The Italian Way

The winemaking region of Bolgheri has much home-grown talent to thank for its successes in the past half-century. But first, it must thank the Etruscans, who first drained the marshland that forms today some of Tuscany’s finest vineyards, and may even have planted vines there themselves. Still, up until recently much of Bolgheri’s agricultural activity was arable. With help from some influential families, Bolgheri has since transformed into the birthplace of the Super Tuscan, and a global reference for high-quality winemaking.


Bolgheri’s story begins with Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, who inherited Tenuta San Guido in the 1940s. Inspired by the great Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blends of Bordeaux, he defied tradition, planting international grapes alongside the native Sangiovese. A venture that began as an experiment, offering stylistically different wines to friends and family grew quickly into the creation of Sassicaia, and commercialisation of the first Super Tuscan.

A further turning point came in 1978. A blind tasting organized by Decanter magazine pitted Sassicaia against prestigious Bordeaux wines. The six-year-old Italian underdog emerged victorious, grabbing international attention. This event, along with the tireless efforts of Marchese Mario’s son, Nicolò, cemented Bolgheri’s reputation as a producer of exceptional wines.


Following Sassicaia’s success, a new wave of producers emerged, drawn to the region’s mosaic terroir (mirroring the various soil-types typically found across both banks in Bordeaux). Lodovico Antinori, of the famed Antinori family, established Ornellaia in 1981. Ornellaia, along with other estates like Grattamacco, embraced the Super Tuscan style, crafting full-bodied reds that rivaled the best of Bordeaux.

The quest for quality wasn’t just about grape varieties. The Incisa della Rocchetta family championed sustainable practices at Tenuta San Guido – a philosophy adopted by many in the region. In 1983, Bolgheri received its DOC designation, followed by specific regulations for red wines in 1994 (as previously the DOC had related only to white wines). This focus on quality control further solidified Bolgheri’s position on the world wine map.


Today, Bolgheri is synonymous with elegance and power, boasting a constellation of exceptional estates. It must be said that the region’s visionaries certainly arrived in the right place at the right time. The past 40 years have been so packed with technological advances in winemaking, that Bolgheri has managed to make up for lost time, and match the quality of top Bordeaux. The vision of Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, along with the dedication of families like Antinori, has remodeled a humble wine region as a global icon, forever etching Bolgheri’s name in the history of fine wine.