Sassicaia: the famous wine from Tenuta San Guido that kick-started one of Italy’s most celebrated wine regions

Priscilla Incisa presented the 2020 vintage of this famous Tuscan estate in London, along with some back vintages. She is part of the family, and has worked here since 2012, taking care of external relations. Sassicia is a modern classic: in the space of 50 years this wine estate, from a previously unheralded region, has found itself with a seat at the very top of fine wine production, along the leading classed growths of the Médoc and top right bank wines, on who it was initially modelled.

This is a large estate of 2500 hectares, with just 100 hectares used for production of wine. Mario Incisa (full name – Marchese Mario Incisa Della Rocchetta), Prisiclla’s grandfather, is responsible for the way it is today. He married well (to Countess Clarice Della Gherardesca), and his wife inherited half the Sassicia estate, which gave him the freedom to follow his passions: horse racing and wine. The other half of the estate went to Clarice’s sister Carolotta, who married Marchese Niccolò Antinori.

Mario built a flat-racing horse stud here, as well as planting vines, and the rest of the estate is used for traditional agriculture, as well as wildlife. There are 1500 hectares of woodland, and 400 hectares of this is wildlife refuge. Mario initially started making Sassicaia for family and friends in the 1940s. This was a region used to making simple wines for early consumption, but he wanted to make wines like the fancy French ones he was enjoying at the time. So he got hold of cuttings (an Italian clone of Cabernet Sauvignon from Migliarino Pisano) and planted them in 1944 in Castiglioncello di Bolgheri, protected from the sea influence.

Niccolò’s son Piero Antinori encouraged Mario to make the wine a commercial proposition.  The first vintage of Sassicaia was the 1968, released in 1971. He was helped by Antinori’s winemaker Giacomo Tachis. The wine was well received by critics, including a 100 point score from Robert Parker for the 1985 vintage.

This was the only wine Sassicaia for a long time, but in 2000 Tenuta San Guido added the Guidalberto (with 40% Merlot in the mix), and then in 2002 La Difese (370 000 bottles, 8 months in wood, with Cabernet Sauvignon from their vineyards and Sangiovese bought from Chianti Rufino and Chianti).

In 2013 the estate achieved its own separate DOC (Bolgheri Sassicaia), after being a subzone in the Bolgheri DOC since 1994. The EU decided that subzones weren’t allowed so they had to either become Bolgheri without the subzone, or get their own DOC.


Tenuta San Guido La Difese 2021 Toscana, Italy
14% alcohol. 55% Sangiovese and 45% Cabernet Sauvignon. Sweet, forward blackcurrant nose with some woodspice and balsamic hints adding a savoury twist. The palate has taut blackcurrant fruit with some red berries and a firm structure, with a dry, grippy finish. This is a really focused, structured wine that’s firm and dense with nice brightness and purpose. This is one you can cellar with confidence, or enjoy now in its vivid, primary state. Has a real Tuscan feel to it, in a good way. 94/100

Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2020 Bolgheri Sassicaia, Italy
14% alcohol. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 24 months in small oak (45% new oak). This started off as a cool, fresh vintage, then it got warm and dry towards the end of the growing season, leading to an accelerated maturation and early harvest in order to avoid overmaturity. It wasn’t an easy vintage because of the several lockdowns in Italy. Lovely bright blackcurrant and cherry fruit on the nose with a fine, spicy overlay. The palate has vivid, ripe blackcurrant fruit with some fine spicy notes, a touch of wood spice, and then very fresh acidity that meshes well with the tannic structure. It’s a ripe wine but a fresh one, classically styled with good structure. Tight-wound with great intensity and vivacity, this has a long potential ahead of it. You get a sense of warm-climate here, but there’s incredible freshness and focus to it. Finishes with a nice bitter flourish, with some sour cherry, too. 97/100

Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2014 Bolgheri Sassicaia (magnum)
A cool, fresh, rainy vintage. This has a savoury, spicy core, with some balsamic notes under sweet blackcurrant and cherry fruit. Firmly structured with some dusty, spicy character under the vivid fruit, and some sour cherry on the finish. Showing some signs of maturity but still vivid and alert, this is a textured, concentrated wine with some nice density and savoury interest. I think it’s time to begin drinking this: lots of pleasure now, but I worry slightly that this will dry out a bit if it’s left too long. 92/100

Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2010 Bolgheri, Italy (magnum)
Harvest finished at the end of October, a month later than normal: another of the fresh vintages. There’s a freshness, brightness and openness here. Spicy, tarry and mid-weight with sweet blackcurrant and cherry fruit, as well as some plum. Nice acidity, with some grippy tannin under the fruit. Intriguing, spicy and quite dense, with lovely complexity. Not a big, rich wine, but growing into a detailed, savoury maturity with some notes of iodine and earth in the background. Will be interesting to see this evolve: very Tuscan in character. 95/100

Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2000 Bolgheri, Italy (magnum)
This was a very warm vintage in Bolgheri, and you can taste this in the wine. This has evolved beautifully, with mellow, warm, spice-laden blackcurrant, plum and cherry fruit, showing some cedar spice and balsamic notes. Soft and plush, with the tannins melted into the sweet black fruit. Has a hint of mint on the finish. Drinking perfectly now, but still with tannin and good acidity suggesting that it will hold its mellow maturity for some years to come. Rich and intense, and despite the sweetness of the fruit it finishes tannic and quite dry. 94/100

UK agent: Armit

Find these wines with