The SOMM Journal

February / March 2016

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112 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } FEBRUARY/MARCH 2016 EXPLORING BOLGHERI, THE TUSCAN VILLAGE WITH AN ARISTOCRATIC WINE HERITAGE by David Vogels, CWP UNTIL THE MID-20TH CENTURY, THE MAREMMA—THE SOUTHWEST COAST of Tuscany—was best known as a malarial swamp and a hideout for cowboy bandits. Not exactly a catchy advertisement for the chamber of commerce. Inhabitants lived and farmed on higher ground to avoid the deadly disease. Most everyone else passed through on the ancient Via Aurelia from Rome to Provence—a road that still divides the region between the Tyrrhenian seaside and the Colline Metallifere, the iron-laced "metal-bearing hills." Although vines were grown as early as the Etruscan era, modern drainage efforts did not begin until the first half of the 18th century. In the little village of Bolgheri, on the northern edge of the Maremma, the ruling counts of the della Gherardesca family were able to grow both Italian and French grape varieties for local use. Finally, in the 1930s, Mussolini's government hauled in tons of sand to fill in the swampland and make the terrain more arable. Two weddings then changed the course of wine history, turning Bolgheri into what it remains today: a nexus of Italy's most powerful wine dynasties. In 1930, Clarice della Gherardesca married Mario Incisa della Rocchetta; two years later, her sister Carlotta wed Niccolò Antinori. For their dowries, they divided a huge family property just south of Bolgheri. Antinori, representing the 24th generation of the Florentine marchesi, planted 50 acres of vines stretching toward the coast, initially producing rustic, dry whites based on Vermentino and light rosés from Sangiovese. Incisa, a Piedmontese nobleman who owned fast horses and cars and loved French wine, decided to plant Cabernet Sauvignon on the rocky slopes around his hillside estate. Using French winemaking techniques and small barriques, he produced the first bottling of Sassicaia (meaning "stony ground") in 1964. It took both families to develop the first Italian cult wine. Antinori lent his expertise and his legendary winemaker, Giacomo Tachis, to Incisa to commercialize Sassicaia; 1968 was the first vintage released to the market. Since Bordeaux varieties could not be classified under existing denominational regulations, the wine had to be bottled as Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) Toscana—hence, the birth of the "Super Tuscan." Seeing its immediate suc- cess, Antinori's sons entered the picture, Lodovico founding Ornellaia in 1984 and Piero renaming the existing Antinori estate as Guado al Tasso in 1990. A consorzio was formed to govern the Bolgheri Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) in 1995, with special recognition given to the region's pioneering Sassicaia plantings: Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC remains the world's only non-contiguous monopole. A Band Apart PHOTO: CINDY CANE PHOTO: CINDY CANE Winemaker Marco Ferrarese of Guado al Tasso. Winemaker Elena Pozzolini of Sette Cieli. Vineyards in Bolgheri in the Tuscan Maremma, with the island of Elba in the distance.

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