Sassicaia’s place in history – To understand what that means, it’s worth heading back to the Italian wine scene in 1968, the inaugural vintage of what was to become the first, and is still arguably the best known, Super Tuscan.
At the time, pretty much all Italian wine was either consumed locally or shipped off in bulk to the rest of Europe where it was blended with weedier examples that needed some beefing up. The Italian system of DOC made its appearance only in 1963 (compare this with Spain, that had its first DOC with Rioja in 1925). Tuscany’s Chianti region got its DOC in 1967, a reflection of its rich history that dates back many centuries.
Four of the Best Sassicaia wines
Tenuta San Guido, Sassicaia, Bolgheri, Tuscany 2010
Silky rich in colour, these wines speak of careful extraction, nothing impulsive or overdone. At six years it is just tipping over from its tight expression of youth to more open aromatics. This has a hauntingly exotic but restrained feel, with beautiful notes of leather, woodsmoke, undergrowth, still full of heady autumnal fruit. I am crunching through October leaves, with the promise of spring and of rising sage and rosemary. The lightness that comes in on the finish is striking, and yet with a persistency that hints at hidden power. Still many years ahead of it. 85% cabernet sauvignon, 15% cabernet franc. 13.5% abv.
Tenuta San Guido, Sassicaia, Bolgheri, Tuscany 2001
Clearly stronger and richer in colour than the 2002, with a wonderful nose, you feel the older Cabernet coming through on this now, merging together with warming spice. A slow teasing buildup of tannic power over the palate, where the flavours begin softly, then tighten. Some animal leathery notes, certainly, but fresh clean leather not Brett, this is a powerful wine, full of hedonism and optimism. The fruit is rich wild strawberries and raspberry coulis, exotic, cinnamon spicing, but not overblown because a grip of salinity comes in on the finish. A great wine, still young. 85% cabernet sauvignon, 15% cabernet franc. 13.5% abv.
Tenuta San Guido, Sassicaia, Bolgheri, Tuscany 1996
Am loving that tingle of tannins that I am now getting, just beautiful. The florality is heightened, with roses and redcurrant leaf, soft white truffles, and the most beautiful rolling tobacco. Supremely elegant, a masculine wine but one that is in full ‘holding open the door’ mode. A nose that keeps on opening up, pausing to allow you to catch up. We are in libraries, secret passages, you feel the history of the building in this wine. You feel that it is a testament to its time. Gorgeous, makes you smile with joy at how good great wine can be. 85% cabernet sauvignon, 15% cabernet franc. 13.5% abv.
Tenuta San Guido, Sassicaia, Bolgheri, Tuscany 1985
Wow, this is practically bursting out of the glass and out of the line-up. Black olive tapenade, salty anchovy tang, rosemary and sage, against the black cherry and redcurrant fruit. Incredible testament to the life possible in Sassicaia. Get hold of this wine if you possibly can. The still-present tannins are not trying to exert an influence, they are simply confident of keeping the fruit gently cradled and in line. A peculiar vintage because of a very cold winter, where 80% of the olive trees in Tuscany were destroyed. It no doubt contributed to the low yields, as did the long, sunny and dry growing season. This is an iconic wine that is proving its worth and then some. 85% cabernet sauvignon, 15% cabernet franc. 13.5% abv.
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Author: Jane Anson