How Wines From a Little-Known Region Became Some of the Most Expensive in the World

Apr 27, 2019

(Fortune) - Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo. Any oenophile’s eyes will light up at these names. With histories of winemaking dating back centuries, premier wine regions like the aforementioned trio command high prices and break records at auctions.

So how did Bolgheri, an obscure Italian hamlet, rise to fine wine prominence on par with these regions within just a few decades? For this Tuscan coastal area, which was granted DOC (Denomination of Controlled Origin) status for its famous red wines a mere 25 years ago, the answer lies in vision, innovation, and a willingness to ignore the naysayers.

The First Wave

According to Riccardo Binda, general manager of the Bolgheri DOC Consorzio, the official body charged with protecting the local wine industry, Bolgheri’s history can be broken down by three phases. In 1944, Marchesi Mario Incisa della Rocchetta planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, grapes had never been used before in that part of the country. Like the rest of Tuscany, varieties such as Sangiovese were revered. After several years of cultivating Cabernets just for home consumption, Incisa della Rocchetta, with the help of his nephew, Piero Antinori, released his first public cuvée, called Sassicaia, in 1968.

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