A vertical tasting from 1998 to 2017
The headline might perhaps raise a few hackles. At the top of the pyramid there is, or at least should be, indisputably the most nuances, opulence and structure, in the most expensive bottle. One can, of course, not entirely deny this although I guess many of us might be fooled in a blind tasting. But at the highest summits, the bottles also cost a lot and the question is whether it is worth selling the house, the boat and little brother to reach the most beautiful bottle. At Ornellaia, I feel extremely comfortable with Le Serre Nuove dell’ Ornellaia, their second wine with its very own distinct character.
Ornellaia is somewhat of a legend today. It was one of the first “super-Tuscans”, the result of Marchese Lodovico Antinori’s ambition to make a great Bordeaux-style wine in Tuscany. The first vineyards were planted in 1981 and today they have almost 100 hectares. In 1997 they launched their “second wine” Le Serre Nuove dell’ Ornellaia. Today, the winery is owned by Frescobaldi.
Twenty years with Le Serre
Twenty years means an anniversary. In 1997, the first bottle of Le Serre Nuove was bottled and now the 2017 is launched. The wine they call the second wine. The table at the farthest end of the Grand Hotel wine cellar was laid for a vertical tasting from 1998 to 2017. 1997 was not present, there are only very few bottles left in the cellar in Bolgheri.
The cold in the room is tangible and it is no coincidence that there is a warm blanket on each chair. The wines that were poured were thus also cool, we guessed at 14 degrees C, and unlike at home in the cosy warmth, the temperature in the glass never rose in the wine cellar. Just below room temperature is perfect but 14 degrees C may seem slightly low and inhibitory to the details of the wine, but not so it proved. All vintages showed power and clarity on the nose and one definitely did not need to dig deep to find the nuances.
The first glass was, of course, Le Serre Nuove dell’ Ornellaia 2017 which offered a neat, fine grip, comfortably masculine without exaggeration. A touch of cherry and dark roasted coffee. The barrels are there but do not dominate at the expense of other nuances. Deliciously young and immature but no more so than that it can be enjoyed as it is.
We are moving towards the marginally older vintages and Le Serre Nuove dell’ Ornellaia 2012 is the evening’s first truly great and enjoyable experience. Nice tones of clean barnyard, a touch of cedar and of vanilla. Beautifully velvety but with a good long grip with power.
We continue back in time and reach the highlight of the evening with Le Serre Nuove dell’ Ornellaia 2009. Here, all hints of a hard acidity have been replaced by beautifully mature tones. Still a masculine style but with the same silky mouthfeel as previous wines. The alcohol is warming but is not disturbing.
The older wines, down to Le Serre Nuove dell’ Ornellaia 1998, certainly offered pleasant experiences, but I did not quite find the vitality found in the younger wines. If this is due to the increasing age is not clear as there is a difference in the grape composition as well. Until 2002, the blend was 75% cabernet sauvignon and 25% merlot. After that date, Merlot has been the largest component, followed by cabernet sauvignon with accompaniment of cabernet franc, petit verdot or cabernet franc. For example, Le Serre Nuove dell’ Ornellaia 2017 has 54% merlot, 26% cabernet sauvignon, 14% cabernet franc and petit verdot finally got 6% of the space in the bottle. Based on tonight’s tasting, one can say, very roughly, that it is drinkable in a window of five to ten years.
Back to the “best bang for the buck” argument, I maintain the Le Serre Nuove advantage, although I can note the joy in my old tasting notes from their “first wine”, Ornellaia, in mature vintages. But Le Serre Nuove delivered on a high and even level from Le Serre Nuove dell’ Ornellaia 2009 and onwards.
Launched in Sweden in November
On November 22 La Serre Nuove 2017 will be launched for SEK 459 (~45 euro) and Ornellaia La Tensione 2016 for SEK 1,559 (~150 euro) in Sweden. My guess is that you should quick on the order button for both wines. None of them is likely to collect dust on Systembolaget’s shelves.
Sven-Olof Johansson is a wine enthusiast in Stockholm with a long history of wine tasting experiences.
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