I'm going through the CIA textbook Exploring Wines - a fairly venerable book 'round these parts even if it is getting a bit dated at 10 years old. I read today that Rocchetta took cuttings from Lafite Rothschild to make Sassicaia. I've heard this a bunch of times i.e. a Decanter article from 2015. However, Tenuta San Guido's own website says they came from a 50 year old vineyard near Pisa.
What gives? Can anyone tell me the story? Did the good Marchese spread rumors in order to sell his wine? Did customers hear that he was inspired by Bordeaux and sort of fill in some gaps erroneously? Wikipedia says the son Nicolo came clean in 2009. I'd just like to hear the back story.
I'm considering adding this to my list of "wine's biggest falsehoods" right behind sulfites cause headaches and they don't use chemicals in France.
I've certainly heard often that the cuttings came from Lafite. However, to date I cannot find any actual text that verifies it, and therefore omitted it from the profile. There are accounts that Mario Incisa della Rochetta spent some time at Mouton prior to WWII as the ambition to create a Bordeaux-style wine was already within him.
We like to think about the romantic way a producer might take cuttings from a great vineyard, and plant them in another part of the world. The Bordeaux vineyard post Phylloxera has never been about vine age. Today, the average age of the vines that produce Lafite's Grand Vin is 39 years old. They may have their own selection massale that is then grafted onto root stocks for replanting, but that would need to be confirmed with the estate.
Remember that phylloxera would have rendered Lafite replanted no longer than 50 years prior. That is not much time for vine material that was used to replant all of bordeaux to create a selection that would be so unique to Lafite that it would be worth mentioning. The only way that could be special is if Lafite had some type of time capsule that allowed them to preserve pre-phylloxera cuttings that were a part of a few century-old vineyard.
For teaching purposes, I think rather than adding this to a list of falsehoods it's a lesson in discerning the difference between artifact for artifact's sake, and what really makes a wine like Sassicaia special.
But wouldn’t a cutting from Lafite still be from Lafite? I don’t think Bordeaux was replanted all off one single clone, there had to still be some variation vineyard to vineyard after the blight.
That's a very interesting take on the topic that I had not considered. Basically you're saying the math doesn't work out. If you count back the years, at the time Rochetta was planting Sassicaia, the vines at Lafite would not have been interesting enough to get much attention. Thank you very much.