Bolgheri – Birthplace of the “Super Tuscan”

Oct 18, 2021 | Italy

Bolgheri is a small community located in the northern coastal portion of Maremma in the province of Livorno.

The winegrowing area lies on a strip of land between the Ligurian Sea and a series of north – south running hills parallel to the coastline. The soils are quite diverse, there are alluvial soils with high pebble and gravel content, marine soils composed of sand, limestone, and clay and even some volcanic elements. The vineyards slowly rise from the flat coast onto the west-facing slopes of the hills.

It all starts with Sassicaia

The Bolgheri area had little to no wine making tradition until the release of the first vintage of Sassicaia in the 1970’s. Bolgheri’s reputation began with this iconic wine. In the 1940’s, the Marchese Mario Incisa della Rochetta moved from Piemonte to his estate, Tenuta San Guido, in Bolgheri. Passionate about Bordeaux wines, he began producing a Bordeaux- style wine himself. His first wines fell short of his expectations, but the Marchese did not give up and with the encouragement of his friends and family he continued his pursuit. He planted Cabernet in a different site located on top of a stony, gravelly soil he called Sassicaia.

The name Sassicaia derives from the word “sassi” (stones) and is used to indicate a stony site.

SassicaiaUpon tasting his wine, the Marchese’ cousin, Antinori, realized the wines potential and offered their support by bringing in their enologist, Giacomo Tachis. The first official commercial vintage of Sassicia (1968) was released in 1972. The wine was well received by the Italian wine critics, but it wasn’t until at a London tasting held by Decanter in 1978 that Sassicaia’s 1972 vintage was awarded the first place over a field of 33 wines from 11 countries. Sassicaia’s international acclaim marked a monumental success that gave birth to the Super Tuscan phenomenon that spread throughout Tuscany in the ensuing years.

Sassicaia was initially released as Vino del Tavola and remained so until 1994 when the existing Bolgheri DOC was modified to incorporate the prestigious wine within the unique Bolgheri Sassicaia sub-zone, the only case of an appellation granted for a single estate wine in Italy. In 2013, the sub-zone was elevated to its own separate DOC with the same name: Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC.

Bolgheri Today

The international success of Sassicaia in the late 1970s gave encouragement to many other estates in the area to plant red Bordeaux varieties. Estates such as Guado al Tasso, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia, Grattamacco, and many others transformed Bolgheri to one of the most dynamic and promising districts for fine red wine in Italy. My recent visit to this area has reaffirmed firsthand the beauty of Bolgheri’s world class elegant, yet powerful, and structured wines.


John Opsina

John Opsina

Founder & Author