"Spicy and full of cassis, tobacco and coffee aromas. Texture and mouthfeel are what this wine is all about; it is plush like velvet carpet. Deep, satisfying flavors of plum, black currant and vanilla lead into an ultrasmooth finish that is as clean as a hospital emergency room."
-Wine Enthusiast's Top 100 Wines of 2002
In 1981, Marchese Lodovico Antinori breathed new life into Tenuta dell' Ornellaia, an estate whose potential had been ignored for decades. With the help of Andre Tchelistcheff, the famous agronomist, Antinori planted the first French vines in Bolgheri, which lies in the heart of Tuscany's coastal region, Maremma. The estate yields some of the finest Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc in Tuscany. In 2002, Marchesi de' Frescobaldi and Robert Mondavi became owners of Tenuta dell'Ornellaia, which is now owned exclusively by Marchesi de' Frescobaldi.
Ornellaia has established itself among the iconic wine estates in Italy (and beyond). The estate is dedicated to producing charming and opulent wines, full of Mediterranean character and finesse, reflecting the estate’s unique terroir in Bolgheri on the Tuscan coast. The combination of Bolgheri’s unique soils and growing conditions, and what can only be characterized as a total obsession with excellence, result in the world-class wines from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc that so many wine lovers across the world have come to cherish.
Ornellaia employs a full time team of 80 people whose passion and motivation make Ornellaia what it is today. No shortcuts in the part of the production are allowed and the details literally come down to a grape by grape basis. Wines are intently crafted to capture the character of each vintage, in all its complexity and facets. In fact, the character and intricacies of each individual vintage are so important to the estate that since vintage 2006, Winemaker and Estate Director Axel Heinz has identified a single word that captures the character of each vintage, and that word is interpreted by a contemporary artist who produces special labels and a site-specific work of art that remains part of the estate’s permanent collection.
In addition to its place among Italy’s iconic wines, Ornellaia is also an ambassador for the Bolgheri region, leading it to be recognized as one of Italy’s greatest winegrowing regions. It is their belief, and it is hard to argue, that Bogheri’s mild maritime climate and diversity of soils create wines as distinct, complex and pleasurable as any in the world.
An outstanding wine region made famous by Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, who planted Cabernet Sauvignon vines for his own consumption in 1940s on his San Guido estate, and called the resulting wine, Sassicaia. Today the region’s Tuscan reds are based on Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which can be made as single varietal wines or blends. The local Sangiovese can make up no more than 50% of the blends. Today Sassicaia has its own DOC designation within the Bogheri DOC appellation.
One of the world’s most classic and popular styles of red wine, Bordeaux-inspired blends have spread from their homeland in France to nearly every corner of the New World, especially in California, Washington and Australia. Typically based on either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot and supported by Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, these are sometimes referred to in the US as “Meritage” blends. In Bordeaux itself, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates in wines from the Left Bank of the Gironde River, while the Right Bank focuses on Merlot. Often, blends from outside the region are classified as being inspired by one or the other.
Tasting Notes for Bordeaux Blends
Bordeaux Blends are dry, red wines and generally have aromas and flavors of black currant, black cherry plum, graphite, cedar and violet. Cabernet-based, Left-Bank-styled wines are typically more tannic and structured, while Merlot-based wines, modeled after the Right Bank, are softer and suppler. Cabernet Franc can add herbal notes, while Malbec and Petit Verdot contribute color and structure.
Perfect Food Pairings for Bordeaux Blends
Since Bordeaux red blends are often quite structured and tannic, they pair best with hearty, flavorful and fatty meat dishes. Any type of steak makes for a classic pairing. Equally welcome with these wines would be beef brisket, pot roast, braised lamb or smoked duck.
Sommelier Secrets for Bordeaux Blends
While the region of Bordeaux is limited to a select few approved grape varieties in specified percentages, the New World is free to experiment. Bordeaux blends in California may include equal amounts of Cabernet Franc and Malbec, for example. Occassionally a winemaker might add a small percentage of a non-Bordeaux variety, such as Syrah or Petite Sirah for a desired result.