The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

An Evening with Piero Incisa della Rocchetta

Posted on | January 20, 2011 | Written by Josh Rubenstein | No Comments

On Tuesday, we welcomed our friend Piero Incisa della Rocchetta back to IWM New York for a special winemaker dinner event in our Studio del Gusto. I’ve had the good fortune of toasting with Piero in Hong Kong and, recently, in Aspen as well.  I say “good fortune” because when I see Piero, we drink incredible wines, and I always learn something new.  It’s quite possible that the Dos Equis’ “Most Interesting Man in the World” character is based on an older version of Piero, who has great knowledge of many things.

As self-proclaimed winner of the “Ovaries Lottery,” Piero has always been around excellence in wine, which he acknowledges as a privilege.  But the privilege, as Piero shared with our group, was having the influence of his grandfather, Mario, who pioneered the growth of Cabernet in Tuscany in spite of naysayers.  In much the same way, Piero’s drive to create world-class Pinot Noir at his estate Bodega Chacra in the Patagonian desert in Argentina is seen by many as crazy proposition.  But the proof is always in the glass.

As we sampled multiple vintages of each of Piero’s old-vine Pinot Noirs, planted in 1955 and 1932, we were able to experience the variation in each vintage as well as gain a sense of how these wines develop. As he always does, Piero honored the vineyard workers whom he credits as the true winemakers. He suggests that terroir goes beyond the soil and consists of the people who contribute to every aspect of vineyard and cellar labor.  Those who wake up at 1:00 a.m. to light fires around the vineyard to contribute drying heat in a rainstorm themselves become an element of terroir that would not exist if the vineyard were left alone at all times.

Piero also taught our group the history of Tenuta San Guido and Sassicaia. When asked if Sassicaia is a Super Tuscan he declared that it has always been the Super Tuscan, for the phrase was coined by an English journalist to describe Sassicaia as something other than table wine.  Upon visiting the estate to cover the family’s horses, the writer was simply blown away by the wine.  Sassicaia had existed as a family drinking wine only in the 1940’s through the 1960’s until bottled for sale in 1968.  Today Sassicaia is its own one-wine D.O.C.G

After tasting 11 wines, I found the same underlying message as I’ve found at our dinners with Piero over the past two years.  Sassicaia is a brilliant wine and certainly those who join us to experience it in the company of the winemaker are pleased to see it illuminated by Piero.  But the wines of Bodega Chacra shine just as brightly when paired with Sassicaia.

Those who scoff at the idea of world-class Pinot being produced in Argentina are bound to make the same mistake as those who scoffed at Cabernet thriving in Tuscany.  I think our group on Tuesday night welcomes the scoffers.  That leaves more Chacra for us.

If you’re interested in joining us at our next winemaker dinner, we’re hosting Marco Fantinel on February 5 in New York City.


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