The estate was founded in Bolgheri in 1981 by Lodovico Antinori, brother of Piero Antinori. The vines were planted in 1981, with the first wine made in 1985 and released in 1988.
Ornellaia’s vineyards are a true mosaic of terroirs with complex make-up of soil types, root stocks and grape varieties creating an extensive palette with which to produce their wines.
There are seven main vineyards, with one alone home to eight different rootstocks and plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. Soils range from alluvial sands to calcareous gravels and deep clays. Intraplot management means every plot is individually assessed and managed, allowing the winery – following extensive analysis and tasting – to pick each plot and variety at the right time.
Each plot is vinified separately and only blended after 12 months’ maturation. All the grapes at Ornellaia undergo a triple sorting to ensure only the finest fruit is used. First, the quality of the bunches are assessed, then all vegetation is removed and – since 2016 – an optical sorter does the final selection.
For the red wines, the grapes are fermented at cool temperatures under 25˚C for a week before undergoing a 10 to 15-day maceration on skins. The wines are then transferred to oak barrels for maturation. For Ornellaia, the oak is 70% new and 30% one-year-old barriques. After a year, the wines are tasted and blended.
During blending sessions, the team are looking for the trademark elegance that defines Ornellaia as well as characteristics that define the growing season. Once blended the wine is matured in oak for a further six months prior to bottling. The wine then spends an additional 12 months in bottle prior to release.