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Bolgheri History (part 2)

Contemporary History

Although viticulture was seriously compromised in Bolgheri and in the rest of Europe by diseases from North America, the guidelines Guidalberto established in agricultural practices remained strong. Small vineyards populated one part of the territory and were part of the sharecropping system. This rural production was mainly subsistence agriculture. Vinification was rudimentary and wines produced were for immediate consumption and had a very short shelf life. Most of these agricultural workers were from Le Marche and came to Bolgheri during the 1940’s because of the abundance of uncultivated farmland and lack of a work force. On the other side, there were several very large vineyards that belonged to the historical properties. These estates were managed directly by the owners, with a certain degree of mechanization, more efficient cellars but production was more or less the same, rustic and unsophisticated.

Bolgheri’s history was revolutionized by Marchese Mario Incisa Della Rocchetta, half Piedmontese and half of Roman descendent from the Chigi family, who moved to Tuscany after marrying Countess Clarice Della Gherardesca in 1930. That same year Clarice’s sister, Carlotta, married Marchese Niccolò Antinori. The largest estate in Bolgheri was divided between these two families.

Wines produced in the area were mostly unsophisticated and Marchese Mario Incisa wanted to try to create a new wine, inspired by the fine quality of French wines he was used to drinking. He took cuttings from Duke Salviati’s vineyards in Migliarino Pisano, which were scions of Cabernet (hence an Italian clone) and planted them in 1942 and later in 1944 in Castiglioncello di Bolgheri, in an area protected from the nearby sea. The belief at that time was that the proximity to the sea was the cause of the poor quality of local wines. Local inhabitants, who were used to drinking wines from the last harvest in February, weren’t able to comprehend this new wine and thought the Marchese’s experiments were extravagant.

Up until the end of the 1960’s, Sassicaia was made only for a few intimate friends and family. Marchese Piero Antinori (son of Niccolò and nephew of Marchese Mario) proposed the idea of selling the wine so the task of marketing and sales was handed over to Marchesi Antinori. At the same time, Antinori’s young enologist, Giacomo Tachis, began to work together with Marchese Mario Incisa. The first official Sassicaia was introduced to the world in 1972 with the 1968 vintage. In just two short years, Gino Veronelli fell in love with the wine and began promoting it in the Italian market. Sassicaia’s achievements were not only national but also international.

In a blind tasting hosted by Decanter in 1978, Sassicaia emerged victorious over the other Cabernets which came from all over the world. However, it was the 1985 vintage that officially recognized Sassicaia’s legendary reputation when Robert Parker, for the first time, awarded 100 points to an Italian wine.


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