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Giacomo Tachis, Italian Wine Renaissance Leader, Dies at 82

Father of modern winemaking in Italy made Tignanello, Sassicaia, Solaia
Photo by: Edoardo Fornaciari
Giacomo Tachis (left) created Antinori's Tignanello and Solaia cuvées with Piero Antinori in the 1970s.

Bruce Sanderson
Posted: February 8, 2016

The Italian enologist Giacomo Tachis, one of the founders of the Italian wine renaissance in the 1960s and 1970s, died Saturday, Feb. 6. He was 82.

Tachis is widely credited with modernizing Tuscan winemaking, creating Tignanello and Solaia together with Piero Antinori and refining Sassicaia, the Bordeaux blend created in 1944 by Mario Incisa della Rocchetta at his estate in Bolgheri, Tenuta San Guido. Tachis worked for Antinori for 30 years before going on to consult with a number of wineries around Italy.

“It was a great privilege and honor for me to work with him,” Antinori told Wine Spectator. “He was really instrumental in the evolution, not only of Tuscan wines, but Italian wines. It’s a great loss, but the compensation is that his work will continue to live on in the future.”

A native of Piedmont, Tachis was born in Turin in 1933 and studied enology in Alba. In 1961, he was hired by Piero Antinori’s father, Niccolò. Tuscan winemaking at the time was in a dark period. High-yielding clones of Sangiovese, planted in the wrong places at low densities combined with unhygienic cellar practices and old, dirty barrels resulted in wines of poor quality.

When Piero Antinori joined the company in 1966, he and Tachis set out to improve quality. Tachis looked to Bordeaux and Emile Peynaud, the leading enologist of the time. Convincing Peynaud to come to Tuscany as a consultant, Tachis took his advice, getting rid of the white grapes in the blend and aging the wines in new oak barrels.

In 1970 Tachis and Antinori created a special cuvée from their most consistent vineyard on the Santa Cristina estate, Tignanello. They produced a Chianti Classico, using the smallest percentage of legally allowed white grapes, labeling it "Villa Antinori Tignanello Vineyard."

In 1974, the white grapes were eliminated, pump-overs were employed during fermentation to extract tannins and malolactic fermentation was induced. The wines aged in new French oak barriques. In 1975, Tachis pushed the boundaries even further, adding 20 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 5 percent Cabernet Franc to his blend to add elegance.

Ironically, according to the Chianti Classico appellation rules, enacted in 1967, Tignanello was labeled as a table wine, the lowest denomination.

Solaia was created in 1978, when that vineyard, located near Tignanello, produced a bumper crop. The blend was 75 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 5 percent Cabernet Franc and 20 percent Sangiovese. The 1997 Solaia was Wine Spectator’s 2000 Wine of the Year.

After leaving Antinori in 1992, Tachis went on to consult with a number of wineries in Tuscany, Sicily, Sardinia and other Italian regions, including Argiano, Castello di Rampolla, Querciabella, Donnafugata and Argiolas.

Tachis was particularly generous in mentoring young winemakers, like Alessandro Cellai, who oversees production for Domini Castellare di Castellina. “I consider him as a second father and most of what I know in enology I owe to him,” said Cellai. “His light will always guide my path.”

He is survived by his daughter, Ilaria, and two grandsons.

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