Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, of the Italian winery Tenuta San Guido, was the inspiration behind the “Super Tuscan”. Not officially recognized by Italian wine law, these wines emerged in the 1970s as a result of restrictive wine laws, and decreased quality of and demand for Chianti.
By the late 1960s, Chianti was suffering from overproduction, poorly situated vineyards, sub-par varietal clones, and over-dilution with white grapes. Not wanting their wines to only be purchased for their straw-covered bottles, some producers thought they could do better by ignoring the wine laws. Instead of the traditional Sangiovese-Canaiolo-Malvasia-Trebbiano blend, producers began experimenting with Cabernet Sauvignon and other varieties.
Incisa della Rocchetta made Cabernet Sauvignon from vines sourced from Château Lafite in Bordeaux and aged his wine in French-oak barriques, as opposed to the old, large-format Slavonian oak, which was common at the time. He called it Sassicaia, dialect for place of stones, and his production was tiny. Fortunately, his cousin Piero Antinori (the head of another centuries-old winemaking family) got wind of what Mario was up to and created Tignanello, the first well-known “non-Chianti Chianti” (thanks, Karen MacNeil).
Piero’s younger brother, Lodovico Antinori, went on to make Ornellaia, sourced from grapes planted right next to the ones used in Sassicaia. Many other producers have since followed suit. To this day, these three Super Tuscans are rich, juicy, incredibly sought-after, and go to show what can happen when you combine the right grapes with the right site.