Tuesday, December 15, 2009


The producer of Sassicaia today, the Incisa della Rocchetta family, was a key player in the Medieval and Renaissance history of northern Italy. The family descend from Aleramo, one of the largest landowners of the Holy Roman Empire, with 250 square kilometers of estate.

Leopoldo Incisa, a high-ranking official of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1840, retired due to a severe illness, and went back to the ancestral home of Rocchetta Tanaro, in Piedmont. Here he published two catalogues of precious Italian and foreign grape varieties that he had collected, which today are a bibliographic rarity and a point of reference to anybody involved in viticulture.

Almost a century later, his great-grand child, Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, as a young student in agriculture, was inspired by those books to plant cabernet vines first in Rocchetta, and then in Bolgheri, the estate he inherited by marriage. 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.

In 1930 Mario married Clarice della Gherardesca, heiress to the Tuscan estate of Tenuta San Guido in Bolgheri, on the Tyrrenean Coast, where the young couple moved at the end of the Second World War.

There, just below the castle of Castiglioncello in San Guido (about 400 meters a.s.l.), he found the "terroir" that he was searching for. In 1940, he planted the first vineyard of Sassicaia and then in 1965, he planted two more vineyards of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. 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 Mario Incisa della Rocchetta passed away in 1983. His son, Marquis Nicolo Incisa della Rocchetta, now oversees all estate operations.

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