Amongst the first female oenologists in Italy, Graziana Grassini has become one of the most important winemakers in the entire world. For sure, Sassicaia is her best-known accomplishment, but it is not the only one. The recent rise in popularity of Maremma, the “new Tuscany” as it has been dubbed, might well be one of her greatest achievements.
Ironic as it may sound, Sassicaia’s former and current winemaker got to know wine through whites. It was back in the 1980s when Giacomo Tachis tasted a Sauvignon blanc, “Con Vento” made at Castello del Terriccio by a young lady who had just passed her diploma. He reached out to compliment 28-year-old Graziana Grassini.
Elegance above all
After Giacomo Tachis retired in 2009, Marchese Nicolò Incisa della Rocchetta, Tenuta San Guido’s owner, called upon Graziana. Already at that time, she believed elegance was Sassicaia’s strong point. A trait Graziana pursues too in her wines, be they red or white. Her signature style can be identified with “elegance in the first place”, she reveals. “Secondly, I try to create a wine which embodies grape variety, terroir and the producer’s philosophy”. Grace is definitely an undisputed quality now, but it was not so back in the 1980s, 90s and at the turn of the century when powerful wines were still the most appreciated – it is no accident that only recently has the Wine Spectator finally acknowledged Sassicaia 2015 as the best wine in the world.
Sassicaia, a wine “without fear”
“The success and importance of Sassicaia comes from the DNA of the grapes used for the blend. They are grown on soils that give life to a special product, a wine “without fear”. Sassicaia does not need the spotlight because it is the result of constant dedication, simple processes and an excellent working method implemented by a team in accordance with the tradition, teachings and history which have made Tenuta San Guido a great winery”. Graziana Grassini believes the secret of Sassicaia is here. “Wine is made in the vineyard”, Giacomo Tachis used to say and Graziana totally agrees with him. Giving more and more importance to the vineyard and the different grapes is a key strategy for increasing the perceived quality of Italian wine overall, she believes.
How to shape an icon. And a career.
“Loving wine more than yourself, team working, a professional approach and a touch of humility, keeping your feet on the ground and considering the finish line as a starting point. And keep studying, as Giacomo Tachis never stopped telling me”. These are the ingredients that have allowed for a smooth changeover between the two winemakers. Study is fundamental and Graziana herself has built up her career gradually. She opened Caim, a small chemical analysis laboratory back in 1987 and only afterwards gained her degree, combining winemaking and study. Now she consults all over Italy, from Veneto (Cecilia Beretta) to Tuscany (Fattoria di Magliano, Tenuta Casteani, Pakravan Papi, Tenuta Canneta) down to Puglia (Agricole Vallone) and Sicily (Riofavara).
The rise of Maremma
In her motherland Maremma, where she produces some outstanding whites – try an old vintage of “Pagliatura” Vermentino by Fattoria di Magliano if you get the chance – she has also worked for “I vini di Maremma”, an important co-operative, becoming the first female winemaker in Italy with such a significant role. The recent interest in Maremma might actually be the result of the quality-driven approach established back then with associated producers, along with the current activities of local wineries. “In Maremma, we have important heritage varieties, which over the last few years have been studied in depth”, explains Graziana, who has a great passion for Pinot Noir, Riesling and Vermentino, specifically the local Maremma clone.
By Irene Graziotto
Photo credit: courtesy of Graziana Grassini