Not many wines ascend to the status of ‘icon’. But Sassicaia is one of them. 

The beauty is that it’s not a flashy wine – quite the opposite (‘old school’ might be a more appropriate description).

What’s more, its ascent to the wine stratosphere is largely accidental – this scented, elegant Bordeaux blend from Bolgheri in coastal Tuscany was only ever intended as a quaffing wine for friends and family on the Tenuta San Guido estate, a farm initially dedicated to breeding horses, growing crops and a wildlife reserve.

How times change.

In this episode, we peek behind the scenes of Sassicaia, asking what really makes this fine wine tick, talking to the key people, tasting the top vintages, busting myths and asking the difficult questions.

Price is one – it’s gone up significantly of late. Fraud is another – Italian police recently broke up a gang running a fake Sassicaia operation to the tune of €2m.

Priscilla Inchisa della Rochetta, Brett Flemming and Nicolas Clerc MS shed light on all these issues and more.

Along the way, we recommend our all-time favourite Sassicaia vintages, and touch on things like the ‘secret’ Sassicaia, The Divine Comedy, sommeliers kissing each other, Desperate Dan, World Cup penalties, Italian stallions and lobster pie.



The following are selected vintages of Sassicaia we recommend on the pod.

One point to note is that the older vintages often show particularly well from magnum, so this is a good option if you’re thinking of buying.

Links go through to global listings on Wine Searcher. Armit Wines is Tenuta San Guido’s UK agent.


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NB: this transcript has been generated by AI. It’s not perfect.

Susie: Hello, you’re listening to Wine Blast with me, Susie Barrie and my husband and fellow master of wine, Peter Richards. Welcome! Thank you for giving us the precious gift of your time and company, which we very much appreciate.

Peter: And we won’t let you down, promise!

In fact, we are going to repay you handsomely with an absolute treat of an episode, actually the start of a new occasional series, peaking behind the scenes, behind the facades of the most iconic wine estates in the world. and in this program, we’re locking onto the wine legend that is Sassicaia

It’s a big one.

Susie: Yes, it is a big one.

Peter: Come on.

Susie: And all we ask you to do in return for this gift, by the way, is to recommend the pod to all your wine loving friends and family. Help us spread the word. And the wine love, they will thank you in the long run. But, yes, in this episode, we are talking Italy. We’re talking rebellious Bordeaux blends. But really, we’re talking about how a couple of outsiders came to a disregarded corner of Italy and created out of absolutely nothing, what we might term an accidental icon.

Peter: I love that. Love that. I think that really captures the real essence of this story. fundamentally, you know, it’s not a tale of design or ambition. It’s. It’s a story about serendipity, born out of the humble aspirations of a true wine lover, who was actually busy with other stuff, like breeding horses and setting up a wildlife reserve. and this is a wine which, over time, has managed to stay true to its roots despite enjoying quite remarkable success.

Susie: It hasn’t all been plain sailing, though, you know, what with being targeted by fraudsters and somewhat controversial price rises of late. But these are all things that we’ll come onto in good time. But first up, here’s a taster of what’s in store.

Priscilla Inchisa della Rochetta: It’s special in a way that it’s a bit mysterious. People just fell in love with not only the wine itself, but also the story.

Brett Fleming: I mean, let’s not kid us out. It’s Sassicaia It’s an expensive bottle of wine. But in the world of fine wine, in the world of icon wine, it still offers very, very good value for money.

Nicolas Clerc MS: It’s very important. Family owned, don’t. Worse, very little marketing, but the bottle and the glass talks; the wine talks by  itself, basically.

Peter: Priscilla Inchisa della Rochetta there, granddaughter of Mario M, the original creator of Sassicaia Also Brett Fleming, managing director of Amit, the UK agent for Sassicaia And finally, Master Sommelier, Nicolas Clerc who also works with Ammit. we’ll be hearing more from all of them in due course.

Susie: Now, it’s important to say from the outset that our aim here is not to fangirl, or gush about what’s an already celebrated wine. We want to hear from the key people and get a sense for what really goes on behind the scenes, what makes this operation tick, why the wine is as it is, and present a fresh perspective that goes beyond the myth or the legend.

Peter: Absolutely. So we’ve visited, we’ve tasted, we’ve read and trawled through endless notes. Most, importantly, we’ve sat down and listened. and that’s what forms the basis of our program today. So let’s get going. And the first thing to say is that Sassicaia is the name of the wine. the wider estate is called tenuta san Guido. And, that’s an important distinction to make, isn’t it?

Susie: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Our story takes place on the west coast of Tuscany

So, to set the scene, our story takes place on the west coast of Tuscany, north of Rome and west of Florence and Siena. Back in the day, this area, called the Maremma, was malaria ridden Marshland, a backwater compared to the noble lands of Chianti country. Further inland, it was used for livestock and crops. And it just happened that one notable landowner around the small town of Bolgheri was one of the oldest families in Tuscany, whose ancestor, Count Ugolino, appears in Dante’s the Divine Comedy. And they were the della Gherardesca family.

Peter: Yeah. So, in 1930, Conteza Clarice della Gherardesca married marchese Mario in Chisa della Rochetta, whose family were originally from Piedmont, and they together took over her part of the family lands in the Marema. It was a 2500 hectare estate called Tenuta Sanguido.

Susie: Now, the plan was nothing to do with wine. It was about breeding thoroughbred horses. And this coastal strip of land is mostly pretty flat and apparently quite springy in places, so good for horses to run on. Plus you’ve got agricultural land to grow the feed. You know, they bred ribo, apparently the horse of the 20th century and an icon of the equine world. Not that we know much about these sort of things.

Peter: Absolutely nothing. But, you know, cue lots of puns about italian stallions. That’s sort of our level.

Susie: We’d quite stoop to that.

Peter: You wouldn’t vote?

Susie: I wouldn’t.

Susie: But anyway, Mario also loved nature, so he set up one of the first wildlife sanctuaries in Italy, which still exists as a WWF reserve in the coastal reaches of the estate. And it’s a haven for all kinds of migrating birds, among other things.

Peter: Birds and horses, two things we know absolutely nothing about. But we did know about his wide. And that’s where we come back to Mario, because Mario was many things, among them, wine lover. he had a soft spot for Bordeaux, and he’d enjoyed similar cabernet sauvignon based reds with their wonderful bouquet, as he termed it, made just up the road in Pisa by the Salviati family. So he asked the Salviatis when he took over this estate for some cabernet Sauvignon vines and planted the first few hectares of the Castiglioncello vineyard in the hilliest inland plot of the Sanguido estate, in the early 1940s. Importantly, he planted them over gravelly soils, which is where the name of the wine comes from. Sasso means rock and aya means located in.

Susie: It’s an urban myth, isn’t it, that the vines came from Lafitte? anyway, more vines, including Cabernet franc, to blend with the cabernet Sauvignon would follow in due course. But it’s important to remember that this was never conceived as a commercial project. The wine was purely the home consumption, friends and family only. And so it stayed from 1945 to 1967.

Peter: Yeah, and apparently the first vintages didn’t go down hugely well. I think it’s fair to say that opinion was mixed. you know, there had been wine in these parts before, but it was pretty basic, pretty light stuff, you know, made from the local sangiovese, canaiolo or Trebbiano grapes. this newfangled red made from foreign grapes may just have been a bit too much and a bit too sort of fierce and frenchified, dare I say it?

Susie: But that said, as we know, Mario had been putting away the odd case in his cellars. And with time, the wine improved and started to win admirers, didn’t it? the well known wine critic Luigi Veronelli was an early fan, encouraging the family to really think big with Sassicaia

Peter: Now, another key figure in the Sassicaia story is winemaker Giacomo Tachis making wine for the Antinori family in Tuscany, who are also related to the della Galladescas and who inherited lands next door to Sassicaia or Sanguido.

Susie: And these are the estates that went on to produce wines like Ornellaia and Guadal tasso.

Peter: Exactly. But it’s starting to get a bit confusing. It’s another story. From the late, sixties onwards, Giacomo Tachis modernized the viticulture and winemaking of Sassicaia He introduced things like stainless steel tanks for the fermentation to prevent spoiling and enable temperature control. He, was also keen on using small oak barrels for aging and maturation to help soften the wine and give it more complexity.

Susie: So over time, Tachis would go on to be celebrated as one of the most influential italian winemakers ever. Partly or largely, I would say, for his work at Sassicaia it’s worth remembering he was from Piedmont too, like Mario. Although I understand that Tachis gone on better with Niccolo the son than the marchese Mario.

Peter: Didn’t Mario do like a rebellious side project or something like that? He did.

Susie: yeah. So both these quite determined men didn’t always see eye to eye. And there is a funny story about how Mario, having had to defer to Tachis’s superior technical knowledge, decided to make a secret Sassicaia cuve as a sort of a side hustle. So he used, his beloved wooden vats to ferment rather than Tachis’s stainless steel, and four years aging in barrels to make a really old school wine called il vino diverso della sassicaya. but long story short, it fell by the wayside as the official Sassicaia blossomed.

Peter: Intriguing. Il vino diverso della Sassicaia secret Sassicaia Love that. love that. But I mean, wasn’t the official Sassicaia’s first release onto the wider market in 1971? No, with the 68 vintages?

Susie: Yeah, exactly that. All exactly. Although the 1968 was actually a blend of vintages put together by Tachis with Mario largely, though, to be honest, 1968. And incidentally, the antinoris going back to them, helped market the wine initially.

Peter: Now, it took a while for international recognition to come, but come it did. in 1978, a, blind tasting of cabernet wines in London with Hugh Johnson, our friend Hugh for Decanter magazine saw Sassicaia take first spot, and this for the difficult, rainy 1972 vintage. But that’s a hallmark of the estate, making, good wines out of. Out of. In different vintages. Since then, further recognition has followed. The 1985 vintage was given 100 points by american critic Robert Parker. The 2015 vintage was championed in 2018 by Wine Spectator magazine. And both the 2016 and 2021 again have earned 100 Parker points.

Susie: So what started out as a bit of a punt by a wine lover keen to see if he could recreate his favourite tipple, a cheeky tip of the hat to Bordeaux on his estate in coastal Tuscany for personal consumption. After a hard day’s work with the horses, ended up becoming a superstar wine estate with 115 vines and a stellar reputation.

Peter: Yeah, what’s interesting is how the wine world has kind of moved with them, in the way that true pioneers do, you know, they move the world rather than the other way around. So initially, Sassicaia had to be sold as a vino da tavola, you know, the lowest classification in italian wines.

Susie: And that was because it was made from unauthorized. These unauthorized foreign grape varieties in an m unrecognized area.

Peter: Exactly, exactly. But it became so popular, spawned so many followers in the region, that the authorities ended up having to create various new official doc appellations to embrace this new wave. The culmination of which was the Doc Bolgheri Sassicaia the only doc appellation in Italy dedicated to just one single wine estate.

Susie: Okay, so at this point, I want to bring in our first guest. Priscilla Inchisa della Rochetta is the granddaughter of Mario and daughter of Niccolo, who guided the estate over many years. She is one of five cousins who own and run the estate today, apparently very amicably. which sounds like a serious achievement, given the way most families.

Peter: I was going to say.

Susie: anyway, I caught up with her in London after an intriguing vertical tasting, more on which in a bit. And I asked her first to tell us about the story behind Sassicaia

ADVERT: Baking from our childhood. Just sticks in the memory, doesn’t it? We never set off on holiday without piles of tupperware. And, there’d always be Bakewell slice flapjacks and tray baked scones in the boot.

ADVERT: Do you not do that, Lisa?

ADVERT: No, sadly, I do not stack, the tupperware in the back of the car when we go off at holiday. Welcome to small ways to live well, a new podcast from the Simple Things magazine. Season two is a pick me up tonic that helps us make the shift from winter to spring. A six week suggestion box full of things to note, notice, and enjoy about the season. Search for small ways to live well on your podcast app.

Priscilla Inchisa della Rochetta: Well, originally terunta Sanguido, belonged to a very ancient Tuscan family called della Gerardesca, where, our grandmother was coming from. And, Mario enchisada della Rochetta my grandfather married into this family in 1930 when he married my grandmother, Clarice. And as a couple, they moved to Bolgheri and established themselves there with their children during the war. And, Bolgheri being a traditional agricultural state. Mainly, we used to produce, always like, different kind of crops and olive oil. And we started with the horses, around the 1930s. And the wine, arrived just slightly after because the first vineyard that he planted was in 1942. And he decided to experiment in the area of Bolgeri on the grounds of the Sanguido with, international grape varieties, notably Cabernet Sauvignon and then later also Cabernet franc. Because his intention was to produce a wine that he liked. He was very much, in love with wines from the Bordeaux region. So he thought that, he was going to make a wine in Bolgia that will resemble this kind of wines. that’s why he started this experiment. But for the first 20 years, about, Sassicaia stayed a wine for the family and friends. because when he started, our grandfather didn’t have the intention of producing something for the market. So the wine had to stay in the family for the beginning.

Susie: And I know that, you know, Sassicaia

Susie: It wasn’t a wine that launched at the beginning too. Great acclaim. Do you think that was because people didn’t really understand it?

Priscilla Inchisa della Rochetta: Well, at the beginning, it was difficult to understand the fact that, somebody from Piemonte would come to Tuscany, not, even in the classic wine regions of Tuscany, but on the coast in Maremma, where it was unthinkable at the time to produce any kind of good quality wines. And, based on international grape varieties was even more, a, curiosity. And, in that sense, our grandfather was really a pioneer because he kind of uncovered a new region for producing, wine in Tuscany of high quality.

Susie: And was it also in part to do with the fact that people were used to sangiovese, which was a bit earlier? Drinking and cabernet really just took time.

Priscilla Inchisa della Rochetta: Yes, it was also he was also applying different, techniques of viticulture. And also, he was using the barriques, the french barques, to age this wine. So all things that were new to that area. and therefore, I guess it took about 20 years of experiments for people to understand that the wine then, when it was put on the side and aged, was actually becoming better, improving. And, actually the first vintage that then ended up on the market was 1968. So, over 20 years of experiments.

Susie: The price of Sassicaia is pretty high these days. How do you feel about that?

Priscilla Inchisa della Rochetta: Well, there’s, a question about, offer and demand. The production is limited, so the prices have gone up in the years, we try to stay constant on our release price. So we don’t have the price adapting to the kind of vintage or scores or anything like that. We keep the prices quite balanced year after year with a slight increase, but always quite straightforward.

Susie: Do you have a favorite vintage?

Priscilla Inchisa della Rochetta: Well, it’s a tricky question. Like you asked me. What is your favorite child? No, no, I personally I’m more inclined to like more fresh vintages, like you know, like 14, 16, and this kind of vintage as opposed to maybe more opulent ones. But it’s like you say, it’s a question of taste, so it’s in wine. It’s also interesting because there are different vintages that have different styles and also people can choose for themselves what they like best.

Susie: I think even in an opulent vintage, Sassicaia always retains its elegance.

Priscilla Inchisa della Rochetta: That is a bit the distinctive, mark of Saskicaya. To manage to come up with elegant wines even in a challenging vintage. Yes.

Susie: So Sassicaia is undoubtedly one of the finest cabernets, if not one of the finest wines in the world. How do you feel about being in charge of the legacy, that legacy?

Priscilla Inchisa della Rochetta: I am luckily not alone because I am just one part of my family. We are a group of five cousins and we are supported by Carlo Paoli and other managers that are very knowledgeable and they are really accompanying this new generation through the transition. And also as this is a, ah, family enterprise, a family company, we are looking at things really in the long run. So already thinking of the next generation. So our children, so it’s a very, very exciting project. Of course you have a lot of rewards, and a lot of satisfaction. But it’s also a big legacy, to carry forward. So a lot of responsibility that comes with it.

Susie: Do you ever disagree about things?

Priscilla Inchisa della Rochetta: No, no, no, we are actually not really disagreeing. It’s very stimulating to have discussions and find consensus about things.

Susie: Now.

Susie: Iconic wines in general tend to have a certain mystique surrounding them. Can you tell me a bit more about the human everyday side of Sassicaia You know, what are the day to day priorities? What are the concerns, what are the challenges?

Priscilla Inchisa della Rochetta: As you know, it’s a pretty big estate which is carrying forward several activities at the same time. But of course, the wine has become slowly the main focus, but not the only one. So in an everyday normal, work activity, we look after many issues that turn around the wine. but of course there’s also people who are looking after the horses. We have a trainer, we have a stud manager. And then there’s, a little team that looks after the wildlife refuge because also that needs to be taken care of and a lot of attention and we have visitors. So there is a lot going on. It’s like a little, actually, not so little. It’s like a big family, where everybody has their roles and we interact with each other and we take care of all these different pillars that make part of Tengta sanguino.

Susie: And what makes Sassicaia special.

Priscilla Inchisa della Rochetta: I guess it’s special in a way that it’s a bit mysterious. There’s always been a bit of mystery around this, wine that has come out of the blue in a region, that was not considered, interesting for producing good quality wines. And it’s also wine that has stayed true to itself without following fashions or anything like that. With a style that is recognizable across the vintages. And people just, fell in love with not only the wine itself, but also the story with the philosophy. And also it’s consistent in terms of quality. So people can rely on. On the fact that, they will not be deceived by the bottles.

Susie: Now, your italian, italian family, you’re never going to make a wine that isn’t food friendly. Do you have a favorite dish that you love to drink, to eat with.

Priscilla Inchisa della Rochetta: Sassicaia I would drink sasikaya. I would advise to pair it, of course, with, food from our region, because it’s more natural to think of nice meat, from toscana or venison or some nice cheeses. But also, depending on the vintages, maybe in the cooler, fresher vintages. It’s also easily combinable, with some nice fish, a bit fatty fish, or cooked in the mediterranean way with some tomatoes. And. Yeah, it’s, you know, we are right by the sea, so we are very spoiled. We have very good, seafood, and as well, very good venison, wild boars and cows.

Susie: And can I just touch for a moment on fakes, which are very much an issue these days, particularly with these kind of iconic wines. I know the police broke up a fake sasakai ring three or four years ago. How do you feel about that? And what are you doing to try to prevent that kind of thing happening?

Priscilla Inchisa della Rochetta: Well, it’s, on one hand, if they are copying our product, it means that the product is sold after, which is always a good news, of course, it’s not good to think that there might be bottles out there that contain something which we don’t know how it was produced might be harmful for the consumers who, by mistake, buy a bottle that is not the real thing. So we advise to always source the wines from the primary source, either from the importer or from at least a safe source. We, do have some things that we have introduced on the bottles, like the name of Sasicaya or Guid Alberto, are embossed on top of the bottle. On top of the label. Below we have the writing Temta Sanguido and then other things that I’m actually not allowed to say. But we have ways to. We have ways to see if the bottle is fake or not. The problem is that, maybe some bottles pop up in a faraway country and, unless, the consumer gets suspicious and brings it up to either the importer or somebody who knows the product very well. But the italian police is very, very much, active. And, so they try to do their best. And often, they find these people.

Susie: How would you describe Sassicaia in three words?

Priscilla Inchisa della Rochetta: I would say it’s, Sassicaia I would describe it as, elegant, unique, and, I don’t know. I can’t say just one word. I would say true to its territory, true to its philosophy, true to itself.

Susie: Priscilla, thank you so much.

Priscilla Inchisa della Rochetta: Thank you.

Peter: Elegant, unique, true to itself. Sounds a bit like you, darling. No reaction. There we go. Oh, she’s taking the compliment.

Susie: M. I think it’s a compliment.

Peter: Anyway, back to the wine. the experiment that worked, you know, it’s a great story, isn’t it?

Susie: It is, it is. Now, there were a couple of things, we got into there that we didn’t preface. Carlo Paoli, who Priscilla mentioned, has been technical director of the estate since 2009, in charge of a team of ten people who make the wine. And everyone you talk to speaks very highly of him and his overall winemaking ethos, which is all about purity and precision.

Peter: Yeah, I mean, it sounds like he’s kind of upped the quality even further, doesn’t it? And he’s a disciple of giacomo Tachis

Susie: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think the winemaking ethos at Sanguido is still very much based on the fundamental principles that Tachis espoused. he was a great thinker, had so much experience. So it’s not really changed, but just evolved over time, perhaps, you know, been perfected.

Peter: And she also mentioned Guidalberto didn’t she?

Susie: Which, yeah, we haven’t touched on that yet, have we? So Sassicaia is just one wine made at Tonuta Sanguido, the original, if you like, a, blend typically of 85% cabernet sauvignon with 15% Cabernet franc. Now, in 2000, they introduced Guid Alberto, a blend of majority cabernet sauvignon with 40% merlot. And then in 2002, they added le de faise cabernet, sauvignon blended with sangiovese. So those are the three wines in the tenuta sanguido wine stable, as opposed to the horse stable.

Peter: Lots of horses and those. Yeah. so you basically got, you know, Sassicaia cabernet sauvignon with cabernet franc. All the wines are based around Cabernet sauvignon, but then you’ve got guidar beta with a bit of merlot and then defeated with a bit of sangiovese. And Guillot in Delhi is getting pretty serious these days, isn’t it? Anyway, now, you also touched on fakes.

Susie: Yeah. So, as we all know, sadly, the incidence of fraud in fine wine has become more common because there’s good money to be made as the value of these wines goes up and back. In 2022, people were arrested for allegedly selling counterfeit bottles of Sassicaia to the value of €2 million. The arrests were the result of a long investigation and apparently this gang had been using sicilian wine bottles from Turkey and fake labels from Bulgaria and then flogging them in Korea, China, Russia, at, 70% below market value.

Peter: Oh, my God. If something’s too good to be true.

Susie: Totally. Anyway, the police intercepted a delivery of 41 cases of fake Sassicaia 2015. Apparently, this gang was selling about, 700 cases of this per month out of a warehouse near Milan.

Peter: So hence them getting serious, hence the estate getting serious about fighting fraud, you know, as Priscilla mentioned.

Susie: Absolutely. You know, producers have to engage with this, sad as it is, so, caveat emptor, buy or beware. And as Priscilla says, it’s always best, you know, to buy from reputable sources. On which note, next up, we’re going to hear from Brett and Nico of Sanguidos, UK importers Amit wines, two people who arent shy with their opinions and were also going to be talking about our favourite vintages too. By way of brief recap, Sassicaia began life as a home consumption experiment to recreate claret in a tuscan coastal backwater. It has since grown into a global wine phenomenon, which is, of course, entirely admirable but comes with its own set of realities and challenges.

Peter: Yeah, and that’s what we want to get into, get a feel for now. Brett Fleming is MD of Amit, who work closely with Tenuta Sanguillo and who, tend to set the global commercial tempo for the estate, if I can put it like that. Brett’s a kiwi wine producer by background, and an experienced wine trade stalwart. and he’s instigated a change in tactics vis a vis Sassicaia

Susie: Yeah.

Susie: Part of this strategy, has basically seen investors or traders shunned in favour of collectors and top restaurants. Fleming reckons this move has cost his company about 3 million pounds in lost trade, but he says it was worth it to get the wine into places it works best. He’s also just launched a new project to hold wines back for late release to top restaurants.

Peter: Yeah, he’s also, perhaps more controversially, upped the release price. the 2016 Sassicaia 100 Parker point wine was released at 650 pounds for a six pack. This was in 2019. And apparently 24 hours after release, it was trading on the secondary market for 1400 pounds. So, with Sanguido, he decided to up the initial release price, to protect those profits. To the extent that the 2021 vintage, released in February 2024, was 1250 pounds.

Susie: For six, pretty much a doubling of price in five years. Now, that’s quite punchy.

Peter: It is, it is. Fleming says it’s not about being greedy. it’s about recognizing the position that the reality of where Sasaki is in the market, he says people can still buy it and it tends to go up in value. So it is a good investment. Apparently 2021 was selling for 1700 pounds a few weeks after release, so anyone who bought it at, you know, 1250 pounds would have made over pound 400. But plus, he maintains that if you compare it to top Bordeaux, Burgundy, Piedmont, it still represents good value for money. he says it’s the market, not him, that dictates the price.

Susie: Yeah, interesting. I mean, and I suppose you can argue that it does represent value in the context, but that’s partly a reflection of how mad prices for top ones are now. And you have to say, you know, it was even better value five years ago, wasn’t it?

Peter: Right. The benefit of hindsight, why didn’t we pile in? Anyway, I had a long chat with Brett. I get the feeling most chats with Brett are quite long, actually.

Susie: He likes to chat.

Peter: Not sure. And on the subject of pricing, I asked him whether the cost of living crisis and the difficult trading time had affected Sassicaia

Brett Fleming: Absolutely. We’ve seen, a definite decline in the demand by our current customer base. So where we would offer, say, four six packs to a customer, they’re not saying no, they’re saying, I’ll only take two. I am generalizing. There are many high net worths who frankly want more and will spend more. but it’s not just private clients. That’s the restaurant trade particularly. we’ve seen retail impacted massively. but what it’s allowed us to do is we’ve got a very big list of people who’ve not been able to buy Sassicaia that we’re now able to service. And in fact, because we really want to spread the love, we don’t want it focused on, the same people all the time. I mean, let’s not kid us out. It’s Sassicaia it’s an expensive bottle of wine. But in the world of fine wine, in the world of icon wine, it still offers very, very good value for money. When you look at. I don’t want to mention names because I don’t get in trouble. But if you go to any Michelin star restaurant and pull out the wine list, you will see that Sanguido Sasakay is not the most expensive wine on the list. Not even close. It would be mid priced compared to many of the other ones dominated by Bordeaux and Burgundy. Of course. M I’m not justifying therefore the price, but it is wrong to say that it’s so expensive that nobody can get access to it. It’s not aimed at everybody, it’s aimed at the elite. It is by definition, an icon fine wine.

Peter: So you would describe Sassicaia as an iconic fine wine or an icon fine wine?

Brett Fleming: personally, I think it’s an icon estate. How Sanguido was established, how Sazakaya was established was not for the benefit to make money. It was established for the family in Jesus de la Rochetta wanted, to replicate, his love of Bordeaux in Bogoli. So now it’s an iconic estate. And the development of the more commercial site was almost by accident. It wasn’t sought after. Many of the estates will use a piece of art or a piece of music or affiliate themselves with something of the region. whereas Sanguido, it’s all about the terroir, it’s all about the estate. So it’s the market that’s decided it’s iconic. It’s not Sanguido that decided it’s iconic.

Peter: And do you think that’s part of its appeal? That it wasn’t nakedly commercial, it wasn’t ambitious. It was actually just a great wine that happened almost by accident.

Brett Fleming: Yes, I think that’s exactly the appeal. also the people, I mean they are, ah, amongst the most lovely people. Ideal with they’re the most humble, down to earth producers. M carlo poli would be one of, if I’m honest, if I can be remembered when I’m gone. And half the way, that Kahlo will be remembered. I’d have done good in this world. He’s the most remarkable, humble man. and that is the same with Priscilla. It’s the same with the whole family. They are just a joy to work with. You know, when you go to other estates, it’s all bells and whistles. It’s stainless steel and it’s art. and it’s you know, it’s it’s like going to California and, you know, these amazing estates. Sasakara has always been about the tewa. It makes the wine from. It has never been about anything else. And the other thing to Sanguido, the wine was not the biggest part of their, operation. The equine business was, horse racing is very dear to them. The whole wine thing became almost an embarrassment in terms of their success. So how it’s managed and bringing in all the marketing people, that’s just not what they do. And of course, you’re right. That is the charm. and you see it in the wine. This extraordinary freshness and, beauty of their wine. It’s not forced. It is quite literally the terror.

Peter: If I could offer you a bottle of Sassicaia and something to eat it with, what vintage would it be and what would the food be on your plate?

Brett Fleming: That’s a very tough question. I can answer the food slightly easier. I think it goes particularly well with lamb. lamb chops and definitely cheese, of course. but the best way for me, honestly, the best sasakayas I’ve had, without mentioning a vintage have been when I’ve, been in very good company. And we want to open a really nice bottle of mature red wine and simply watch it evolve in the glass and enjoy it with great company. I know everybody talks about the 16 because of the hundred points, but personally, I think 19 is a better wine. It’s more finesse, it’s more elegant. 16 is more robust. It’s a bigger wine, it’s a bigger structure. but ultimately it’s personal taste. I think the 2021 will become truly, one of the greatest sassakars ever made. I think it’s good as, if not better than the 85, which was the legendary vintage. It’s a slightly different style since Carlo joined the business. he’s really focused on that purity, that focus of expression of fruit. We talked about elements of it, the elegance, the freshness, the makeup of it. But I think the master of that is the 21. I truly believe it’s going to go down as one of the greatest vintages ever made. 23 is also looking pretty smart. Carlo reckons 23 would be like the 21, but that’s still a couple of years away.

Peter: Great tip. I’m sorry if I push you on the vintage. I’m opening a bottle right now. What am I opening for you? Come on, Brett.

Brett Fleming: 21.

Peter: 21. Brett. Thank you very much.

Brett Fleming: My pleasure, my pleasure.

Susie: When do we get to choose our favorite vintages?

Peter: Yeah, in a bit. In a bit. Coming on to it. and of course, a good merchant would always choose the latest release to purse. I mean, Sid, what do you think of the pricing and commercial strategy?

Susie: I mean, I think it’s understandable, isn’t it? You know, as a wine lover, you want these wines to be affordable, or rather, not entirely out of reach if it’s a really special purchase. And so 200 pounds a bottle is much more of a stretch than 100 pounds. But it’s also true it’s nowhere near what some of the other top estates are charging. And if that’s what’s being traded. But it’s being traded for anyway. You can understand it.

Peter: Yeah, yeah. It’s spenny, though, isn’t it? It’s a big price. but it’s a pretty special wine as well, isn’t it? You know, it’s not cheap, but it’s special. We’re going to come onto this anyway, the wine itself. But first, picking up on the issue of pricing and uniqueness, I wanted to bring in master sommelier, Nicolas Clerk who works with Armit to pick a sommelier’s brain about all this, and I asked him for his take on Sassicaia

Nicolas Clerc: Well, Sasikaya, first of all, is an icon. You know, people, are looking at, that wine as suddenly one of the most iconic, wine of, of Italy. Because I know them a bit now. I think it’s mostly war, of course, the quality of the wine, but as well, the people, I guess, it’s very important family owned, don’t, worse, very little marketing. very little, communication. But, the bottle and the glass torque the wine talk by itself, basically. there is something there, there’s something. Sasikaya is, there for a reason, for the quality and for the people, I guess if you think about, what is Sasikaya? The vineyard, the heart of Sasikaya, the hillside, the cabin de France, the north facing part of the vineyard on hill. there’s something quite unique there. Yeah, Sicaya is unique. And nowadays, you know, there is unfortunately less and less french sommelier and more and more italian top sommelier. And I mean, you walk into a restaurant with the battle of Sasuke and they all start to kiss each other, blah, blah, blah, blah. Quite impressive. How to put that on your interview that’s going in.

Peter: How would you describe Sassicaia in the glass?

Nicolas Clerc: I think what’s different sasuke is freshness, tension, the precision. It’s year on, year on. It’s always an elegant wine. you take an example of 17, for example, which was scorching vintage, very warm. It’s still very elegant and retain some freshness.

Peter: How best to serve it?

Nicolas Clerc: The good thing with Sassicaia it’s on the release, more or less after two years. It’s always approachable. So you can drink it after five years, but you can drinking after 20 or plus. it’s a wine need, to bathe decoration. If it’s a young vintage, you will need a larger glass, bordeaux, style of glass. And yeah, if it can be aerated 1 hour before you truly enjoy it, you should be here for a memorable moment.

Peter: Yes.

Peter: And in terms of aging and it closing down, you said you can drink it young. Would you, would there be a general rule of thumb of when you know it’s good to drink it before and then after, as it were.

Nicolas Clerc: One of my recent favorite vintage is 19. he has started to close down. but a year ago he was fully open. Pretty in your face, straight away. So it’s, Yeah, I would say after three years, three to five, then it start to close down and reopen. Maybe after 8910, 8910.

Peter: So maybe close down after five, come back to it after ten. How have you seen Sasakia, the wine evolve over your time? In the trade, there’s two evolutions, evolution.

Nicolas Clerc: Of fame, and which I think 15 vintage, kickoff everything. Basically on recent years, there is a change of precision winemaking, which I attribute to Carlo, paoli. I do believe that the tanning structure is far more refined than it used to. Be, before zero nine, basically before its first vintage is tannins are, different. the creeps, precision. There is something very, very different there.

Peter: And how do you feel about the price? Because obviously, the price has gone up quite a bit lately.

Nicolas Clerc: The price I’ve raised, I think it’s been a bit of a repositioning. And to be fair, it’s still very much. It is at the right price. But no, I do think it’s still present for a, fair value, still within its category. But it’s a wine as well, which is very difficult to categorize as well.

Peter: If I give you any vintage and any food, what would it be?

Nicolas Clerc: it would be 19 vintage, but I think 21 is better. But it’s too early. And food wise, I don’t know. last, month, when we launched 21, we had 19, and 16 at Monstroid restaurants. And they’ve got, a lobster pie there, which is to die for. So, I will go back to that.

Peter: So Sassicaia 2019 with lobster pie.

Nicolas Clerc: Yeah.

Peter: Nico, thank you very much indeed. It’s all about a pleasure.

Susie: Sassicaia and lobster pie. Now that I have to try.

Peter: Do you know what reminds me? It reminds me of desperate Dan. Do you remember desperate Dan and his cow pie in the dandy comic? I’m seeing. I’m seeing lobster claws sticking out of the top, and I just. Oh, it sounds amazing.

Susie: It sounds completely delicious, doesn’t it? And actually interesting. Both he and Priscilla recommend sasakai with seafood dishes. I think that reflects the style of the wine, which is fundamentally an elegant red wine. It’s not a shouty, brash, super ripe, high alcohol show off. This is a wine that isn’t afraid to be mezzo forte, to be beautifully medium weight, but still tremendously complex and resonant and long and layered and, you know, like all the very best.

Peter: Reds, to be honest, I totally could not agree more. and we’ll maybe come on to this in a moment when we talk about our favorite vintages. But in terms of the style, it was interesting what Nico said about the wine being approachable on release, you know, after, say, two and a half years, then tending to close down after three to five years, then coming back with 8910 years of bottle age, like many great wines do, to be honest. And then with a bit of maturity, it can be just stunning, as we’ve.

Susie: Been lucky enough to experience. but just before we get into that, I picked up on the two key milestones in Sasakiah’s recent evolution. He pinpointed the new winemaking regime under Carlo Pauli that began in 2009 and has meant more refinement and precision, as we’ve already mentioned, and also the time it really entered the global halls of fame from 2015.

Peter: And he also mentioned the vineyards, which we don’t talk about enough, in terms of Sassicaia You know, the estate does have a brilliant map, actually, if you can, if you can find it, showing how the estate lands extend back from. From the flat coastal lands near the famous cypress lined avenue into Bolgheri into the hills southeast of Bolgheri where some of the most historic top vineyards are these amazing hills. And, you know, the very best vineyards are on very specific soils. you know, it’s only 4% of the two and a half thousand hectare estate that is actually vine. So it’s only on very specific areas, specific soils, exposures, altitudes, some of which are up to 300 meters above sea level. and there are plenty of woods around to refresh the atmosphere too. So it’s an interesting. It is terroir as well.

We have tried 17 different Sassicaia vintages

Susie: Now, I think we need to talk about the wines, don’t we?

Peter: We do. Good point, good point. So, you know, I looked at our notes and I realized something that was. That was a bit of a revelation.

Susie: Go on, what is it?

Peter: And that is that we have been lucky enough to try 17 different vintages of Sassicaia not counting the same vintages on different occasions. Absolutely. And not counting the ones we’ve enjoyed so much, we don’t remember them. which is always a factor.

Susie: Not guilty, I’m admitting. Okay.

Peter: Right. Selling me out. Okay, fine, whatever, whatever. Well, either way, I think we should maybe just very quickly, by way of finale, choose our three favorite Sassicaia vintages. And they all have to be different.

Okay, so you go first. I will kick off with the 2011 vintage

Okay, so you go first.

Susie: Okay, gladly, gladly, gladly. I will kick off with the 2011, which we had when we visited the estate back in 2014, and then which I had in a vertical tasting for the release of the 2021 vintage in February 24. You know, I liked it both times, but in this latest tasting, it was in a magnum and it just sang, you know, beautifully aged with dried fruit and a real irony character. You know, this was a warm vintage, but the wine is still so fresh and with gorgeous tension and length. yeah, just beautiful. And to my mind. To my mind, more compelling than the highly praised 2016. but anyway, you’ll go.

Peter: Interesting. Controversial.

I’m going for the 2021 vintage, which we both just tasted

Okay, so I will then dovetail nicely with you because I’m going to mention the 2021 vintage, which we both just tasted. I would have had that one just been released. Okay, there we go. I think this is going to be a sensational wine.

Susie: Totally agree.

Peter: Okay. Brilliant. it’s just so fine, isn’t it? So intense and complete. But, you know, as you said, it isn’t shouty. It’s happy to be gracefully mezzaforte, you know, flavours of roasted pepper and fresh cassis, wood smoke. It’s just so pure and refined. You know, I use the word serene a lot in my notes, you know, definitely a superstar of the future.

Susie: Okay, so you go future. I’m going past. In our vertical. We also tasted the. The 1990. It’s not quite as old, obviously, as the 1988 Magnum I had back in 2006 with Niccolo, which was joyous and I think one of Niccolo’s favorite wines. But the 1998 was perfectly mature. It was luscious and resolved. It doesn’t have the tension of the 2011. It feels like it’s from a different era, but it’s gorgeous all the same, you know, with that fabulous maturity. it needs drinking. and if anyone needs a hand drinking, I’m here.

Peter: You’re putting yourself nobly forward. Are you? Okay, well, I see you’re 1998. and I raise you a 1996 magnum, which I had back in 2012 at a premium primum familia vini event. You know, that gang of top producers, including, mutton Ross, Charlie, Gonmullah, Vegas, silly. You know. now, I mentioned this one because. Precisely because it wasn’t obvious, you know, it actually started off quite slow. It was sort of peaty and earthy. it was a bit unfriendly initially when we tasted it, but then it really opened up with notes of dried fruit, tobacco, and, I don’t know, just like sort of peppers on a fireside grill. It just had lovely structure and resonance. and then it went beautifully with a monk fish loin with pork and lentils, which is pretty tasty. And again, another seafood.

Susie: Yeah. Gosh, gosh. So where do I go from that? I’ve got a friendly one. So this is my last choice. I’m going for the. The 2015 vintage, which I tasted back in 2018. And it was bewitching. you know, so complex. All the roasted pepper, cassis, cedar and fresh, dark fruit you’d expect, but also with a floral almost potpourri richness to the aromatics. Then wonderful, you know, succulents, fine texture, perfectly balanced. I literally just wrote, want to swallow? Sounds like you’re not really allowed to do when you’re tasting.

Peter: And for my final choice, I’m gonna cheat. You’d, be disappointed if I didn’t.

Susie: You. Of course I would.

Peter: And I’m gonna go for two.

Susie: You can’t do.

Susie: That’s not fair.

Peter: That’s why I let you go first. See? So I was gonna have the last.

Susie: Two penalties at the end of the football match.

Peter: There we go. That’s. That’s me. If you ever see me stepping up in the World cup finals, you know, I’m gonna have to. Anyway, first is the 2019, which I tasted a few years back and just has the tannins to. To die for. Totally classic and fine and noble, but very discreet and insistent and, just yum. Ah. And then also the 2010 in Magnum, which I tried on the same occasion as 2019. That was just stunning, too. It just leapt out of the glass with sort of wood smoke, tobacco, curry leaf, roasted cherry, sort of floral hints. And then it’s just seamless and layered and gravelly and long on the palette. the lafitte of Bolgheri I wrote.

Susie: No mention of swallowing.

Peter: none. No.

Susie: I just have to assume that was the case.

Sassicaia is a pioneering wine that blazed a trail for fine Bordeaux

Anyway, that’s it for Sassicaia Our time is up. We hope you’ve enjoyed this thoroughbred italian adventure. By way of closing summary, Sassicaia is a pioneering wine that blazed a trail for fine Bordeaux style reds in coastal Tuscany. Originally conceived as a humble house wine for friends and family, when it. When it finally went on the market, wine lovers around the world received Sassicaia with open arms and raised it to the lofty status of global icon. Its price tag has risen to match of late. thats something that hasnt escaped the attention of fraudsters. But over time, the wine has stayed admirably true to its roots. An elegant style some might even call old school, but only in the very best sense.

Peter: Absolutely. And a great match for lobster pie, we’re assured. our thanks to Priscilla Inchisa della Rochetta, Brett Fleming, and Nicolas Clerc. also to Jonathan White at Armit if you’ve liked this episode, please do leave us a rating and review.

Meantime, thanks again for joining us, and until next time, cheers!