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A great Italian wine comes to India

The family ambassador of the Italian Tenuta San Guido estate on making their wines available for retail in India for the first time

Tenuta San Guido wines. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint
Tenuta San Guido wines. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

Though she grew up around a winery, Priscilla Incisa della Rocchetta wasn’t actively involved with her family’s legendary wine-making operations at Tenuta San Guido—a 190-acre Italian estate known for its “Super Tuscan" wines in Bolgheri, Italy—till well after her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art history at University College London. Her first real education in and exposure to her family’s business came when she came back to Bolgheri for a year-long internship.

It was originally her grandfather, Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, who’d started making wines for family and friends. Noting the similarity in terrain between Bordeaux, France, and the Tuscan landscape, he experimented with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes for the estate’s “thoroughbred" wine, though the regional grape of choice was the Sangiovese. It was only when Priscilla’s father, Nicolò Incisa della Rocchetta, who currently manages the estate, released their 1968 vintage—made two years after her grandfather’s death—for commercial consumption in 1971, that Tenuta San Guido become a name to reckon with in the world of wines. “He never actually could see the big success that it became," says Rocchetta of her grandfather. Today, the Sassicaia (85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc) is the only single-estate wine to be granted a Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC, a quality assurance label) in Italy.

Edited excerpts from an interview.

What’s it like growing up in a family that makes wines?

During my year-long internship (at Tenuta San Guido), I would shadow the agronomist to observe the different stages of wine making in the vineyards and at the winery. As a child, I used to go during harvest season to see what is going on and understand it. I do this with my children now and my cousins (do it) with their children too. Because it’s like this (that we ought) to start them off, when they’re young.

This is your first visit to India though your wines have been available here for some time.

Yes, but this is the first time that our wines will be available for retail. (India) is not yet a market that’s big in terms of volume for us, but it definitely looks like its picking up fast. But it isn’t like Tenuta San Guido produces a lot of wine. We make a limited production but we are interested in expanding here. I’m still not sure though as to how red wines work with Indian cuisine! Red wines and hot spices aren’t exactly the best thing (together).

Tell us how Sassicaia, which you said is inspired by the Bordeaux wines, is different from them.

Terrain influences wine and gives it identity. Sure, connoisseurs will recognize that it’s a Cabernet, but it’s not exactly the same, because the geography is different from that in Bordeaux. Its warmer, it’s hotter, and the vegetation that we have here, like juniper and rosemary, is a bit spicy and this adds to and influences the taste of our wines. The soil too, it’s very mineral and full of iron and stone. In fact “Sassicaia" literally translates to “stony ground".

We are close to the sea like in Bordeaux, but that’s all.

Tenuta San Guido’s Sassicaia is available for retail sale only at La Cave, Select CityWalk, New Delhi, for Rs35,000 a bottle.

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