Owner: Frescobaldi family
Classification: Bolgheri DOC Superiore
Vineyard area: 76 hectares
Average annual production: 140,000 bottles p/a
Standard blend: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot
Other wines: Masseto (35,000 bottles p/a)
Ornellaia is one of the greatest Super Tuscan wines and the the main wine of Tenuta dell’Ornellaia, a famed wine estate in Bolgheri, Tuscany. Super Tuscans as a group originated several decades ago when Italian wine producers in Chianti rebelled against official mandates restricting wine production to native grape varieties, such as Sangiovese. For decades the wayward blends were classified as “Vino da Tavola” (table wines), until their superior quality and prestige was officially recognised in 1994 and they were granted their own category – Bolgheri DOC.
Riding the tide of viticultural revolution, Ornellaia dates back to 1981, when the first of its vineyards was founded by Marquis Ludovico Antinori. Antinori sought to distinguish himself by producing a Bordeaux-style masterpiece, as also cultivated by some of his Italian contemporaries, including his cousin Nicolo Incisa – the owner of neighbouring Sassicaia.
The earliest wines were reserved for family consumption and the first commercially released Ornellaia vintage was only produced in 1985. But after developing the estate for ten years and receiving various accolades for his efforts, Antinori sold minority ownership to Robert Mondavi Winery. By 2002, Antinori had left to pursue another project and Mondavi had full ownership of the estate. A 50-percent stake was then sold to the Frescobaldi family and in 2005 they became the estate’s sole proprietors.
Today Ornellaia is known as one of the world’s finest and most expensive Super Tuscans. It enjoys international demand and the top offerings fetch upwards of £1,000 per case. An even more exclusive (and expensive) Super Tuscan, Massetto, is also made at the estate.
Recent Ornellaia vintages have been awarded consistently high scores from the Wine Advocate, scoring an average of 94 points between 2000 and 2007.
The most recent vintage, 2007, is composed of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. Its alcohol content is listed as 15%.
2007 received 92-95 points from Antonio Galloni, who describes the wine as “gorgeous” and “surprisingly approachable”. He continues: “A finessed, sumptuous wine, this explosive Ornellaia offers tons of perfumed, layered fruit in an irresistible, sexy style.”
The vintage falls short of the previous vintage’s “sheer profoundness”, but, according to Galloni, “looks to be a very promising vintage to drink while the 2006s age in the cellar”.
The Wine Spectator is also a fan of the estate, having awarded five of the last ten vintages scores of 95 points or above.
Market Trends: Ornellaia vs. Sassicaia
The market rivalry (and family history) between Ornellaia and its neighbour Sassicaia makes the pair an interesting comparison. Historically, Ornellaia and Sassicaia have been well matched in terms of quality and price, with the last ten vintages scoring an average of 94 and 93 points, respectively, from the Wine Spectator.
Up until a year ago, Ornellaia, which is produced in slightly lower volumes (11,000 cases as opposed to 16,000), tended to be more expensive than its sibling. Interestingly, however, the last year has seen prices equalise (Sassiciaia has even edged ahead). Whilst Ornellaia has seen its price remain relatively flat over the last year, Sassicaia is up 21% on average.
The baseline for both wines now appears to be about £1,000, with only a handful of vintages yet to break through.
Both Super Tuscans appear to be solid purchases in almost all recent vintages. They are both well managed, and loved by critics and collectors alike. If anything, Ornellaia is now the better buy – it consistently scores a point or two higher and looks ripe for a significant price uplift after a period of stagnation. Volumes on the market have also dropped, suggesting available stock continues to be snapped up.
All prices are in GBP for 12x75cl cases stored in bond. Where only 6x75cl prices can be found, the prices are converted. All scored from www.winespectator.com.