Welcome to a new section of Wine and the City – Wine of the Week, where each week I will taste and rate a different wine from around the world. While I’ll endeavour to make the majority affordable and accessible, I’m starting the section on a high note with a very special wine, Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore 2008.
One of the three so-called “Super Tuscans”, along with Sassicaia and Solaia, it’s easy to forget the estate of Tenuta dell’Ornellaia was founded a mere 31 years ago in 1981 by Lodovico Antinori, who chose an unspoilt patch in the hills near the medieval hamlet of Bolgheri, set in a triangle formed by the Tyrrhenian Sea, Bolgheri and the town of Castagneto Carducci. The ambition was to create fine wines to rival the best in the world. Since establishing the estate, Lodovico has passed the baton on to current owner, the Marchesi de Frescobaldi.
Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore is the estate’s flagship wine, produced since 1985 from select, hand picked parcels across the estate’s 97 hectares of limestone-rich calcerous soils. Made from a blend of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc and a 3% dash of Petit Verdot, while showing beautifully now, the 2008 vintage is one for lying down. The 2008 growing season was marked by a wet spring, which lead to low yields of high concentration. The summer was hot, but temperatures cooled at night, allowing for the development of colour, aromatics and phenolic ripeness in the Cabernet Sauvignon, resulting in a bold, structured wine built for ageing.
Crafted by German winemaker Axel Heinz, after the grapes are gently crushed, the wine is fermented in French oak barrels (70% new) then aged in small barriques for 18 months, followed by a year of bottle ageing. An intense deep purple, the nose is full of ripe blackberries and black cherries alongside tobacco, balsamic and herbal notes, and hints of dark chocolate, mocha, tar and spices. The Cabernet dominant palate is dense, concentrated, textured and giving. Fleshy, soft and opulent, with a sweetness to the fruit, it’s a Rubens of a wine, with velvety, fine-grained tannins and a lightening bolt of minerality running through it. Firm yet racy, with a liquorice finish and incredible length, it’s a clever balance of power and elegance made very much in the international style, which will go on happily for 20 years.
Wine and the City rating: 18/20.