Archive for the ‘Wines’ Category

Another success from the Tenuta San Guido estate comes in the form of Le Difese wine. This super Tuscan pioneer has set the standard on great wines and Le Difese like the other offerings, Sassicaia and Guidalberto does not disappoint. The wine producers at Tenuta San Guido are recognized the world over for the quality wines that they produce and for the most part every vintage that they put out is exceptional although some vintages are decidedly better than others. This third offering from the estate is more affordable than the previous two wines but that does not make it any less valuable.

The production is overseen by Sebastiano Rosa just like production of it’s more famous siblings Sassicaia and Guidalberto. It’s made with same passion and care what is clearly visible in the quality of this wine.

The Birth of Led Difese Wine

The reliability and quality of the wines coming out of Tenuta San Guido ensures that every new vintage that they release immediately begin flying off the shelves. Part of the reason for the consistency in the labels that they put out, including Le Difese, is that they don’t conform to latest trends or feel pressured to put out countless labels to fulfill market demands. They let nature and vintage dictate the expression of the wines and that is as true for Sassicaia as it is for the less expensive Le Difese. The wine was born with focus on traditional Sangiovese as its base. The first vintage was produced in 2003.

The label includes wild boar and the name “Le difese” means “defenses”. The defenses are tears of a boar which when attacked immediatelly counter attacks with its teeth – the defenses.

Made from 70% Cabernet Sauvignon 30% Sangiovese the wine delivers a warm, ripe taste with a seductively soft tannis and burst of freshness. In true Tenuta San Guido style the harvesting is all done by hand with a low yield to maintain the richness of the sugar, tannins and juice extracted from the grapes.

Price

As much as this is a low cost (expect to pay less than $30 or even $20 a bottle) and everyday wine you must recognize that an everyday wine from this particular estate is far superior to the best offerings from many other estates. Available at very few retailers in the US if you’re unable to find it locally your best option would be to purchase online. The small cost of this food friendly wine backed by the unquestionable value that you get in each bottle is the reason why this is such a popular and fast selling wine.

Le Difese wine like Guidalberto can be used while you wait for your bottle of Sassicaia to age but if you can overlook the wine’s immediate appeal and leave to age for a bit you will love it even more. The Sonoma Wine Journal rated the 2009 vintage at 93+ points 6/11.

Production Process

Once harvested the fruits are allowed to ferment in stainless steel vats that are temperature controlled. This lasts for 12 days followed by 12 months of aging in French and American oak barriques (225 litres). The final step involves refining of the wine in their bottles for about three months before they are released.

Le Difese at Present

This wine is also called a baby Sassicaia (or baby Super Tuscan) as it is made from grapes that don’t make it into the legendary wine. So it’s much more affordable, but still excellent wine with unbelievable price to value ratio. However there is also wine from outside Bolgheri DOC used. What is another reason why this wine was born and why it’s such an excellent value. It can be fully enjoyed right after the release but still has potential to get better with aging.

The vintages are exceptionaly balanced what is also backed by ratings be James Suckling, Winespectator (88-90) and others. The latest vintage 2011 already received raved reviews by Hames Suckling and  Antonio Galloni. Full fresh and juicy body, familiar power and structure of Sangiovese and with smooth and creamy finish will drink well in the next few years.

As for collectability this is typical great value “drink now” wine. We still do recommend stocking up on it as just around 10,000 cases is produces for each vintage (120,000 bottles) and sometimes it’s quite hard to be found. Even harder than Sassicaia. But for investment purposes and expected value we recomment it’s older siblings Guidalberto and Sassicaia.

Mario Incissa della Rocchetta with one wine, his first vintage wine, managed to kick off an Italian wine revolution. The first vintage of Sassiscaia was an almost instant hit which was quite unexpected considering the territory in which the vines were grown. Many would have expected that after introducing such a great wine the Tenuta San Guido would have followed up with a number of new wines in quick succession. It was not to be though. They continued producing Sassiscaia as their only wine for 33 years before Guaidalberto came on the scene. Mario’s son Nicolo was the man behind this new wine.

The Birth of Guidalberto Wine

Guidalberto has distinct differences from Sassicaia. It is composed of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot and 10% Sangiovese which results in a wine that is definitely lighter. This also means that Guidalberto takes less time to age.

The first vintage of Guidalberto to ever be released was the 2000 vintage developed by Nicoló Incisa della Rocchetta and his stepson Sebastiano Rosa who was also a winemaker. The label is based on San Guido Chapel in Bolgheri. A freshly planted vineyard was set aside for the creation of this wine which was named in honor of Guidalberto della Gherardesca a maternal ancestor of Incisa. Although the conception of the wine was much different from that of Sassicaia there are similarities especially since the soil and climate where the vines are grown are the same.

The Merlot, Sangiovese and up to 50% of the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are grown on acres of vines. Amazingly the Incisa admits that Merlot was never planted on the estate until the mid 1990s and only then because of the idea to create the second wine. The other 50% of Cabernet Sauvignon fruit comes directly from the vines that are used in the production of Sassicaia. The result is a wine that has good balance between the sweet black and fruity character of the Merlot and the vanilla, spice and cedar aromas. The hint of these aromas on the nose all get better with time and the same applies to the fruitiness of the Sangiovese which provides a deliciously sharp contrast to the austerity provided by the Cabernet.

Price

The average price of the bottle of Guidalberto is approximately US $45 and older vintages are mostly sold out at most online stores with good reason. If you are prepared to purchase a few bottles at a time you can purchase the wine in lots and save by bidding at wine auctions online. The average price varies from $24-$35 when you purchase through auctions. Of course if you happen to visit the Tenuta San Guido estate you can get a bottle of wine there for about the same price you will pay at an auction with less hassle.

Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator have both rated the 2009 vintage at 92+ and 90 respectively. Other vintages have also been given rave reviews, especially 2006 and 2007. For instance Wine Advocate called the 2006 vintage a showstopper! Pair the wine with any grilled or roasted meat or fowl. The wine is such a bold wine that the flavors stand up well to almost any type of gravy. For the price it is definitely an investment that will delight your taste bud. Enjoy the wine now or leave it to age 5-7 years and get the most of the intense flavors.

Production Process

Fermentation with maceration takes 15 days for Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and 12 days for Sangiovese. These varieties are vinified separately and then blended. The maturation period is fifteen months in French oak barriques and small percentage in American oak. The wine is held for another 3 months in bottles before being released.

Guidalberto at Present

This wine is also called “little brother” or “younger brother” to the winery’s famous wine Sassicaia. It presents an excellent value and can be enjoyed at its best immediately or over next few years. What isn’t the case with Sassicaia as it will usually be at it’s bets after more than 10 years. So not only is this wine just 1/4 of the price of it’s older brother but it will also save storage costs.

The body of the wine is medium with fruity motes, silky mouthfeel, excellent tannic structure and mouthwatering acidity and long finish. After some time it opens up even more so decanting is welcomed. The first vintage 2000 yelded 5,000 cases. The 2008 vintage 15,000 cases and the production doubled since and it is expected to rise. So investment wise are the older vintages better choice.

Overall this wine is really excellent value for those who would like to try Super Tuscan wine at its best right now. If you want to stock up and invest in wine look to it’s older brother, even that at current price it would be good investment. For immediate enjoynment Guidalberto is an excellent match.

As one of Italy’s most famous wines Sassicaia was first available on the commercial market in 1968. Since the very first bottle was sold back then today almost forty years later the wine stands today as Italy’s testament to the world of its ability to produce fine wine.

Birth of Sassicaia Wine

Sassicaia’s birth can be attributed to two chance meetings. The first is that of the meeting of the minds of Mario Incisa della Rocchetta with winemaker Giacomo Tachis who then brought together Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon to form Sassicaia as we know it today.

What those two winemakers would have considered as ordinary encounter many years ago has changed dramatically the world of wine making. The result of their vision and creativity is a wine that has achieved world recognition. It was always Incisa della Rocchetta’s dream to create a quality wine that would be genuinely distinct. Once he settled in Tenuta San Guido he began experimenting with a number of grape varieties until he came up with the Sassicaia blend that up to today is a well respected wine. Sassicaia is composed of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc.

Before Incisa della Rocchetta no one would have imagined that a Bordeaux style wine could be produced in Italy. It was even less imaginable that it could be done in a territory that had no real success in wine making. The conditions for growing vine were just not right in that area. Marquis followed his intuition based on similarities that he saw in that part of Tuscany and Graves in Bordeaux. Graves had the same rocky terrain as the estate in Tuscany and Marquis’ intuition proved to be right on.

He went on to make the wine in small batches for his family’s consumption until he met Giacomo Tachis who was a chief winemaker. They came together and created ’65 ’66 and ’67 blends. When Sassicaia was sold on the market it rose to almost instant success and received several awards since then. It became the first Italian wine that could stand up in comparison to Bordeaux Premiers Crus and is the wine responsible for the birth of Super Tuscan wines that emerged on the market in the last two decades.

Sassicaia was at its birth classified as vino da tavola (table wine) but the excellent quality of the wine prompted wine authorities to create a unique denomination for it and today it stands as Bolgheri-Sassicaia, the only wine in Italy to carry its own appellation.

How is Sassicaia Produced

The first phase fermentation lasts approximately 15 days in steel vats. Combination of pumping over the cap and “delestage” is used. Sassicaia wine is then aged for 24 months in French oak barrique barrels. And before the release wine is aged for 6 months in bottle.

Sassicaia at Present

Bolgheri Sassicaia wines are expensive and the cost depends a lot on the vintage. High demand, long aging along with the fact that availability is exclusive has also pushed the price up. You can expect to pay thousands of dollars for ’75 and ’88 vintages and even productions that are more recent can cost a few hundred dollars a bottle. Rival companies have attempted to publish their less than favorable feelings against the wine but this also increased demand for the product, something that I am sure that they didn’t anticipate.

It is sad to say that very few will ever have the opportunity to sample this wine but those they do truly remark that it was an experience that they certainly enjoyed. Many collectors purchase current vintages as an investment knowing full well if the past is any indication of future trends that the cost will go way up in the next few years. By purchasing bottles now and selling later many of them would more than triple their investments.  Still there are many wine lovers who purchase a bottle for thousands of dollars just because they love the wine.

Just because you may not be able to splurge on a bottle of Sassicaia does not mean that you cannot enjoy great wines from this very same estate. Guidalberto is another wine that is manufactured by Tenuta San Guido in response to the need for a wine that was not only less expensive but one that required less aging than Sassicaia. This wine does not have the depth of Sassicaia but it surprisingly light and vivacious. The other wine from this estate is Le Difese which is a cabernet/sangiovese which is also a great wine. Both wines receive the same attention to detail that goes into Sassicaia but can be purchased for less than $50 a bottle.

The best prices for Sassicaia can obviously be had directly from the manufacturer and if you’re lucky you might be able to get in a little wine tasting while you’re there. If travel to Italy is not in the cards for you then you can purchase through a broker or online where there are many comparison sites detailing where you can get the best price.