Nick Passmore: Wine of the Week

Sassicaia's Baby Brother


The other evening I arranged one of the periodic wine dinners I put together for corporate clients, this one a New York investment bank at which it entertained about 35 guests.

The evening featured the wines of Tenuta San Guido, the Tuscan estate that in 1968 released the first Super Tuscan wine, Sassicaia, and followed up this triumph with a second label, Guidalberto, in 2000. Yes, things do move at a different pace in Italy.

We were lucky to have with us for the evening a man who goes by the impressive name of Marchese Piero Incisa della Rocchetta. As well as being the American representative of his family's wine interests, he is the grandson of the originator of Sassicaia, Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, and he charmed the guests with his low-key and amusing account of the origins of his family's two famous wines.

Sassicaia was, of course, the star of the evening, but the two vintages served, the 2006 and 2000, demonstrate the one problem with this celebrity vino: At this point, even the 2000, while a lovely wine, was still far from its peak. The trouble is that Sassicaia was originally conceived for Mario Incisa's personal consumption, and is designed for long, long aging. It's also, at $200, not exactly your everyday wine.

Fresh and VivaciousHence we come to Guidalberto. Realizing that many people were drinking Sassicaia far too young, the Incisas decided to develop a more accessible, and less expensive, alternative, and hence was born Guidalberto, Sassicaia's extremely precocious younger brother.

Crafted to be drinkable sooner than Sassicaia, the Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto 2004 ($50), doesn't have the weight or depth of its predecessor, but it does show a delightful freshness and vivacity. Deep purple in color, it has a finely hued structure, beautiful balance, and powerful dark berry fruit aromas.

While at $50 this is still not exactly an everday wine either, but it is one to drink while you wait the decades for Sassicaia to reach its prime.

To find this wine near you, try www.wine-searcher.com

WOW Rating:

When to Drink: Now, and for the next 5 years.

Breathing/Decanting: One decanting really helps.

Food Pairing: Red meats, hearty chicken, meaty pasta.

Grapes: 45% cabernet sauvignon, 45% merlot, 10% sangiovese.

Appellation: Toscana

Region: Tuscany

Country: Italy

Price: $50

Availability: Moderate

Web Site: www.sassicaia.com

See more wines at www.nickonwine.com.

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Nick_passmore
Nick Passmore is an independent wine writer and consultant based in New York. For five years he contributed a widely read monthly wine column to Forbes.com, in addition to which his work has appeared in such publications as Forbes, Discover, Town & Country, the Robb Report, Wine Enthusiast, Saveur, Sky, and Golf Connoisseur. He is currently artisanal editor for Four Seasons magazine and contributes a twice monthly column to BusinessWeek.com. He is also a judge at the annual Critics’ Challenge wine competition.

Steve Ballmer, Power Forward
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