A weekend in Bolgheri: a journey through time
The abbreviation SP16d doesn’t seem very poetic on the surface, and yet it indicates one of the most famous roads in the world. Bordered for 5 kilometres by cypresses, SP16d is the avenue that leads to the Tuscan town of Bolgheri. Taking this road lined with double rows of tall and frank cypresses from San Guido, like in the famous verses by Giosuè Carducci, has an incomparable ancient literary charm. Hundreds of tourists go along the Bolgheri provincial road every day, but wine lovers know how to interrupt the poetry and the road about halfway along to turn off towards Castagneto Carducci. Here, on both sides of the road, older or more recent estates transformed into wineries spring up like trees on the roadside, and literature finds continuity in viticulture. Wineries such as Ornellaia, Le Macchiole, Grattamacco overlook the Bolgheri area, one of the most recent and sought-after Tuscan wine routes.
It was a man from Piedmont, Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, who had the insight to realise that a great wine could be made from international grapes even in the areas near to the sea; grape varieties that his great-grandfather, Leopoldo Incisa, had already studied and collected in a catalogue in the second half of the nineteenth century. In the 1930s Mario Incisa arrived in Tuscany thanks to the woman he fell in love with: Clarice della Gherardesca. They had a passion for horses in common. Great champion racehorses such as Ribot came from the stables and training grounds in Bolgheri. It was here that Mario Incisa had a bout of déjà-vu: he thought back to his great-grandfather’s studies and was attracted to the stony soils in the area (hence the name Sassicaia from the Italian “sasso” for stone), the mild climate and the sea breezes. It is here that the Marquess conceived the idea of a winning wine with a kick, just like his horses. Until the 1960s the future Sassicaia remained within the Tenuta San Guido. The first year of sale, thanks to the invaluable advice of the winemaker Giacomo Tachis, the initiative of his son Nicolò and his Antinori cousins, was in 1968.
The new chapter in the history of Italian winemaking
Tenuta San Guido is right at the start of the tree-lined avenue. It gets its name from the San Guido Oratory which starts off the dual rows of cypresses. The rows of vines, on the other hand, are mostly hidden in the scrub, because the estate extends for 13 kilometres from the sea right up to behind the hills. Out of a total of 2500 hectares, the 75 most suitable ones are dedicated to Sassicaia and have received their own DOC: Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC. Also the Antinori cousins haven’t let the opportunity to make wine in this territory slip through their fingers and Guado al Tasso, with a history that dates back to the mid-seventeenth century, has become a reference for the production of Super Tuscans. Since the end of the 1970s, other producers have followed in the steps of the indisputable success of Sassicaia. In 1977 Grattamarco was created. In 2002 the winery joined the ColleMassari group. There are 14 hectares of vineyards, under certified organic management and Grattamacco Bolgheri Rosso Superiore DOC is made from a vineyard located at 100 metres above sea level, in one of the most suitable areas in the Bolgheri region. You can visit the winery and taste the wines by booking a tour directly on the winery’s website.
The history of Ornellaia, on the other hand, started in 1981 thanks to Marquess Lodovico Antinori, it then passed into the hands of the Californian Robert Mondavi, and lastly to Frescobaldi who became the sole owners in 2005. An enchanted world opens up behind the gates on the Bolgheri road. In addition to the great reds such as Merlot di Masseto and Bolgheri Superiore Ornellaia, which have made the winery famous, the first vintage (2013) of Ornellaia Bianco went on sale in 2015, it is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. You can visit Ornellaia by booking only, choosing from a combination of tour and tasting, or tour and lunch for a minimum of 8 people.
A success that lasts over the years
Le Macchiole, a winery founded in 1983, is one of the most successful and prestigious in Bolgheri today. Cinzia Merli’s management is impeccable, just like the wines: Paleo Rosso is 100% Cabernet Franc, Messorio is 100% Merlot and Scrio is 100% Syrah, but it is impossible to classify them. To find out more about these wines join Amici del Paleo. Tours and tastings in the winery by booking.
Arriving from northern Italy in 1984, Michele Satta from Varese fell in love with these places and their potential. Supported by his wife Lucia and their 6 children, today Michele Satta always has new projects for this area. As well as the “Bolgheri” blends, also try Il Cavaliere Toscana IGT during a tour, a coastal Sangiovese.
Another Piedmontese family who arrived in Bolgheri in 1996: Gaja, after lengthy negotiations, chose Ca’ Marcanda and had an underground cellar built by Giovanni Bo, in harmony with both nature and technology, and great wines are made here: it couldn’t’ be otherwise.
Also great scholars and winemakers bet on Bolgheri, among them Attilio Scienza, professor of viticulture at the University of Milan, who created Guado al Melo together with his son Michele in 1998. The winery is under a low hill covered with olive trees, creating the best conditions for vinification and ageing of wines such as Atis, Bolgheri Superiore. It is a welcoming place and ideal for tours with children; inside there is an exhibition on the history of viticulture and a room is set aside for Attilio Scienza’s vast library.
Where to eat during your weekend in Bolgheri
– Enoteca Tognoni, a reference point for wine tourists. It is the realm of Bolgheri wines. Here, you can purchase wines, have a snack or sit down and eat and forget the time going by outside the town walls.
– Bolgheri +, in the town centre there is a young, dynamic and welcoming restaurant with reasonable prices and excellent quality. The staff are polite and love wine enthusiasts, who they willingly take round the wine cellar next door to personally choose the best bottle for your meal.
– Osteria Magona, it is in a strategic position, especially for wine tourists on bikes or motorbikes. The restaurant is along the Bolgheri road: it is a typical Tuscan farmhouse with tables outside in summer. Don’t’ forget to order a plate of “ciccia”, meat isn’t a tradition here, it’s a must!
Where to sleep
– B&B Il Chiassetto, in the historic centre of Bolgheri
– B&B Strada Giulia 16, inside the town walls of Bolgheri
– B&B Villa Le Luci, in Castagneto Carducci
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