Written by John Kerr of Metro Wines
The forgotten wineries are still among the best.
In the iconic wine film Sideways, Miles (played by Paul Giamatti) breaks the ice with Maya (Virginia Madsen) by asking her about the bottle that got her started. “What was the bottle that did it?” he asks, while they sip wine in the kitchen. Without hesitation, Maya replies, “1988 Sassicaia.”
Sassicaia is the kind of bottle that changes how just about anyone views wine. This wine almost single-handedly saved Italy’s wine industry. Before the 1970s, Italian wine was known best for its bottles in straw baskets that made great candle holders. Sassicaia was Italy’s first Super Tuscan, a Cabernet Sauvignon blend grown in the warmth of Tuscan soil. At a 1978 tasting of the world’s great clarets, Sassicaia placed first over a field of 33 wines from 11 countries. After that the world took a second look at Italy’s wines.
A few nights ago, I thought about the bottle that did it for me. I had just opened a Chardonnay from one of Napa’s stalwarts, Heitz Cellars. I took it home because it had languished on the shelf for over a year. I couldn’t recall the last time anyone had asked for a bottle of Heitz, Cab, or Chard. Since the Chardonnay was from the 2014 vintage, I was worried that it would go bad before anyone got to enjoy it. So, I decided that person would be me.
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