THE SASSY SAS­SI­CAIA

India Today - - WINE - SID MATHUR The au­thor is a wine lover and di­rec­tor, Im­pre­sario En­ter­tain­ment & Hos­pi­tal­ity

There are some ‘firsts’ in life that you never for­get. It was al­most a decade ago, my un­cle had in­vited me for din­ner to the Went­worth Club, a pri­vately owned golf club in Sur­rey, UK. When he walked in, I no­ticed he was car­ry­ing a 2-bot­tle leather case, en­graved with his ini­tials, KP. As you can imag­ine, the club, be­ing 90 years old and hav­ing an ex­clu­sive mem­ber­ship pro­gramme, doesn’t re­ally have a ‘bring your own’ pol­icy. But he was no reg­u­lar mem­ber, and this was cer­tainly not a reg­u­lar bot­tle of wine as I soon dis­cov­ered.

He told the man­ager, whilst ad­just­ing his cra­vat, “I apol­o­gise, but this is ac­tu­ally your fault. There isn’t bot­tle of wine in your cel­lar that I would en­joy. Here are two bot­tles, one for us to have with din­ner, and one for you.” Mo­ments later the bot­tle ap­peared on

LIT­ER­ALLY TRANS­LATED, SAS­SI­CAIA MEANS PLACE OF MANY STONES AND REFERS TO THE GRAVEL-LIKE SOIL AT THE ES­TATES IN BOL­GHERI TUS­CANY, ITALY

our ta­ble, along with a de­canter. It was a 1998 Sas­si­caia. The first I had heard of this la­bel but def­i­nitely not the last.

Lit­er­ally trans­lated, Sas­si­caia means ‘place of many stones’ and refers to the gravel like soil at the es­tates in Bol­gheri Tus­cany, Italy, where th­ese grapes are grown. It is com­posed of 85 per cent Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon and 15per cent Caber­net Franc, and un­of­fi­cially (not recog­nised within the Ital­ian wine clas­si­fi­ca­tion sys­tem) known as one of the ‘Su­per Tus­cans’. Tenuta San Guido, the pro­ducer, was es­tab­lished by Mario Roc­chetta in 1948, and the con­sump­tion of this glo­ri­ous wine was strictly pri­vate at first. It was not un­til 1968 that the first com­mer­cial bot­tle of Sas­si­caia was sold. To­day it has an an­nual pro­duc­tion of 180,000 bot­tles and con­tin­ues to grow.

The wine lessons I learnt over the course of our 2-hour din­ner were ex­cep­tional by any stan­dard. As I reached for the de­canter my un­cle asked, “Surely you’re not think­ing of pour­ing it right away”? Of course I was. He ex­plained that it needed to breathe, but asked me to have a sip right away. The be­gin­ning of a mas­ter class. It was de­li­cious, a lit­tle heavy for me, with flavours of dark berries, smoke, and fresh leather, and looked like a glossy dark ruby red ink. Then I waited. And waited. Our en­trée had come and gone. It was 45 min­utes be­fore I was al­lowed my next sip. Ev­ery­thing had changed. It was lighter and medium bod­ied, more pep­pery, with flavours of red berries now, still fresh on the pal­ette, and a long warm fin­ish. I couldn’t be­lieve how beau­ti­fully com­plex it was. I man­aged to get in a few sips with my grilled steak and it paired ex­ceed­ingly well. Al­though meats are the pre­ferred match to Sas­si­caia, I wouldn’t hold back try­ing it with poul­try, or even a tomato rich based pasta.

The next time I came face to face with another bot­tle of Sas­si­caia was dur­ing a ski trip in Megeve, France. I was ex­cited, and re­layed my en­tire Went­worth Club story to my friends in great de­tail, fol­lowed by strict in­struc­tions of how to drink it, of course. Need­less to say it was a hit that night and on sev­eral sub­se­quent nights.

Al­though nu­mer­ous wines in the fu­ture came rather close, none could ever match my Sas­si­caia ex­pe­ri­ence. A visit to the vine­yards of Tenuta San Guido still re­mains high on my bucket list. If you can get your hands on a bot­tle, it is highly rec­om­mended that you don't let go. It is truly ex­cit­ing and di­verse.

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