Guidalberto: a rising star of Bolgheri


Tenuta San Guido’s Guidalberto is an exceptional wine and a wonderful expression of its legendary Bolgheri terroir. Now, justifiably, it’s being celebrated in its own right, rather than compared to others that came before it. We spoke to Priscilla Incisa della Rochetta, the third-generation face of Tenuta San Guido, about how – and why – this change has come about  

Bolgheri has no shortage of iconic producers. This small Italian appellation, located on the coast of Tuscany’s Maremma region, is home to some of the country’s most famed wines. 

Bolgheri’s history is inextricably entwined with that of the Super Tuscans. In the 1970s and ‘80s, a small group of winemakers defied Italian norms to create wines from international varieties. Amongst these, and perhaps the most famous of them, is Tenuta San Guido, best known for creating Sassicaia. 

In the early 1940s, Mario Incisa della Rocchetta realised something about his home of Maremma: its soils, rich in pebbles and gravel, were incredibly similar to those of Graves in Bordeaux. Alongside that, its unique microclimate, tempered by rolling coastal breezes, meant that the Bordeaux grape varieties – Cabernet Sauvignon in particular – had a better chance of thriving there than Tuscany’s favoured Sangiovese.  

As Mario’s granddaughter Priscilla describes, some of her grandfather’s friends had already begun producing wines based on Cabernet Sauvignon in surrounding farms. He believed that his land, on what today is the Tenuta San Guido estate, could produce something even better. 

“He asked his friends to give him some cuttings of these Cabernet Sauvignon vines, and he started experimenting,” she recalls. The result was a success – for Mario himself at least, if not on a commercial scale. That was still to come.  

“He was making a wine for his own consumption, to be shared with family and friends,” Priscilla says. That lasted about 20 years, until Priscilla’s own father, Nicolò Incisa della Rocchetta, came onto the scene. The youngest of Mario’s three children, he was entrusted with the agriculture of the estate, the family’s other pursuits of horse-breeding and racing being looked after by his siblings.  

“The wine was transformed into something different,” Priscilla says. Nicolò had seen an opportunity to sell the wine on a far wider scale, and had taken it. The result was Sassicaia, now one of Italy’s foremost fine wines, and the “grandfather”, as Priscilla describes it, of the Super Tuscans.  

The Guidalberto story  

Many are acquainted with Sassicaia, but – importantly – it’s not the only wine that Tenuta San Guido produces. At the turn of the millennium, an exciting new name emerged: Guidalberto.  

“The idea started in the mid-1990s,” Priscilla explains. Discovering clay threads running through the gravelly soils of the estate, Nicolò knew what to do. After all, the example had already been set by Bordeaux’s Right Bank estates, their clay soils, and their multitude of Merlot plantings.  

Guidalberto was born, representing the Tenuta San Guido team’s demonstration of exactly what they could do with this grape. Despite being a new venture, they were keen to keep it closely rooted within the estate’s long history. 

The wine is named after the Incisa della Rocchetta family’s ancestor, Guidalberto della Gherardesca: “a pioneer in agriculture for his time”, as Priscilla describes him. This Guidalberto was responsible for the famous Viale dei Cipressi in Bolgheri: the avenue of cypress trees so often featured in pictures of the area. “It was very significant to my father, to give the wine the name of somebody important in our history.” 

More than a “second wine” 

While Bolgheri has mirrored Bordeaux in many things, there’s one likeness that Priscilla is keen to minimise: the term “second wine”. In fact, it’s a description that the team vehemently reject when it comes to Guidalberto. 

“[Guidalberto] has its own identity,” says Priscilla. “It has its own expression, and its own purpose.” There’s no attempt to follow in Sassicaia’s footsteps here, either in the vineyard, or in the winery itself – and no sense of it using lower-quality fruit, or fruit from less desirable sites. “It has its own vineyards that we have planted over the years, which are mostly Merlot.” 

“Of course, you can tell that they’re related,” Priscilla concedes – the Tenuta San Guido hallmarks of elegance and drinkability still shine through. “But it’s an alternate expression of our terroir. You can’t compare [Guidalberto and Sassicaia]. They’re completely different things.”  

Now, she says, people are recognising Guidalberto’s quality in its own right – and rightly so. “At wine tastings, many customers are asking if they can try the Guidalberto, without asking for the Sassicaia.”  

Why does she think this is? “It’s all a question of taste,” she says. “There’s this portion of Merlot which is fantastic. With this bottle, you can maybe enjoy it younger – it’s easier to approach in a younger age. But we’ve been producing it now for just over 20 years, and sometimes we do vertical tastings, going back through the vintages. And it’s actually holding very nicely, all the way back to the first vintages. It’s a wine that you can collect.”  

The 2022 Guidalberto  

On the day that we speak, we’re on the cusp of releasing the 2022 Guidalberto – a vintage, Priscilla says, that has enormous promise. 

“The 2022 vintage was a bit warmer than 2021,” she says. “But that’s not a negative for grape varieties that ripen earlier. It was a good year for Merlot.” In 2022, the percentage of Merlot sits slightly higher than the norm, at 40% of the blend – imparting extra layers of dark, ripe, juicy fruit to the wine. 

 “The 2022 is very approachable, very nice,” she confirms, confident that this marks another year of success for Guidalberto. It’s good news for collectors of Italian fine wine, and Super Tuscans, in general. “It’s one that will do well with a little time.”  

The 2022 Guidalberto is now available to add to cellars here. To discover more about the Bolgheri region and the wines produced here, visit our blog post.