2020 Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia Bolgheri

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Style: Red

Grape Variety: Red Blend

Country: Italy

Region: Tuscany

Subregion:

Bin Location: 5300, 2900 A


97pts Antonio Galloni, Vinous

The 2020 Sassicaia is a bold, rapturous wine. Dark, fleshy and expansive on the palate, the 2020 offers up scents of blackberry jam, gravel, spice, new leather, licorice and crème de cassis. Potent tannins are nearly buried by the sheer intensity of the fruit. Sassicaia is never a huge wine, the 2020 does seem to have an extra dimension of textural intensity. It's an intensity that is hugely appealing.

96pts Monica Larner, Wine Advocate

The Tenuta San Guido 2020 Bolgheri Sassicaia speaks to those who seek a more voluptuous, opulent and, ultimately, more accessible wine. This vintage is a precise reflection of Coastal Tuscany, as opposed to a more generic "Tuscan" wine from elsewhere in this large central Italian region. You taste the ripeness and soft fruit weight that comes from a coastal appellation with especially bright luminosity and warm Mediterranean offshore breezes. Sassicaia from the cool vintages is a famously reticent or withholding wine in its earliest years, requiring a long lead time before it eases into an ideal drinking window. That's definitely not the case here. This wine is beautiful and compelling straight out of the gate, showing a lovely mix of dark fruit, oak spice, balanced freshness, textural richness, soft tannins and an expertly contained 14% alcohol content. The wine's immediate character is what distinguishes this vintage, and I wouldn't get too fussed by exaggerated cellar-aging ambitions. The wine awards sheer pleasure in its current form, with dazzling primary fruit and soaring intensity over the near and medium term.

Estate Summary

In mid-November of last year, I drove to Bolgheri on the Tuscan Coast to visit with Priscilla Incisa della Rochetta and managing director Carlo Paoli at Tenuta San Guido. The goal that morning was to taste through various vats of wine before the final blend of the 2020 Bolgheri Sassicaia would be determined. The experience gave me a fascinating understanding of how the celebrated Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blend comes together, and it gave me the opportunity to catch up with two of the most insightful people in Italian wine. Our conversation covered many topics, but as is becoming increasingly common in today’s world, we regularly returned to the subject of climate change and its effects on winemaking today. I tasted and reviewed the final blend from bottle in early January 2023. The Tenuta San Guido 2020 Bolgheri Sassicaia will be released in the upcoming months. Our tasting focused on five vats: numbers 5, 6, 11, 29 and 33. Distinguished by harvests from various parcels across the estate (Castiglioncello, Quercione and Doccino) and the type of barrel used in aging, these are some of the favored vats that appear regularly in the final blend. In 2020, volume was down by almost 25% due to more restrictive fruit selection following a hot vintage. Vat 5 revealed a nervous personality with pronounced tannins and a mid-weight mouthfeel. Vat 6 was a little more closed initially, with a strong mineral vein and pretty freshness. Vat 11 offered a floral bouquet with rose and violet. Vat 29 was immediately open and immensely pleasurable with ample volume, sweet tannins, bigger density and length. Lastly, Vat 33 was subdued, with crisp sensations and lingering menthol notes. My favorite, Vat 29 represented the largest volume and would, therefore, constitute an important part of the blend. As you will read in my tasting note, I found the 2020 Bolgheri Sassicaia a pleasure to drink now. This is an immediate wine that won’t require the long cellaring inherent to cooler vintages like 2019 and 2016. “I think 2020 was a rather challenging vintage,” said Priscilla Incisa della Rochetta. “The role played by the territory and a lot of selection that we made at every stage of production was very important in this case.” As the climate changes, hotter vintages like 2017, 2020 and 2022 are becoming more common, said Carlo Paoli. “I remain optimistic, however, because we listen to nature and we better understand the advantages and disadvantages of working in hot years. We are much better at handling them today,” he said. There are four winemakers working in the cellars of Tenuta San Guido along with agronomists and chemists for 360-degree in-house expertise. “Nothing can be left to chance, especially as the weather changes,” he said. “Greater control works well in the hot vintages. It’s the humid years with a lot a rain that leads to bacteria and fungal disease that cause the biggest problems.” For example, the estate now employees anywhere from 40 to 100 people during harvest. That extra manpower assures better quality controls, especially in vintages that see grapes coming to ripeness all at once. “We harvest by hand and bring the grapes in crates back to the winery, where they are stored in a cold room. We also harvest earlier, starting at 5 a.m. instead of 7 a.m., to get the cooler outdoor temperatures,” he said. Starting with the 2009 vintage, they selected yeasts that perform better in warm vintages and are slower to start. Dry ice was introduced in 2015 and has been used since then. Standard maceration times range from 18 to 22 days but were shortened in 2017, which had so much natural concentration to begin with. The team limits racking to a conservative three or four times per year. The woods used at Tenuta San Guido have not changed much over the years. The estate orders 400 new barriques per year and sends back as many as 100 because Brettanomyces is more common in new barrels as the climate changes, Carlo Paoli explained. The aging regime calls for one-third each of new oak, one-year-old barrels and two-year-old barrels over a period of two years. Tonnelleries Taransaud and Seguin Moreau are used for the most part, along with Remond, Saury and Orion (from forests Allier, Tronçais and Jupilles). The 2020 vintage saw 25 months in oak. Fine-grain wood for limited oxygen transmission and medium toast (over a long seasoning time) are selected.

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