Meet Priscilla Incisa della Rocchetta. Her family is responsible for making one of the greatest wines in the entire world. That wine is called Sassicaia and it is known as as the very first Super Tuscan wine. Today Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia is the only single-estate wine to be declared its own DOC.
Seen as the first Super Tuscan to ever exist, collectors line up overnight to try to get their hands on a bottle of this perfect blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Sometimes lucky and sometimes not, with limited production and high demand, Sassicaia is a wine most people dream of but never get the opportunity to taste. Running at $250 CAD a bottle retail, bottle prices at top-tier restaurants can double or even triple.
A Super Tuscan wine is an official way to describe a high quality wine made in Tuscany that uses non-indigenous grapes. Now Super Tuscan wines may include non-indigenous grapes like Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. Today Sassicaia stands amongst the best and highly acclaimed French Bordeaux wines in the world.
Priscilla’s father, Marchese Mario Incisa Della Rocchetta was known as an agronomist before getting into wine. After he married, the family settled on Tenuta San Guido in the 1930s. Inspired to break the mold for tuscan wine he set out to blend french varietals at his Italian estate. This one move changed the course of wine history. He planted Bordeaux varieties at his Tuscan winery and set out to craft a fine wine that would rival the best red wines in the world.
The first few vintages that were made with this blend of grapes were not well received by the trade, the locals or general consumers. But by the early 1970’s this incredibly innovative wine was receiving international acclaim. A dream realized from a creative wine visionary and a real honour for the Della Rocchetta family.
Sassicaia is a proprietary name made in the Tenuta San Guido Vineyard in Tuscany, Italy. The word ‘Sassicaia’ refers to ‘stony land’ a nod to the pebbly terroir in which the vines grow and produce this coveted wine. This name is supposed to imitate and showcase that the terroir of Bolgheri DOC is similar to that of the Graves region in Bordeaux, France.
The superior taste of Sassicaia changed wine laws forever in Italy. Not fitting into the current wine rules and classifications of the time, it was in 1992 when the IGT – Indicazione Geografica Tipica – was officially declared. As the years went on and the popularity and quality of Sassicaia increased around the world, the ‘Super Tuscan’ title was given status as an independent wine type and in 1994 Sassicaia DOC became an official subzone under Bolgheri DOC. A Super Tuscan wine is a wine made in Tuscany with the addition of Cabernet SSauvignon and/or Cabernet Franc grapes. Before this date these two grapes were not legally recognized in the region under a designated label.
These fine Tuscan wines are aged in Bordeaux-style oak barrels with Cabernet grapes. Sangiovese was the main grape used in Tuscany, and using french grapes was an Italian sin – until people started to love the taste of this new wine style. A rebellious and innovative act from winemakers in Italy at the time of their creation. This turned out to be a very modern and creative approach to making wines that people around the world would revere and collect. Italy had made a wine that would compete with the some of the best french wine ever made.
Perhaps a rocky or ambitious start to the Super Tuscan story, it’s really quite inspiring and impressive to tell now. Winery owner seeks opportunity and takes risk, risk is bumpy to start and expensive, fingers are crossed it works out. Years later, winery owner is a highly revered and makes one of the best wines in the world. From table wine to the best wine on earth, this is a story I never get tired of telling people. In fact, diners can find bottles from many vintages on wine lists around the world and will also pay a pretty penny to have them opened at their tables.
When I met Priscilla Incisa della Rocchetta for the first time, I fan-girled out. What a family, what a wine – what a journey! She was humble, quiet, wise, sophisticated and down to earth. A parallel symbol to the wine we enjoyed together. I asked her if she knew that celebrities drank her wine, but it didn’t really phase her. Sassicaia has been known to have high-profile A-listers who love to imbibe in the Tenuta San Guido fermented grape juice. Celebrities like LeBron James, the Obamas, David Beckham, Rihanna and Mark Wahlberg have all tasted the original super tuscan wine and loved it.
Sassicaia is the 6th most popular wine in the world, but, What I loved the most is that Priscilla Incisa della Rocchetta was a regular woman face to face. There was no high brow conversation, no fashionable clothing, no talk of expensive wines or fancy travels. We talked about kids, horses, working all of the time and the balance of family and work. If there was a woman I would consider a Super Tuscan Hero, it would be her. A symbol of integrity and consistency, alongside balance, finesse and approachability – she is a hero of mine. For that I’ll wait in line every year for the rest of my life to add to my Sassicaia collection each and every vintage.