Ornellaia is one of the most prestigious wineries in Italy. Situated at the beautiful coast of Tuscany between Castagneto Carducci and Bolgheri (UNESCO world heritage), surrounded by the sea and cypresses.
A small introduction to Bolgheri : In this region, they create mostly wines of the cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and petit verdot grapes, varieties you can also find in Bordeaux. The land of the ‘Super Tuscans’: wines from Tuscany that may include non-indigenous grapes. It all started in 1968 with another icon of this region, Sassicaia. Bolgheri DOC certification for the wines of this region only arrived in 1994. Bolgheri wines are an expression of terroir, linked to the soil and territory.
Marchese Lodovico Antinori founded Ornellaia in 1981 and the first vintage they marketed was 1985. 10 years later Robert Mondavi (Californian wine producer) entered the company to acquire it 3 years later and sell 50% to the famous Frescobaldi family who is today the sole owner of Ornellaia. Axel Heinz is the estate director and Winemaker.
Ornellaia wines show excellence at all levels and are a beautiful expression of their terroir. During the harvest period analysis and empiric testing enables them to determine which grapes to pick and in which order. After that, they only select the best grapes by hand.
The grapes from each vineyard ferment separately in individual tanks. In this way, each individual base wine (of which there are more than 60) contributes its own character to create the final blend. After a period of 12 months of ageing in French oak barrels, the base wines will be selected and blended according to two principal criteria: the elegant expression required by Ornellaia and the character of vintage itself.
The first wine of the estate. The desire to nurture the Estate’s exceptional qualities has shaped Ornellaia’s philosophy since the beginning. Ornellaia is a cuvée of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc & Petit Verdot and the faithful expression of unique terroir developed in harmony with nature. 2017: Solare vintage.
Tasting notes of the winemaker: “Ornellaia 2017 masterfully interprets what was a particularly warm and sunny year. The intense and dark colour heralds a wine of beautiful concentration; the nose, rich and complex, releases scents of ripe red fruits, accompanied by notes of sweet tobacco and vanilla. The taste reveals an Ornellaia of great balance, a combination of firmness and pleasant freshness.”
Vinification and ageing: ‘Fermentation took place in stainless steel and concrete tanks at temperatures below 25°C for a week, followed by maceration for about 10-15 days, for a total time in the vat of about three weeks. The malolactic fermentation took place mainly in oak barrels, 70% new and 30% once-used. The wine then remained in barriques, in Ornellaia’s temperature-controlled cellars for about 18 months.After the first 12 months of maturation, the wine was assembled and then returned to the barriques for an additional 6 months. After bottling, the wine aged a further 12 months prior to release.’
Food pairing: Nice rare cooked steak, lamb, food that still has some chewy character that softens the tannins. In general, a certain richness in the food will pair well with Ornellaia 2017, whose acidity allows toning down this richness.
Ratings: James Suckling 97, Antonio Galloni 97, Wine Advocate 96
Le Serre Nuove dell’ Ornellaia
The second wine of the estate. Made with the same passion and attention to detail as Ornellaia, Le Serre Nuove dell’ Ornellaia is a true “second vin”. A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc & Petit Verdot, it combines approachability and a depth of flavour with proven ageing potential. 2018 vintage
Tasting notes of the winemaker: “Characterized by a lively ruby red colour, Le Serre Nuove dell’ Ornellaia 2018 is a wine of great aromatic complexity, a distinctive feature of this vintage. In the glass, aromas of berries, blackberry, raspberry and red cherry are accompanied by floral hints of wild rose and spicy notes of pink pepper and liquorice. On tasting, the wine has a good tannic structure, enveloping and balanced, with a crisp and savoury finish.”
Vinification and ageing: ‘ The first steps are the same as for Ornellaia. Alcoholic fermentation took place in stainless steel, at temperatures of between 26° and 30°C for two weeks followed by maceration of around 10-15 days. Malolactic fermentation was started in stainless steel and completed after transfer to barrels (25% new and 75% a year old). The wine remained in Ornellaia’s temperature-controlled cellar for a further 15 months. It was assembled after the first 12 months and then reintroduced in the barrels for a further 3 months. After bottling, it was aged for an additional six months prior to release.’
Food pairing :Meat-based dishes such as steak or wild boar, game or aged cheese but also an oven grilled fish, with the proper seasoning. Even better if served slightly chilled.
Poggio alle Gazze dell’ Ornellaia
Poggio alle Gazze dell’ Ornellaia, owes its elegant Mediterranean style to the Estate’s unique microclimate. This gift of nature allows Poggio alle Gazze dell’ Ornellaia, with its predominance of Sauvignon Blanc, to display a firm structure and ripe fruit while maintaining great finesse. 2018 vintage
Tasting notes of the winemaker: “Poggio alle Gazze dell’ Ornellaia 2018 has a classic straw-yellow colour. The nose presents intense aromas of white fleshed fruits, accompanied by delicate notes of vanilla. On the palate it is initially ample and soft; the wine reveals a great richness and marked tanginess that lead to a fresh and persistent finish.”
Vinification and ageing: “The clusters were hand-picked in the early morning hours and immediately chilled on arrival at the cellar in order to fully preserve their aromas. After a quality selection, the whole clusters were given a very slow, gradual pressing, while great care was exercised to prevent oxidation of the fruit. After gravity settling of some 12 hours, the separate lots of must were put to barriques, 25% of which new and 25% used, in steel tanks and in concrete vats (50%). Fermentation temperatures did not exceed 22°C, and the wine did not go through malolactic fermentation. The wine matured on the fine lees for 6 months, with regular bâtonnage throughout the period, followed by the assemblage of the final blend. After a light fining, it rested an additional 12 months in the bottle before release.”
Food pairing :When aged, it pairs well with a little bit more complex dishes such as fish with a sauce and a little bit of butter or cream, as well as cheese such as aged goat cheese. In general, it pairs well with fish-based dishes, shellfish, lobster, and octopus.
Ratings: Antonio Galloni 93, Wine Advocate 91, James Suckling 92
The complete range https://www.ornellaia.com/en/wines/
Ornellaia Vendemnia D’artista
Every year since the release of Ornellaia 2006 in May 2009, a contemporary artist creates a work of art and a series of limited edition labels drawing inspiration from the single word chosen by the Winemaker to describe the character of the new vintage.
The Vendemnia d’Artista project includes a label created by the artist for one bottle in each wooden case of Ornellaia (containing 6 x 750 ml bottles) and a limited edition of 111 large size bottles (100 double magnums (3L), 10 Imperials (6L) and 1 Salmanazar (9L) each individually numbered and personally signed by the artist. Every year there is an auction hosted by Sotheby’s and the support goes to the project: Mind’s Eye at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. A project that helps individuals who are blind or have low vision experience art through all their senses.
The Vendemnia d’Artista project brings together the character of the vintage and the artist’s interpretation at the birthplace of Ornellaia.
Ornellaia wines bring you back to that special place at the Tuscan coast, Bolgheri. You can taste the elegance of the landscape and the beauty of the setting sun in-between the cypresses.
Written by Bram and Iris