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.
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.
Here are our favourite Super Tuscan wine producers
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
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.
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.
Guardistallo, north of Bolgheri
A luxury villa with pergola, pool and a sea view.
Collesalvetti, north of Bolgheri
Elegant villa for 8 with private pool
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
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".
“It was luck,” according to Axel Heinz, the winemaker at Ornellaia, that accounted for the extraordinarily rapid ascent of Ornellaia in the eyes of the world. “It was lucky that Mario Incisa della Rocchetta [owner of Sassicaia] planted Bordeaux varieties when [in the 1940s] and where he did [Bolgheri]. Remember, there were no consultants or elaborate soil testing back then to help determine what to plant and where to plant it.” But the story of Ornellaia’s success is far more than luck. There’s good ol’ fashioned sibling rivalry, a clear vision and extraordinary attention to detail.
Località Ornellaia, 191, 57022 Bolgheri LI, Italy
Mulini di Segalari
The estate's 2.3 hectares of vineyard are set on the foothills of the 'metal hills', at 90 meters of altitude and facing south-west. It is an unspoilt and wild place interspersed with woods of evergreen oaks woods and enlivened by the dynamic energy of the river that flows along the estate.
Loc. I Mulini di Segalari - Felciaino 115/a - 57022 Castagneto C.cci
In a corner of Tuscany on the Etruscan Coast the medieval village of Castagneto Carducci stands on a hilltop overlooking the surrounding countryside and the sea. A vineyard with forty years of history is tangible proof of a tradition handed down over time, founded on old varieties of Sangiovese, Ciliegiolo Foglia Tonda and Pugnitello, which had virtually disappeared from local winemaking, are now the object of careful recovery and enhancement in order to express their potential quality.
Località Segalari, 102, 57022 Castagneto Carducci (Li)
Podere Sapaio was born in 1999, after Massimo Piccin convinced his family to help him invest in the prized terroir of Bolgheri, creating a wine estate in what is one of Italy’s most famed viticultural areas. A native of Veneto, Massimo always felt a deep passion for wine and wanted to direct this passion towards his own high quality wine project.
At that time it consisted of only 10 hectares of land adjoining an old farmhouse in Castagneto Carducci. The following year, he immediately began his adventure in planting vineyards. Podere Sapaio now covers an area of 40 hectares, 25 of which are vineyards planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot, varieties that have made Bolgheri and its wines famous all over the world.
Loc lo Scopaio 212 57022 Castagneto Carducci (Li)
Campo alle Comete
Paul Howard says in Winealchemy:
The wines of the Bolgheri region, down on the Tuscan coast, excite me in a way few others can. Bolgheri has become a magnet for wine investment, and many famous Italian wine producers have expanded into the area. Bolgheri is primarily Bordeaux-blend land, where the Reds achieve a rare intensity and Sangiovese plays only a minor role, if at all. The quality of the top wines means they are now international superstars with prices to match.
Localita' Sughericcio, Via Fornacelle 249, 57022, Castagneto Carducci (LI)
Mulini di Segalari
Castellaccio super Tuscan
Podere Sapaio Super Tuscan
Campo alle Comete Super Tuscan