Like most Italian aristocrats, Mario Incisa della Rocchetta grew up drinking the best of Bordeaux and Burgundy. When he settled with his wife at the Tenuta San Guido estate, he noticed that the Bolgheri soil resembled the soil in the vineyards of the Graves appellation in Bordeaux--rocky, as the name Graves, or "gravel" in French, suggests. In 1944, with the help of traveling consultant Tancredi Biondi-Santi, he planted cuttings of Cabernet Sauvignon and began making wine. Still, it'd be a quarter of a century before the wine he'd call Sassicaia, or "stony ground" in the Tuscan dialect, would be born.
Mario experimented. He couldn't get the grapes right. He couldn't get the wine right. It was good, but it wasn't as good as he knew it could be. For 25 years, he worked, and then aided by the enological wizardry of cousin Piero Antinori's winemaker, Giacomo Tachis, Mario felt he'd found the wine. Tenuta San Guido debuted Sassicaia in 1968, and it was immediately met with frenzied acclaim that has just never stopped. So great is the regard for this wine that it was accorded its own DOC status by the classification system that shunned its initial efforts--a first for Italian wine.
Every bottle of Sassicaia holds this history, but every bottle holds a second, parallel history too: the growing year that made it. The snow that fell, the winds that blew, the sun that shined, and the rain that dropped--or failed to--all of these elements make each Sassicaia bottle unique and individual. Sometimes critics and industry people get grumpy over "lesser" vintages because that year didn't live up to the greatest Sassicaia bottle they remember tasting, but I think they're shortsighted. A wine as consistently great as Sassicaia shows differences, not flaws, and its various beauties deserve celebration, reflection, and appreciation.
Today, I'm very pleased to present a trio of Sassicaia bottles from the 1990s. Two of these vintages, the 1992 and 1993, passed without much comment upon release, while the 1996 garnered praise. All I can say is that you should drink all three, and let the tides of the wine's history pull on you. Feel what you feel, notice what you notice, and realize that you're enjoying a singular bottle that holds within it decades--even centuries or millennia--of history.