Faced with tasting and assessing the new 2018 Sassicaia, it is almost impossible not to recall the significance of the great past Sassicaia vintages ending in “8”. From the very beginning with the first commercial release in 1968 up to the 1988 that was thought by many influential critics to rival the great 100 point 1985. One thing all the greatest vintages of Sassicaia do have in common is the way the wines really excel and hit their zenith of quality in the cooler, more classical vintages.
With their exceptional fruit grown in their own ‘monopole’ territorial delimitation of DOC Bolgheri Sassicaia, it is perhaps fitting that the name Sassicaia itself means stones in the local dialect and leads you directly to the exceptional terroir that lies at the heart of one of the greatest red wines in Italy.
The 2018 vintage was undoubtedly a classical year for Tenuta San Guido. With the cold winter characterised by lengthy periods of rain and an unusually cold snowy period at the end of February, which those across the UK and Western Europe will remember as the “Beast from the East”, a chilling weather pattern that descended across Europe from icy Siberia, all the elements were in place for perfect vineyard dormancy and the elimination of pests and parasites.
While Spring was cool and constant with slowly rising temperatures and sunny days, May saw the return of rain and wind. The growing season from Spring to Summer was very favourable with ample ground water supplies, normal constant temperatures without any excessive heat spikes and importantly, cool temperatures in the night. With longer than normal hanging times for the grapes, the season allowed for the slow progressing of phenolic ripeness and the development of intricate aromatics and vibrant acidities.
Harvest began on average 7 to 8 days later than normal on the 6th of September and ended on October 4th with the collection of Cabernet Sauvignon fruit in the Vigna di Castiglioncello and Vigna del Quercione vineyards located at higher altitudes of around 360 metres above sea level.
Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2018, DOC Bolgheri Sassicaia, 13.5% Abv.
One of the true signs of a wine’s greatness is its ability to capture the very essence of every changing vintage through its liquid terroir representation. This long cool vintage is captured beautifully in this latest Sassicaia release that is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc. While showing plenty of taut, wound spring tension and aromatic restraint, the finery of this vintage slowly but surely reveals itself in slow, subtle, delicate perfumed waves of violets, cherry blossom and lavender hints all supported by intense mouth-watering notes of small black cherries, cranberries, earthy blueberries, cola and stony dark notes of blood and graphite. The oak use is almost imperceptible, melting into the fruit concentration like cherry cordial into water. On the palate, the mouthfeel shows incredible purity, density, intensity and focus with impressively creamy, compact, velvety ripe tannins that buttress the red and black berry fruits and the vibrant energetic acidity. But if there is one true stand out feature of this wine in its youth, it’s the wine’s incredible harmony and seamless balance in the mouth that points to perfect phenolic ripeness, expertly managed tannin extraction and the true benefits of longer, stress-free hang times of the grapes. Despite the abundant finesse and accessibility, this wine possesses restrained power, classical tension, liquid minerality and a fabulously long, persistent finish that is reminiscent of Grand Cru Burgundy in the finest years. A deeply seductive Sassicaia shaped by its classicism, linearity and balance. How can you not enjoy a few bottles of this classy wine in its youth? Drink from 2022 to 2045+.
(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)