November 11

Sassaia, a rising star


Sassaia is a winery based in Capriata d’Orba, in the Alessandria area. The vinification takes place  in a modern warehouse complex. Next door there is a window and door company, and in front there is a sports center. When you get out of the car you would not think that inside the wearhouse there is a spotless winemaking operation maintained with maniacal care. Everything very clean, everything aligned to the millimeter. A light bulb turns on in your mind as you taste the wines which illuminate the reality that this is destined to become one of the brightest stars of Monferrato wine. You will hear about it. The merit is tied to nostalgia that respects the past and embraces the future.

The nostalgia for places of origin is what a dozen years ago has captivated Enrico de Alessandrini, Italian roots, Ligurian and Piedmont – and Liguria is just beyond the profile of the Piedmont vineyard hills -, but his life and career are all shaped in America. He acquired vineyards between Ovada and the hills of Tortona. Since he did not know the wines intimately, with perfect overseas pragmatism he attended the oenology course at the University of California, Davis. Just as pragmatically, his wife Ellen, a Texan, started processing and analyzing data upon data, building new reference points and memory. “With global warming taking place,” she says, “everything is changing, so you have to analyze everything.” Coming from the outside, he has no prejudices, nor does he carry the burden of “it has always been done this way”.

So far this is what I have seen, encountered and learned when entering the winemaking facility. Then I tasted the wines. A Piemonte Dolcetto and a Derthona Timorasso. I savored them. I squinted my eyes. I tasted them again. I couldn’t believe it. Elegance and finesse, and a pleasant saline finish. I turned to Ellen and told her “it seems to me that you like Burgundy“, because the terroir is felt, but the bearing and guidance is Burgundian. She smiled and replied that, yes, Burgundy is the reference point. So much so that their consultant and mentor comes from there. His name is Pierre Naigeon, in Gevrey Chambertin and Côte de Nuits his is a name of value and great reputation. It is inspired by minimal interventionism. Work with precision. Sassaia wines have this blueprint. They all ferment in barriques. The barrique is a vessel of formation, not a seasoning. “We have an Italian approach to soils and territory, a French approach to winemaking and an American approach to data analysis,” Ellen tells me. A perfect synthesis.

The wine ends up mainly in the United States. “In the USA – says Ellen – the new generations are looking for something new. Our style of Dolcetto is different from that of tradition. We try to maintain the freshness of the wine and look for a less dark color and more fruit and aromatic. We don’t even look for aging. In America they like it because it is different from the Dolcetto they usually find. It looks more like a Beaujolais and has a lot of fruit. If a wine doesn’t impart “fruity”, it’s missing something.” Many of your Italian colleagues should read these words.

All rationality and poetry.

Piemonte Dolcetto 2021 Sassaia. In style it is really very close to a Beaujolais, and Beaujolais – I never tire of remembering it – is the south of Burgundy. It has freshness and fruit, aims to drink, has a trace of salt in the finish. It comes out under the doc Piemonte because in Sassaia they decided to make the Ovada only in the most suitable seasons. “We only do the Ovada if it’s really worth it, because the Ovada is the top class,” says Ellen. The important thing is that they continue to make this irresistible Dolcetto. (90/100)

Colli Tortonesi Timorasso Derthona 2021 Sassaia. But how good! It is like having ripe grapes snapping under the teeth, which impregnates the palate with vivid juice. The fruit is very pure and dense; The wood, perfectly integrated and barely felt, acts as the right support, as a moderate support. A Timorasso with Burgundian features, which reminds me of the whites, dear to me, of Mâconnais. The chalice is immediately empty. The vineyards are in Monleale, in a high position. (94/100)

You may also like