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December 18, 2012

Sassicaia

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Over the last three months we have been writing blog posts and sending offers on the top Super-Tuscan wines, today we are looking at the greatest of them all, Sassicaia. In 1978 Sassicaia joined the world’s elite wines when Decanter held a tasting called ‘Great Clarets’, which consisted of 33 wines, including Bordeaux First Growths. It was here that the 1975 Sassicaia vintage took first place. During the 1980s, Sassicaia cemented itself as one of the world’s most prestigious wines, when Robert Parker gave a perfect 100 point score to the 1985 vintage, he declared he mistook it for a 1986 Mouton Rothschild. Today the legendary Sassicaia 1985 costs more and is far rarer than the great Mouton 1986 and the former continues to excel when compared to other wines in blind tastings.

A bit of History on Sassicaia
The Sassicaia Estate is situated near the Tuscan coast (Bolgheri) and had been owned by the Leopoldo Incisa’s family since 1800. It was Leopoldo’s writings on vines and wines that inspired his great grandson, Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, to plant the Sassicaia vineyard on his wife’s estate, Tenuta San Guido. It is rumoured that he planted vines originally purchased from Château Lafite Rothschild. The first Cabernet Sauvignon vines were planted on land in Tenuta San Guido in 1940 and all the wine produced for the next 20 years remained under the ownership of family and close friends. The 1968 wine was the first vintage to be produced commercially.

Terroir
The name Sassicaia comes from the Italian word for stone – sasso and its meaning can be summed up as stony fields. The vines are protected from sea breezes by the Tenuta San Guido castle and the south-west facing hill they are planted on. There are three vineyards on the estate: Castiglioncello – the original plot of land (1.5 hectares), Di Sotto (13 hectares) boasting clay soil and 40 year old vines and the Aianova (16 hectares) which provides well drained soils of a similar age. Each plot is crushed and fermented separately in steel tanks at 30 degrees for around two weeks and then blended before ageing in oak. Historically they were aged in 60% French and 40% Slovenian oak. Today, however, all barrels are French, 30-40% new oak and aged for 22 months. Here you will find that 70% of the vines are Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest are Cabernet Franc.

The estate insists that it is the Cabernet Franc that is able to achieve full ripeness year on year and provides that unique finesse and famous longevity. In their youth the wine is ripe, rich, opulent and layered with black fruits, cherries, spices, minerals, herbs, new leather, caramel, smoke and toast. With age sweet fruit, tobacco, cedar, porcini mushrooms, liquorice, flowers, maintaining a rich body with delicate tannin and a wonderful balance of masculinity and femininity.

Sassicaia has an enormous restaurant and hotel trade as well as a large private client demand in Europe and the US. It only produces 12,500 cases a year and three decades of sustained consumption has left a shortage of older vintages – a real shame for a wine that becomes so extraordinary with age. Unlike Bordeaux in recent vintages consumers still find value for money when buying Sassicaia En Primeur, as physical vintages increase in value quickly as they age. Sassicaia’s limited supply and quickly growing global cachet make it very strong to buy and hold.

A couple of tasting notes…

1990 Sassicaia
The 1990 Sassicaia appears to be the finest wine made at this estate since the nearly perfect 1985. It boasts a saturated purple, almost bluish color, and a sensational yet unevolved and youthful aromatic profile of sweet, nearly over-ripe blackcurrants, cedar, tobacco, and toasty new oak. Full-bodied, with staggering concentration and extract levels, this tannic, super-pure, well-defined Cabernet possesses low enough acidity and sweet enough tannin to make it accessible to those readers unable to defer their gratification, but do not expect this wine to attain its plateau of maturity before the end of the century. It will last through the first decade of the 21st century. Robert Parker 94 points

2006 Sassicaia
The 2006 Sassicaia may very well go down as one of the all-time great recent vintages for this Tuscan thoroughbred. The year started off very warm but by August evening temperatures had moderated, leaving the fruit with a stunning combination of ripeness, perfume, acidity and tannin. The wine is simply glorious, that’s all there is to it. Layers of dark fruit meld into smoke, leather, violets, menthol, earthiness and tar as this profound wine opens up in the glass. The creamy, silky finish lasts an eternity, as waves of fruit caress the tannins with breathtaking elegance. Everything is in the right place in this magical Sassicaia. This is one for the ages. In a word: Awesome. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2031.