido. This was equipped with climate control and new temperature-controlled stainless steel fermentation vats which range in size from 35 to 110 hectolitres, allowing for separate fermentation of different lots. In addition, new French oak barriques were introduced.
The estate's leading wine, its raison d'être, is of course Sassicaia, which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, the proportions matching those found in the vineyard. This will see 24 months in the aforementioned oak, of which one-third (a figure which has risen in recent vintages) will be new each year. The remainder are one and two-year old barrels.