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Tenuta dell’ Ornellaia: The Importance
Described by Robert Parker as “one of Italy’s blue-chip properties”, Tenuta dell’ Ornellaia has been producing outstanding wine in Bolgheri for close to 40 years.
It has built up an outstanding reputation in a relatively short amount of time, and as James Suckling writes, “Ornellaia is one of the icon wineries of Italy even though its first vintage was in 1985. Its Bordeaux blend compares with the best Cabernet Sauvignon based reds in the world while its pure Merlot, Masseto, is on part with such legends as Petrus and Le Pin.”
Tenuta dell’ Ornellaia: The Insight
This estate produces the Bordeaux blend Ornellaia and Ornellaia Bianco, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier coming from three small vineyards. They also produce a second and third wine, Le Serre Nuove dell’ Ornellaia introduced in 1997, the product of the estate’s younger vines and Le Volte dell’ Ornellaia. Another white wine is produced, Poggio alle Gazze dell’ Ornellaia, which is made up of Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino, Verdicchio and Viognier. A sweet wine called Ornus dell’ Ornellaia is also produced with late harvest Petit Manseng, in extremely limited quantities.
According to Antonio Galloni, the 2010 Ornellaia boasts aromas of “freshly cut flowers, mocha, tobacco, grilled herbs and plums [which] burst from the glass in this beautifully layered, polished Ornellaia. The 2010 is vivid, nuanced and precise from start to finish.” Monica Larner describes it as “a truly outstanding wine that leaves a lasting memory for those who are lucky enough to enjoy it. What stands out is the absolutely seamless-seamless-seamless (yes, it's worth repeating three times) integration of its many moving parts. The wine magically transitions from cherry, spice, chocolate and espresso in one melodic and continuous loop. It exudes balance and elegance over long, delicious minutes. It is profoundly impressive.”
Writing about the 2011 Le Serre Nuove, Monica Larner describes the wine as “gorgeous” and writes that it “opens with an inky dark, almost impenetrable appearance and beautifully chiseled - but abundantly intense - aromas of blackberry, dried cherry, rum cake, leather, moist pipe tobacco and chewy black licorice. The balance and harmony are seductive and impressive.”
Masseto, a 100 percent Merlot wine, is also produced by Ornellaia and has received outstanding praise throughout the years. Speaking of the 100 point rated 2006 vintage, Parker writes that it is a wine which “possesses staggering richness in a style that perfectly captures the essence of this great Tuscan vintage. Black cherries, flowers, licorice and sweet toasted oak are just some of the nuances that emerge from the 2006 Masseto. A wine of breathtaking depth, it also reveals superb clarity, freshness and vibrancy in sumptuous, beautifully-balanced style. Simply put, the 2006 Masseto is a masterpiece from Tenuta dell’ Ornellaia.” In praise of Masseto, Michel Rolland has said, “making great Merlot in the world is almost impossible outside of Bordeaux but Masseto is one place that does.”
Some of the best vintages at this estate have been 1998, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010 which clearly demonstrates how consistently well this estate performs year upon year, despite the estates somewhat tumultuous ownership history.
Tenuta dell’ Ornellaia: The Background
Tenuta dell’ Ornellaia was born in 1981 when Lodovico Antinori, the brother of Piero Antinori, who is famous for creating Tignanello, Solaia and Guado Al Tasso amongst other wineries, purchased the estate. It had previously been founded in 1951 and had been lying in disrepair for several decades. Lodovico then acquired 70 hectares of land from his mother, who was the sister-in-law of the owner of nearby Tenuta San Guido, creators of what is arguably the first super Tuscan, Sassicaia. He hired famed winemaker André Tchelistcheff to be his consultant and started planting Bordeaux grape varieties on his estate. Tchelistcheff was then succeeded by celebrated winemaker Michel Rolland, bringing with him years of experience at some of the best estates in Bordeaux, such as Ausone and Léoville Poyferré. In 2005, Axel Heinz was appointed as winemaker.
In 1999, Robert Mondavi bought a stake in this estate, the remaining shares of which he purchased in 2003 with the Frescobaldi family, who count Luce amongst their many wine holdings. In 2005, Constellation Brands which had purchased Mondavi, sold the remaining shares of this estate to the Frescobaldi family, meaning that they are now the sole proprietors.
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