Recently, I am supposed to affirm that I am becoming again quite a bit of a traditional wine drinker when it comes to grape varieties and regionality. Over the years, I have become a little bit bored of the “international style” of wines that are leading the way at so many wine tastings these days. The biggest culprit for me is Cabernet Sauvignon; I have tasted so many well made, but super-extracted, super-concentrated, super-oaked wine, but they could come from anywhere. These wines are coming from Bordeaux, from Rioja, from Ribera Del Duero, from California, South Africa; they are brilliant wines… but they don’t scream about place.
It is for this reason that I have stopped focusing my attention on Super Tuscan wines. . I have not ignored the wines but simply, I just have not made a big effort to seek them out again. However, when a tasting invitation from Mark Anthony Brands ( Ornellaia Importer) came up recently, I decided it was time re-explore again at the deep end; the tasting was the complete range of wines from Ornellaia.
Before we get into the wines, here’s a quick history lesson and some facts. Along with Tenuta San Guido (Sassicaia), Tenuta dell’ Ornellaia has defined winemaking in Bolgheri (Tuscany) for more than thirty years now.
Until the 1970’s, Tuscany was only famous for the Sangiovese-based wines of Chianti, Brunello, and Montepulciano, which rivalled with Nebbiolo of Piedmont for the title of the greatest red wines of Italy. But all was not well in the region. In 1971 the Antinori family, whose Tignanello estate was one of the jewels of the Chianti DOC, produced a wine that included Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend and was aged in small French barriques. The scandal was heard all over the wine world and Antinori withdrew from the Chianti DOC, deciding to sell their wine under the lowly “Vino di Tavola” classification.
Further west on the Tuscan coast in Bolgheri, Nicolo Incisa della Rocchetta, a cousin of Antinori was also experimenting with international varieties at Tenuta San Guido. The first release of Sassicaia was the 1968 vintage (released in 1971) but it wasn’t until the 1985 vintage which was awarded 100 points by Robert Parker, the wine world started to really take notice of the Super Tuscan revolution.
In 1981 Lodovico Antinori, from the same family bought 41 hectares of land adjacent to Tenuta San Guido, and Tenuta dell’Ornellaia was born, releasing its first vintage in 1985. For such a young estate it sure has endured some turbulent times. Robert Mondavi took control of the estate in 2002 and formed a partnership with the Frescobaldis (a famous wine family in Tuscany), who assumed full ownership in 2004 when Mondavi was bought by Contellation Brands. Since 1991, the one constant has been the involvement of Michel Rolland as consultant winemaker.
Today the estate consists of 100 hectares, growing a wide variety of grapes including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. Interestingly no Sangiovese is grown at Ornellaia but a quantity is purchased from a neighbouring vineyard after each harvest; the soils at the estate are clay/gavel and clay/limestone, Sangiovese thrives on land with a far higher limestone content.
From left, Veronique Rivest, Jacques Bélec and Alex Belson
Like I said before I recently tasted the ranges of Ornellaia wines in the company of Jacques Bélec, director of specialty products from Mark Anthony Brands and Alex Belson, Marketing & Sales Director for Ornellaia. Like me, Veronique Rivest was also a guest of this tasting. By the way, if you do not who she is, Miss Rivest is the 2nd best world sommelier and owner of the wine bar Soif in Gatineau.
The tasting took place at Maison Boulud, one of the best Montreal restaurants at the moment. The wines tasted were complemented by the magnificent gastronomic creations of Riccardo Bertolino, head chef of Boulud. The wines served include Poggio Alle Gazze 2012, Le Volte 2012, Le Serre Nuove 2004 and 2012, Ornellaia 2011, Masseto 2011 and Ornus 2010. With the exception of Poggio alle Gazze and the very limited Masseto, most of the wines will be available as of this time, just in time for Christmas. Readers following my column at the Montreal Times for the last year, might be familiar with my past articles, The Classical wines of Bolgheri, in which I review Le Serre Nuove 2010. Following are the tasting notes of the all the wines of Ornellaia available in Quebec.
Riccardo Bertolino’s braised deer Tagliatelle was a stellar match with Ornellaia and Masseto
I have to say that I was really impressed by level of professionalism shown by Miss Belson, the manager of Ornellaia. Despite the high profile of this grand cru estate in Italy, She showed a magnificent humbleness and easygoingness. In my years in the wine industry rarely I have encountered this type of behaviour among managers of prestigious wine estates.
I would like to express a very warm thanks to Mark Anthony Brands and Ornellaia for this lifetime opportunity to taste such brilliantly made wines.
Poggio Alle Gaze 2012
On the nose a panopy of aromatic herbs with fine notes of smoky oak and spices. In addition, apricot fruit with lovely nuances of spices and just a hint of green pepper. All this wrapped up in a fantastic minerality. In the mouth, medium to full body, graceful and elegant displaying an complete zen harmony between concentration of fruit and acidity. Greatlength with a beautiful aromatic precision. Drink now or keep in the cellar for the next 10 years. 95\100
Le Volte 2012. IGT Toscana. SAQ Code: 10938684. Price: $29.95
On the nose a bouquet of great depth. Lovely leafy blackberry fruit, spiced red fruit and roasted bell pepper. On the mouth, the wine is full body with character and depth. Taste remind me of black fruit bringing to mind ripe cassis, black cherry with pleasant earthy nuances. Elegant with ripe tannins and a long finish. Drink now or keep for the next 5 years. 90\100
Le Serre Nuove 2012. Bolgheri Rosso. SAQ Code: 10223574. Price: $60.00
Multilayered black fruit aromas reminiscent of cassis, prunes and black cherry. In addition, pleasant roasted herbs aromas that brings to mind licorice and spearmint. In the mouth, full body, racy and tightly knit. Long but austere afterstate redolent of new oak. Shows lots of promise but needs between 10-15 to fully reveal itself. 95/100.
Le Serre Nuove 2004
A complex bouquet starting to show sign of tertiary aromas development. Dry black plums, chinese ink with lots of lead pencil and graphite character. In addition blackcurrant and burning cigar tobacco nuances. In the mouth, concentrated and chewy revealing complex flavors of flowers and black bean hummus. Focused structure with an austere finish. Delicious to drink now but in another 7-10 years will be even better. 95\100
Ornellaia 2011 Bolgheri Superiore. SAQ Code: 11973238. Price: $189.25
Young and austere primal nose reminding of dry black fruits with Indian spices. Also graphite with expresso beans and dark chocolate notes. In the mouth, rather lush but in a brilliant way. Great intensity of flavors, tannins combined with a fresh acidity, give this wine the tools to evolve into something more beautiful in the next two decades away. 98\100.
Masseto 2011 IGT Toscana. SAQ Code: 10816636. Price: $525
French in spirit but with solid Tuscan roots. This monovarietal merlot display a breathtaking tour de force bouquet of considerable dimension. Difficult to put into words, the nose reveal an infinite continuum of mineral of iron slate aromas gunpowder and black truffle. It is just the prelude for the deep layered, luxurious, vivid black fruit that comes and makes waves in your head. The end, if there is really an end brings to mind disconcerting notes of mediterranean herbs, lavish oak and ethereal animal notes. In the mouth, this work of art presents a magnificent deepness of concentration, glossy tannins an a perfect acidity. Masseto 2011 will outlive all of us. 100\100
Ornus 2010 IGT Toscana. SAQ Code: 11624142. Price; $ 80.00
On the nose, this beautiful sweet wine presents notes of roasted citric fruit peel with spices and vanilla. In the mouth, sensual and opulent presenting layers of sweet white fruits. Amazing elegance with a sublime peach aftertaste. 95\100