Tenuta San Guido is famed for its legendary wine, Sassicaia, yet Guidalberto, their second wine, is one of the best red wines under £25 (VAT and duty paid) in the world. In turn, their third wine Le Difese is incontrovertibly one of the finest wines one can buy for £15 a bottle. These wines release a year before Sassicaia and are perennially two of our best-sellers. As such we are delighted to be able to offer Guialberto and Difese 2012. James Suckling has just published his tasting notes for Tenuta San Guido and this year Guidalberto has been awarded a staggering 93 points, its highest ever score and amazingly just one point less than Sassicaia, yet at 20% of the price. Moreover Suckling has awarded Le Difese 92 points, its highest ever score, offering extraordinary value vs quality. These wines also exhibit incredible price vs points ratios, with 11 and 19 respectively; Le Difese in particular has one of the lowest we have ever seen. These wines are not to be missed.
The 2012 Bolgheri Vintage
Tuscan weather conditions in 2012 were favourable but distinctive: characterised by a long, cold, yet largely rainless autumn and winter; with snow still covering the Bolgheri hills at the end of January. These cold conditions were beneficial, slowing vegetative growth and eliminating vine pests. May was warm, accelerating the arrival of the summer, which was hot and above seasonal averages, leading many to liken 2012 to 2003. However the main difference was the diurnal changes, preventing the water stress experienced in 2003. The summer was long and very warm, resulting in an early harvest of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Harvest coincided with the end of September for Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and the first week of October for Sangiovese. The grapes were picked at peak condition, with very advanced phenolic ripeness, yet maintained good acidity and moderate alcohol. It is noteworthy that sea breezes during fruit set reduced production by 10%, while a slight decrease in grape size reduced the vintage by a further 10%. All this means that the grapes were harvested healthily and with wonderful maturity, but with reduction in production of over 20%, meaning it is a lovely vintage, but with less available.
Guidalberto 2012, 6×75 – £125 IB – 93pts James Suckling
Guidalberto’s grapes are grown in the vineyards of Sassicaia, by their winemakers and it embodies Sassicaia’s majesty. In fact in most vintages about 20% of the wine consists of declassified barrels of Sassicaia. We have tasted every vintage since 2006 and each wine is precise, powerfully aromatic with wonderful fruit density, opulence yet despite this force it remains elegant and balanced.
The name Guidalberto, introduced in 2000, was inspired by the current proprietor’s great great great grandfather, Guidalberto della Gheradesca. The wine was created for two reasons; the Estate’s desire to accomplish something with Merlot (a grape that they do not use in Sassicaia) and to create a wine which could be enjoyed younger than their ‘veteran Sassicaia’.
Guidalberto is aged for 15 months in French oak barriques, with a small element of American oak and then three months in bottle before being released onto the market. Guidalberto’s blend is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. Sassicaia’s is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc but aged for 24 months in French barrique and six months in bottle.
James Suckling, 93 points
Aromas of blackberry and blueberry, with hints of wet earth and spices such as cloves. Full body with round, chewy tannins but polished and caressing. A juicy, succulent finish. One of the best ever. Drink or hold.
Le Difese 2012, 6×75 – £66 IB – 92pts James Suckling
Le Difese Tenuta San Guido is the superb third wine of Sassicaia and fashioned in it’s image; grown in the same Estate but heralding from younger vine plots or grapes that did not make the Grand Vin blend. Le Difese contains 30% Sangiovese taken from plots the Estate is experimenting with. They therefore, take advantage of the great terroir and climate of Bolgheri and the exceptional technology and winemaking techniques of the Estate.
Fruit for Le Difese is selected from Tenuta San Guido’s younger vines, many of which will one day be used to make Sassicaia. The blend is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Sangiovese, a powerful heady mix which combines the pedigree of Sassicaia’s Cabernet Sauvignon with lovely plots of Sangiovese. The vineyard plots are planted in soils with different morphological characteristics and they have a strong presence of limestone. The vineyard is rich in clay and rocks and located from 80 to 300 metres above sea level, facing east and south east.
Le Difese benefits from all the aspects that make Sassicaia great, it is just a younger less intense version. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel vats and maceration lasts for 12 days for both varietals. The wine is then aged for 12 months in French and American oak barrique, again using some barrels previously used for Sassicaia, and then a further three months in bottle. The result is extraordinary given its £15.60 all-inclusive price tag. It displays succulent blackberry, bilberry and cassis, however it is clearly the sibling of Sassicaia, displaying its tell-tale leather, tobacco, smoke, delightful dried cherry and earthiness. This is a super-ripe wine, with notes of eucalyptus and mint chocolate. Tasted blind this would make a fool of most tasters.
James Suckling, 92 points
Subtle ripe aromas of dried berries, spices and cedar follow through to a full body with pretty tannins and a juicy finish. Tight now. One of the best second wines of Sassicaia. Try in 2016.
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