After missing the 2019 Sassicaia new release tasting in London last year due to unforeseen circumstances, this year Priscilla Incisa made sure she was in London in person to present the 2020 vintage of this famous Bolgheri estate in Tuscany, along with the 2021 Le Difese. Having always been in and around the family business, Priscilla started to take a more active role in the marketing and promotion of the Sassicaia brand from around 2012 onwards, and now has become the modern-day face of the winery.
Sassicaia is of course one of the largest private estates in Bolgheri consisting of 2,500 hectares, of which around 100 hectares are planted with vines. The estate also famously consists of over 1,500 hectares of wild woodlands of which almost a third of is a protected wildlife conservation area. The first vintage of Sassicaia was the 1968, which was released in 1971, produced with the help of Antinori’s winemaker at the time, the famous Giacomo Tachis. In 2000, Sassicaia was joined by a “second wine” called Guidalberto, consisting of around 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. Finally, in 2002, Le Difese was added to the range, made from around 45% Bolgheri Cabernet Sauvignon and 55% Sangiovese sourced from vineyards in Chianti Rufina.
The 2020 vintage began with adequate rains and generally mild conditions while February and March were more threatening with freezing temperatures, particularly for the prized Cabernet Franc, resulting in lower yields but also concentrated high-quality fruit. Of course, 2020 was the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw very warm, dry summer conditions as well as major challenges securing enough pickers to bring the crop in. With the warm conditions, Tenuta San Guido erred on the side of caution and picked their fruit earlier to preserve freshness and avoid over ripe flavours. As a result, the 2020 wines show a generous ripeness together with a fine purity and a nervy, crisp freshness.
Since the release of the 2019 Sassicaia vintage last year, global demand has soared with merchants and consumers alike sweeping the market for well priced back vintages putting massive upward pressure on older vintages but also ensuring that the new release would follow suit with a higher price. The 2020 sees a considerable price increase from £995 IB per 6 in the UK to £1,200 IB per 6. So you’re going to have to dig that little bit deeper this year to secure a case of this icon wine at the release price.
Tenuta San Guido Le Difese 2021, IGT Toscana, 14% Abv.
The 2021 is a blend of 55% Sangiovese and 45% Cabernet Sauvignon and reveals all the brightness, perfume and purity of the 5 Star 2021 vintage. Fragrant and very pretty, the aromatics are full of violets, red cherries, sun raisined cranberries, pink musk and hints of black currant rock candy. The palate mouthfeel is medium bodied but beautifully creamy and textured with a real density and concentration that glides across the palate with ample supporting velvety tannins and the most delicious mouth watering acids. Expertly conceived and wonderfully constructed, clearly showing the precision, intensity and purity of an exceptional vintage. Drink this on release to enjoy its youthful vivacity or hide a few bottles in the cellar for 6 to 8+ years. One of the best Le Difese reds produced since 2002!
(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2020, Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC, 14% Abv.
This is a classical Sassicaia blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc from a vintage that started cool but finished warm and dry in August. Bottled in early January 2023, the aromatics are noticeably plusher and more opulent than some cooler vintages but the purity and precision is, as always, stunning with lofty perfumed notes of rose petals, lavender, black plum compote, fruit cake and a melange of black berry nuances. The enticing nose draws you in and the palate delivers an opulent, voluptuous mouthful with layers of earthy black cherry, liquorice, dried fennel, tart black currant with and an alluring reductive saline creme de cassis intensity. The textural precision is pinpoint and the acids surprisingly vibrant and tangy with stony mineral tannins adding a lithe, athletic frame beneath the sumptuous cloak of black fruits. Like all of the greatest red wines in the world, I would happily drink this beautiful wine young, even from the barrel, marking its true finesse, balance and harmony. I suspect this vintage will continue to offer generosity and accessibility for longer than normal before starting to close up and slumber. Drink on release and over 15 to 20+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2014, Bolgheri Sassicaia DOCG, 13% Abv.
There are aromatic similarities here to the 2020 with plenty of dark broody fruit layers over potpourri, sappy wood spice, stewed plum and sun raisined black currants. The palate shows hints of tertiary Cabernet Sauvignon with sweet cherry tobacco, tilled earth and well brewed black tea before another burst of creme de cassis, salty liquorice and oyster shell intensity re-emerge on the silky, sumptuous finish. Lauded as a “restaurant vintage” on release, this label should now be viewed as a badge of honour rather than any detraction from the innate quality that is undoubtedly on display here in the glass. Certainly no rush if you have this in your cellar but why hang on for much longer if the wine is drinking with such seductive elegance. (It was noted that at the Press Tasting the day before, tasters were poured the Sassicaia 2014 from magnum and many noted quite a savoury, evolved maturity suggesting notable bottle variation. The 75cl bottles served at the Trade Tasting, of which I tasted from two different bottles, showed impressive freshness, reductive hints and only very modest evolution.)
(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Wines are available retail on a very limited basis from Museum Wines in the UK. http://www.museumwines.co.uk