‘85 or ‘88 – Super Tuscan Vintages Are An All-Time Favorite

For most wine connoisseurs, the 1985 Sassicaia Tenuta San Guido is considered the best Italian vintage in history. While I do agree that the 1985 vintage is impressive, I personally prefer the 1988 vintage. 1988 Sassicaia was also the great Italian Oenologist, Giacomo Tachi’s favorite vintage, as he considered it to be better than the 1985. I couldn’t agree more. I genuinely enjoy the concentration and aromas of this wine. It has intense, yet succulent scents of red fruit and is bold with tannins that just linger with sweetness in your mouth. Sassicaia wine is from Bolgheri on the Tuscan coast, which is considered one of Italy’s most prestigious areas for wine. I’ll never forget arriving in Bolgheri for the first time. The crisp air, beautiful lush views of Tenuta San Guido, surrounded by history and passion, it was an energy I will never forget.

As we passed through the lush Cypress trees flickering by, entering onto the Tenuta San Guido grounds, just off the Tyrrhenian coast, I felt the intense aroma of this legendary estate. The vibrant green grass tucked pleasantly between the aged stone buildings, housing hundreds of years of winemaking secrets. Once we arrived, I was greeted by the familiar smile of Priscilla Incisa Della Rochetta, a rare occurrence, as she is the granddaughter of the legendary Marchese Mario Incisa Della Rochetta behind Sassicaia. Mario Incisa, the visionary, created the first Sassicaia wine as a private release over 60 years ago. And now, I was face to face with his granddaughter for a private tour of the grounds. I felt an overwhelming sense of nostalgia and deep appreciation for this opportunity.

Pricilla and Christopher R. King

Once we began the tour, I learned all about the family history and rich culture that makes this family wine so unique. Of course, as you may already know, I’m a huge believer in the power of three and so is the Rochetta family. Their passion for good wines and thoroughbred horses resulted in their trinity today that is Sassicaia wine, the Razza Dormello-Olgiata thoroughbred farm, and the Bird Sanctuary Padule di Bolgheri all within the Tenuta San Guido grounds. They also have three vineyards on the estate; the original Castiglioncello, Sassicaia di Sotto, and Aianova. The grapes from all three vineyards are blended together and aged to obtain the distinctive taste of Sassicaia.

Sassicia wine cellar in Bolgheri Italy

Although the entire experience felt surreal, it wasn’t until we stepped into the cellar that I was overcome with emotion. Surrounded by hundreds of French barriques; the temperate room smelled like an immense concoction of fermenting grapes and French oak. We passed through the aging barrels and as my guide spoke, I started to reflect on the heritage of this family and the wine they’ve created.

Christopher R. King at Sassicia in Bolgheri Italy

Plenty of people can create a wine, but it was only here at Tenuta San Guido, that a wine LEGEND was created. Originally, Mario Incisa wanted to make a wine just to suit his family’s taste, the Cabernet-Franc blend at the time was unheard of in the Tuscany area. His creation marked the beginning of an era for what we now call the “Super Tuscans”, an audacious Bordeaux style wine in the Tuscany for a community that until then, was accustomed to lighter, more rustic wines.

1985 was a phenomenal year for the Tuscan area, especially for winemakers. The “Wine Gods” graced the coastal area with an extended cool season which allowed the grapes to reach full maturity resulting in a non-hectic harvest. The warm Tuscan sun complemented by the coastal breeze created the perfect ambiance for a well-balanced wine. The vintage now, years later, delivers a lush, calm, and rich flavor, allowing the drinker to revisit the cool weather of 1985. It is this vintage specifically, that time and time again appeases the taste buds of sommeliers worldwide, receiving 100 points in tastings from renowned wine critics. But most importantly, it is one of my favorites. Much like it’s older brother, the 1988 vintage is satisfying in taste delivering a full, evolved, but not overly dense flavor. I favor the subtleness of the 1988 vintage over the 1985 though, they’re equally as impressive and will not disappoint.

To me, this wine and vintage exemplifies the culture and heritage of Sassicaia and the heart of Marchese Mario Incisa for what he wanted to create for his family. Going against the grain to create a flavor and culture unique to the region, resulting in a DOC Bolgheri-Sassicaia that we know today (Notably, the only wine from a single estate to have its own DOC). Now I revel in any opportunity to taste this wine and you should as well.

Christopher R. King collection of corks