Dining » Entertainment » Vol.18

The Story of Tenuta dell’Ornellaia

The Beautiful Land, Lush Vineyards, and Extraordinary Wines

By Elise French

Tenuta dell’Ornellaia is situated on the Via Bolgherese in that triangle between the sea, the medieval hamlet of Bolgheri and the town of Castagneto Carducci. To get there, one travels up part of the historic ‘cypress avenue’ celebrated by the poet Giosuè Carducci. The property comprises 240 acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

Since 1981, when Tenuta dell’Ornellaia was established, this beautiful and unspoiled area has become synonymous with winemaking of the first order and has seen the birth of great labels such as: Ornellaia, Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia, Masseto and Le Volte.

Tenuta dell’Ornellaia’s philosophy is “quality without compromise.”

Key elements of this unique terroir are its soil and climate. Man’s work is also an integral part of this search for excellence and is expressed through extraordinary care in the vineyards during the harvest and in vinification, in bottling, and in promoting the wines. Behind these famous labels is a team of experts from every winemaking sector who interpret on a daily basis the principles of the estate as they were set out twenty years ago. This integrity is showcased in two exceptional wines now available to us:

Ornellaia 2007

Tenuta dell'Ornellaia

Tenuta dell'Ornellaia

Bolgheri DOC Superiore: 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot

Climate and Harvest
2007 began with a very mild Winter, with less rainfall than usual. As a result bud break occurred about 10 days early. Spring was mild too, with rains coming just when they were required, which allowed excellent vegetative growth and led the vines to flower early. June rains, which occurred throughout Tuscany, accompanied the development of the grapes. Summer finally started with a July, which was hot and dry, followed by an August which was cooler, with classic mid-month thunderstorms that slowed the ripening of the grapes, bringing the projected harvest date in line with the average. A perfect September with brilliant sun, mild temperatures, and little rain permitted a perfectly slow, steady ripening of the grapes, concentrating polyphenols and aromatic compounds, without leading to any over-ripeness.

Vinification and Aging
Harvest began on 28 August with Merlot in the youngest vineyards and concluded in the first week of October with the final Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards. The clusters were hand-picked into 15-kg boxes and then graded and selected by hand on a double sorting table, before and after destemming, and finally soft-pressed. Each grape variety and single vineyard block was vinified separately. Fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks at temperatures between 26-30°C for one week, followed by 10-15 days of maceration on the skins. The malolactic fermentation took place primarily in oak barriques, 70% new and 30% once-used. The wine then remained in barriques, in Tenuta dell’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 six months. After bottling, the wine aged a further six months prior to release.

Winemaker’s Notes
The vintage weather conditions encouraged the development of an Ornellaia which shows elegance and development of richly-faceted aromatics, with its classic dark, intense ruby colour. Fully-ripened fruit pervades the nose, with crisply-delineated dark wild berry fruit and spice, with balsamic notes. On the palate, exceptionally glossy, velvet-smooth tannins immediately impress, along with intense notes of fruit and spice. Good volume and depth contribute to an overall harmony of all its components, suitably crowned by a long-lingering finish infused with aromatic fruit and balsamic impressions and marked by a healthy vein of tannins that promise a long and salutary development.

Masseto 2005

Masseto Toscana IGT: 100% Merlot

Climate and Harvest
The winter of 2005 was, with the exception of a few bitterly cold days between February and March that delayed budset by a few days, rather mild, and was followed by a spring that quickly became hot and sunny. As a result the vines bloomed about a week early, with the precocious varietals blossoming about May 20. Vegetative vigor and productive potential displayed perfect harmony from the beginning. As a result, the number of bunches pruned was within the norm. June and July behaved as expected: heat, sun, and just a few drops of rain… Perfect for the veraison to occur evenly. Finally, the grapes ripened steadily in August, under constant temperatures that never exceeded the seasonal average (32 °C). A few rains around August 15 contributed the optimal development of the bunches. At the end of August the preliminary analyses revealed extremely high polyphenolic potentials, which are indicative of a great vintage. September provided us with alternating beautiful sunny days and sudden showers. To allow the grapes to ripen fully and develop optimal concentrations, we harvested late, beginning with the lower part of the Masseto vineyard on Sept. 14 and finishing up the central part
on Sept. 30.

Vinification and Aging
The grapes were hand-picked and put into 15-kg baskets. The grapes from the bunches that passed the careful vineyard selection were examined again on a double selection table, before and after destemming. After soft-pressing, the fermentation was carried out in part in steel tanks, and in part in upright oaken casks. The criterion used to determine the tank type was vineyard provenance: Every parcel of the Masseto vineyard is vinified separately. After a fermentation at 25-28 °C the wine macerated on the skins at 28 °C for 15-18 days.The malolactic fermentation took place in 100% new French barriques. The wine aged for a total of 24 months in Tenuta Dell’Ornellaia’s temperature-controlled cellars. After the first 12 months the wine was assembled, and returned to the barriques for another 12 months. After bottling the wine was aged a final 12 months prior to release.

Winemaker’s Notes
The fruit of an especially late harvest, Masseto displays great aromatic maturity, with fruit and spice joining the usual balsamic and mentholated accents. Ample, rich, and full on the palate, the first impact reveals a tremendous tannic structure, which is so atypical for Merlot, but makes it easy to recognize this wine as the product of a unique terroir: Vigna Masseto. The complexity and length apparent upon sipping allow us to appreciate every characteristic of the wine, which will age long and well.


These fine wines are available at Julio’s Liquor’s in Westborough and Yankee Spirits in Sturbridge.

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