|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.
After settling with his wife, Clarice, into their Tuscan estate at Tenuta San Guido on the Mediterranean Coast, he experimented with several French grape varieties and concluded, "the bouquet I was looking for” was found in the Cabernet.
A wine that had Cabernet Sauvignon as its primary component represented a radical shift from the traditional Tuscan and Piedmontese varietals of Sangiovese and Nebbiolo. No one had ever considered making a wine crafted along Bordeaux lines on Italian soil, much less in a region not yet established viticulturally. In addition to the Cabernet’s satisfactory bouquet, the Marquis’ decision to plant this grape variety at Tenuta San Guido was influenced by the Tuscan location’s similarity to Graves in Bordeaux. "Graves” means "gravel” in French, and similarly, the earth at Tenuta San Guido gave Sassicaia its name, which in the Tuscan dialect means "stony ground”.
However, accustomed to the light, local wines, consumers did not respond well to the first vintages of Sassicaia. Wines made from the more complex Cabernet Sauvignon grapes take more time to mature and develop. Subsequently, from 1948 to 1960, Sassicaia was consumed only at the estate.
Each year, a small number of cases were laid down in the cellars of Castiglioncello.
The Marquis discovered that as the years went by, however, the wine greatly improved. As is often the case with wines of great pedigree, those things originally considered defects turned into virtues over time. Soon, friends and relatives were urging him to pursue his passion and to perfect his revolutionary style of winemaking.
In 1965, he planted two more vineyards comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc; the new "Sassicaia” vineyard was situated approximately 800 feet lower than the original Cabernet vineyard near Castiglioncello, and "Aianova” was slightly more elevated and thus exposed to the weather. 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’ use of Cabernet grapes and his implementation of the barriques aging process soon spread throughout Italy. Sassicaia was the first Italian wine to successfully establish itself abroad, and is almost universally recognized as the father of the new Italian wine family or simply the Super Tuscan Pioneer. Mario Incisa della Rocchetta’s planting is now considered the birthplace of Italian Cabernet.