Sassicaia 2020 may be remembered as ‘the vintage of the pandemic’ but for Priscilla Incisa della Rocchetta and her team at Tenuta San Guido it was also a year which posed many viticultural challenges. Thankfully overcome, this new masterpiece from Maremma is boasting remarkable freshness. Le Difese 2021 is a beauty too as Robert Mason discovered at a select tasting which also included Sassicaia 2014, 2010 and 2000, served from magnum.
“The Sassicaia 2020 is harmonious, generous and gripped by an underlying nervosity,” Mason writes.
There have been very few things in my professional life that have prompted me to ‘drop everything’. So, a last minute invitation to preview the latest releases from Tenuta San Guido therefore joins a select group: “If you want to do Sassicaia 2020, be my guest” came the message from stuck-in-the-sticks drinks editor Peter Dean. My poker face slipped in a nanosecond: yes please and grazie mille!
Sassicaia is a real treat. A rarity to behold. And the privilege of a space at the table for the world premiere of the latest vintage, alongside classic library releases, rendered me as giddy as a winemaker in a yeast shop.
The voyage through the vintages was led by San Guido family member Priscilla Incisa della Rocchetta, Nicolas Clerc MS and managing director of Armit Wines, Brett Fleming.
Sassicaia 2020: an unique vintage
The 2020 vintage will be remembered for many reasons: viticultural uncertainty and a nation locked in fear. A furnace of challenge to forge this masterpiece of Maremma.
The vintage was preceded by an idyllic start to dormancy with adequate rains, humidity and mild conditions. February and March, however, caused concern with freezing temperatures, particularly for the prized Cabernet Franc, resulting in lower yields but, thankfully, higher quality and concentration. This really shows in the wine, decanted just one hour prior to tasting and displaying remarkable freshness.
Purity of fruit with well defined mulberry, plum and redcurrant character accented by delicate hints of anise, mint, thyme and Parma ham. The Sassicaia 2020 is harmonious, generous and gripped by an underlying nervosity. Very much approachable now with clear signs of a memorable long-life ahead.
As equally iconic as Sassicaia, Le Difese 2021 also shared in the occasion. For this vintage, the blend was enhanced to show clear Tuscan heritage and sense of place. “Sangiovese is the DNA of the wine” describes Rocchetta, continuing: “This is the first year we have decided to incorporate 70% Sangiovese with 30% Cabernet Sauvignon”. This jump from the traditional 55% / 45% split of grapes respectively provides, in my opinion, an extra dimension of elegance and finesse.
The 2021 is lifted and open as a result, with clear floral aromatics verging on the heady. Charcuterie and balsamic notes support generous warm, plummy fruits and fine tannins with that characteristic fresh acidity beckoning the palate to take another sip.
Le Difese is considered by Fleming as “offering consumers greater accessibility to the brand [through]… the ability for restaurants to serve Le Difese by-the-glass”.
What better way to follow these two glorious wines than selected expressions from the star-studded Sassicaia back-catalogue.
Vintages of Sassicaia that were presented were from 2000, 2010 & 2014, of which the Sassicaia 2014, a difficult vintage received with mixed enthusiasm by critics upon initial release, was the standout of the library wines. Conditions were similar to that of 2020, “uncertain, fresh, cool, rainy… not sure of the outcome.” Rocchetta recalls.
Yet, with tireless agronomic attention to detail – the stamp of San Guido and DNA of Sassicaia really shines through with harmony, freshness and finesse. Pleasant green herbaceousness in tomato-stem, Tuscan herbs, olives and an inky, aged balsamic tang blend well with anise, cool fruit and juicy acidity.
Sassicaia 2010 was marked by dusty chocolate, black olives and fruit that is still evolving. The acidity makes this wine stand out from the crowd: persistent, cleansing and precise complemented and balanced by textured, leathery tannins and a moreish finish.
Finally, the Sassicaia 2000 – the millennium wine of dusty heat, nutty meat, crushed cereal kernels, prunes and tapenade. Dense, dark and brooding wine with a gracious, quiet power. One to savour.
‘Tenuta San Guido is the result of a very long tradition combined with an ethical message, that have together been passed on from generation to generation. This was fuelled by a pioneering passion, aimed at doing good, and an abiding respect for nature.’ [official Press Release].
Couldn’t agree more.
The wines of Tenuta San Guido are imported and sold in the UK by Armit Wines which is a commercial partner of The Buyer. To learn more about them click here.