Bolgheri: Tuscany's secret wine area.
Where is Bolgheri?
Bolgheri is a small town on the Tuscan coast south of Pisa and Livorno (Leghorn to the British) and close to the small village of "La California". Further to the south is the Golfo di Baratti, a beautiful small bay with a famous Etruscan necropoli nearby - as well as Piombino, the port for ferries to Elba. Other villages nearby are Campiglia Marittima, Castagneto Carducci and San Vincenzo.
What is Bolgheri wine?
Today Bolgheri is synonymous with Sassicaia, a full bodied wine that has more similarities with Claret than with Chianti. Sassicaia was the first of the new Tuscan wines that would eventually become known as the Super Tuscan wines - but until a few decades ago nobody had heard of Bolgheri or of Sassicaia; the area was largely marshy and most of the wine production was fairly non-descript.
The story starts around 1948, when the Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta inherited an estate close to Bolgheri; the wine that was being made in the region was light, unimpressive red from predominantly Sangiovese grapes. Mario wanted to make a more full-bodied red, closer to Bordeaux than to Chianti - so he visited his friends at Mouton Rothschild for advice and to investigate the secret of a good Claret. Upon his return he decided to cast aside strong Tuscan traditions and planted Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on higher, rocky land (hence "Sassicaia" - stony field as the wine's name). All of this happened in the late forties; for the next twenty years the Marquis drank the wine en-famille, refined his processes and enlisted the help of Giacomo Tachis, a renowned oenologist.
The first commercial vintage was in 1968 and immediately the wine was noticed for its body and structure - but it was a famous international blind tasting that really brought "Sassicaia wine" to the public's attention. In 1978 Decanter magazine organised a "Great Clarets competition in which the 1972 "Sassicaia" beat 33 wines from 11 countries to win first prize. Then Robert Parker gave the 1985 Sassicaia vintage an amazing 100 point review, putting Mario's wine firmly among the greats. Today Sassicaia has its own DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) status - not just as Bolgheri but as DOC Bolgheri Sassicaia
Tenuta San Guido
The home of the famous original Super Tuscan doesn't sell wine directly, nor do they organise wine tours. A pity, but there you have it.
You can, however, buy Sassicaia wine from Armit Wines including the other two excellent wines that Mario's son, Nicoló, has developed: "Le Difese" and "Guidalberto".
There are other fabulous "Super Tuscan wine" producers in the area that you can visit - here are our 5 favourites, starting with the delicious Ornellaia wine:
Località Ornellaia, 191, 57022 Bolgheri LI, Italy
GPS: 43.211526, 10.611459
Loc. I Mulini di Segalari - Felciaino 115/a - 57022 Castagneto C.cci
GPS: 43.173292, 10.626825
Località Segalari, 102, 57022 Castagneto Carducci (Li)
GPS: 43.166543, 10.618611
Loc lo Scopaio 212 57022 Castagneto Carducci (Li)
GPS: 43.189002, 10.602667
Localita' Sughericcio, Via Fornacelle 249, 57022, Castagneto Carducci (LI)
GPS: 43.172825, 10.604316
For a list of all the Super Tuscan Wines producers in the area, the Bolgheri consortium of wine producers has a handy map that you can download here: Map of Bolgheri Super Tuscan wine vineyards
How to go winetasting Super Tuscan wines
Generally, if you're managing your wine tour yourself, you will need to telephone the day before to book your tours. Some Super Tuscan estates get very busy so check their websites (listed above) to check their recommendations. Lengths of visits and tours vary, from about an hour and around 10 to 15 euro per person to full blown cellar tours and lunches, with costs going into the hundreds of euro. Conversely, some of the smaller places will not charge you in the hope you will be buying some wine at the end of your visit. If you’re paying for a wine tasting, you aren’t obliged to buy. But if the winery is doing a small tasting just for you, they’re hoping you’ll buy a bottle or two.
Where to stay close to Bolgheri
We have three villas near Bolgheri, perfect for a wine-tasting holiday - or even just a relaxing family holiday within a stone's throw of some of the best wine in the world.
Campiglia Marittima, south of Bolgheri
A family villa for 8 with a Private Pool and views of the Mediterranean.
Pomaia, north of Bolgheri
A luxury villa with pergola, pool and a sea view.
Collesalvetti, north of Bolgheri
Elegant villa for 8 with private pool