Giacomo Tachis Winemaker Extraordinaire – 1933-2016

The world of wine not just in Italy but everywhere has lost one of the truly great winemakers of our time. Giacomo Tachis died Saturday from complications of Parkinson’s disease and heart disease.

Giacomo Tachis "'the father' of Italinan wine" - 1933-2016

Giacomo Tachis “‘the father’ of Italinan wine” – 1933-2016

Tachis had a classical training as a winemaker, graduating from the Oenology School in Alba. In a stroke of genius -and luck- he was hired to join the winemaking team at the Antinori winery in 1961. For people who don’t recall or know of the status of wine in Italy, suffice it to say that there was no Italian wine at the time held in high esteem anywhere in the world.

In fact the DOC laws (denominazione di origine controllata) only appeared in 1963 and they started the renaissance of Italian wines. Tachis was instrumental in elevating Antinori wines and chianti in general to world-class status. He did so by revamping viticultural and vinicultural practices at the winery.

And in a stroke of genius, he introduced Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc as grapes to complement Sangiovese in the blend. A lot of the credit for emulating French grapes has been given to a relative of the Antinori family, the Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, who started using the French grapes decades earlier.

However Tachis may very well have also been influenced by the history of French grapes in Carmignano which goes back centuries. I recently wrote a blog about the French influence in Carmignano and there is little doubt in my mind that Tachis was aware of it.

The rest is history: Tachis developed Tignanello, Solaia  and Sassicaia with Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc in the blend which, because of the Italian laws, could not carry the DOC Chianti. So the Antinori winery simply introduced them as vino da tavola, the lowliest of the low wine categories. The wine world called them ‘Super Tuscan’ for want of a better word and they commanded prices far in excess of any DOC Chianti.

Tuscany – and Italy – were never the same after and Italian wines joined the ranks of the world’s wine elite.

Tachis performed his magic in other regions of Italy, notably Sicily and Sardinia. In Sardinia, he teamed up with Sebastiano Rosa, related to the owners of Sassicaia, to work on the red wines of AgriPunica, a winery that we will visit this May during our Sardinia wine tour. We will be sure to toast to his memory.

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