The famous Tenuta San Guido at Bolgheri on the Tuscan coast which produces Sassicaia has launched an earlier-maturing, less expensive stablemate for this fine Cabernet.
Guidalberto is named after an early 19th century ancestor (by marriage presumably) of Tenuta San Guido's owner Niccolo Incisa della Rocchetta who pioneered viticulture in this area. The first vintage 2000 is made from young vines planted by his Zileri cousins on a neighbouring property: 40 per cent Merlot, 40 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and 20 per cent Sangiovese. (Sassicaia has never contained either Merlot or Sangiovese.)
The wine, which I marked 17/20 and thought should ideally be drunk between 2004 and 2010, is deep crimson though with a little evolution at the rim already. Obviously made from extremely ripe fruit, it's full bodied and rather soft with a spicy nose. It hasn't the definition of Sassicaia (it's aged for just a year in oak) but I could imagine choosing it from a restaurant wine list in a few years' time - if I'm allowed to, as only 5000 cases were made. The vineyard will double its present 10 hectare (25 acre) size.
By comparison, Angelo Gaja of Barbaresco's new vineyard in Bolgheri is vast, at 60 hectares (150 acres) although his first vintage of Magari - also 2000 - from very young vines has produced just 6500 cases. The vines were planted in 1996, the winery begun two years later. This first wine, to be released this autumn, is made up of 50 per cent Merlot with the rest split evenly between Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Again, like the Guidalberto, it is extremely ripe, possibly just a shade too ripe for my tastes or for great longevity, although there is surprsing harmony on the palate even at this early stage for such a young wine. The undertow is almost tarry, it's so intense. I ended up scoring it 17/20 and my hunch is that it will be ready to drink a little sooner than Guidalberto, from next year.
The first wine to emerge from Gaja's Bolgheri estate Ca'Marcanda was Promis, a really young-vine cuvée. I was just about to write that I was sure he was plotting a top wine in tiny quantity when I re-read my notes and see that yes indeed, we can expect Ca'Marcanda, designed for a very long life with the proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon, grown on the best 'white' soils of Bolgheri, increased to 40 per cent.
And there's news just in of yet another new joint venture here involving Piero Antinori yet again. This time it's with a family named Frattini, Tuscan textile magnates and producers of Rifle jeans. The operation is situated between Donoratico and San Vincenzo, two towns on the coast in the province of Livorno just 10 km south of Bolgheri. Fifteen hectares should be in production this autumn, but the total is due to rise to 55 or so. There will be both Cabernets, Merlot, some Syrah and Petit Verdot which, while not officially recognised in this area, is apparently increasingly widely planted. The first vintages will be fermented in the Antinori cellars in Bolgheri (once named Belvedere, now Guado al Tasso) and the wine will presumably be released as an IGT, given that the vineyards straddle DOC and non-DOC areas.
Watch this space.