What an immense joy it is to see Sassicaia in the top spot in the Wine Spectator Top 100 list this year. From being a fine wine renowned in Italy, it has evolved in recent years to become one of the greatest wines in the world. Sassicaia, darling of stars such as David Beckham, Rihanna and even President Barack Obama, is now even considered the best wine in the world with this 2015 vintage reaching Number One in the American wine magazine’s Top 100. It’s a name that is well-known way beyond national frontiers, and is, in fact, much more famous than the name of the estate that produces it: Tenuta San Guido.
Tenuta San Guido is an authentic family estate attached to the terroir. Its owners, the Incisa della Rochetta family, defend these values notably through their involvement in Primum Familiae Vini, an association that brings together 12 of the most prestigious family wine estates in the world. (Incidentally, this month Haut Brion has joined the group alongside Marchesi Antinori, Château Mouton Rothschild, Joseph Drouhin, Egon Müller Scharzhof, Hugel & Fils, Champagne Pol Roger, Famille Perrin, Symington Family, Tenuta San Guido, Torres and Vega-Sicilia).
The fact is, family values are alive and well in the world of fine wines. You only need to look at previous Wine Spectator Top 100 lists for proof of this: Lewis Cellars (No.1 in 2016), Peter Michael Winery (No.1 in 2015), Dow’s Port/ Symington Family (No.1 in 2014, and member of PFV), CVNE/ Urrutia family (No.1 in 2013).
More broadly, the announcement of this result helps to strengthen the image of Italian wine around the world. Spain experienced this in 2013 when the Urrutia family – the fifth generation at the head of the Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España (CVNE) in Rioja – saw its wine, IMPERIAL, become the first Spanish wine ever to become Number One in this Top 100, thus confirming its status as an iconic wine from Spain. From that moment on, wine lovers the world over took a fresh look at Spain. The same thing is happening today with this new list which gives Italy an even greater standing in the exclusive circle of prestige wines.
One can only be gladdened by the fact that family-owned estates are still a force to be reckoned with in the world at a time when it seems as if only big financial groups are capable of ensuring the sustainability of brands at the highest level. Family values (and, more widely, human values) are back with a vengeance. In truth, they never really went away, but the fact that mergers, some more successful than others, accelerated over the last 20 years, restores honor to generations of families – Hermès in the luxury sector being a prime example – who, decade after decade, have built up those names associated with high quality. Reading the article “Family-owned companies can tell us everything we need to know about business success” and the new management handbook “The Human Advantage” suggests that we are at a turning point in the way we think about businesses and how we manage them. In a world that sometimes seems to have lost its bearings, is the family model the way forward for business, and more specifically for the world of fine wines?