Like other Northern Italian producers of world renowned wines, the Incisa della Rocchetta family traces its lineage back dozens of generations to forefathers who helped govern Northern Italy during the Renaissance. The family has always had estates in Bolgheri, Tuscany, but until the 1960s the wines they produced were consumed entirely on the estate. That changed in 1968 when Mario Incisa della Rocchetta released a commercial vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon called Sassicaia, which means “stony ground.” Made of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc, Sassicaia is today one of Italy’s most successful wines. The estate, now run by Marchese Nicolo Incisa della Rocchetta, is credited with helping fuel the great improvements in Italian winemaking in recent decades.
Tuscany, or Toscana in Italian, is Italy’s best-known wine region and its most diverse. Historically Sangiovese was the primary grape grown in Tuscany and Chianti was considered the purest expression of Sangiovese. Sangiovese and its many clones are still important, and they are the grapes used for the Tuscan appellations of Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Morellino di Scansano, Chianti, Chianti Classico and Carmignano. But in the last 50 years innovative producers, many of them in southwestern Tuscany in the area called Maremma, have also planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. The tradition defying producers have blended those varietals with Sangiovese to produce dazzling wines that do not conform to Italy’s appellation regulations. Such wines are called Super Tuscans and cannot be labeled with either of Italy’s highest level quality designations, which are in order of status Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantia, (DOCG), and Denominazione di Origine Controllata, (DOC). (This has not at all hindered the demand for Super Tuscans, some of which are consistently among the world’s most admired and well-reviewed wines.) Tuscany has six DOCG appellations and thirty-four DOCs. Though famous for its red wines, Tuscany also produces whites made primarily from Trebbiano and Vernaccia.
There are also many Tuscan Indicazione Geographica Tipica (IGT) wines that are often an innovative blend of traditional and non-traditional grapes. This relatively new appellation status was started in 1992 as an attempt to give an official classification to Italy’s many newer blends that do fit the strict requirements of DOC and DOCG classifications. IGT wines may use the name of the region and varietal on their label or in their name.