Updated: Nov 6, 2019
Does your budget admit indulging in the tempting, iconic Bolgheri bad boy Ornellaia? ...At a couple of hundred dollars a pop the price tag on this famed Bordeaux-style red wine might be a bit steep even for the most hard core super-tuscanite. Still Ornellaia is almost a bargain compared to the wines that influenced this Italian phenomenon- The legendary first growth of Bordeaux. At any rate. Not a substitute but a serioulsly good buy if you are longing for that luxurious, coastal Maremma sun in a bottle is the "second wine" of Ornellaia. Le Serre Nuove. Incidentally, this charmer recently turned 20.
When created in 1997 the initial purpose of Le Serre Nuove was to please the local market. The "first wine" was due to its ambitious level of wine growing, winemaking and ageing subsequently quite costly. In the same instance a bit to serious to be consumed directly.
Behold- Le Serre Nuove was born.
At first, this really was a second wine. The barrels used for "first wine" Ornellaia was reused, and the grapes that didn't make the cut for Ornellaia was used for the runner up. All adding up to a more readily drinkable wine.
There was at the time no intension of ageing these babies.
Well. I just got to try the new vintage 2017 aswell as 6 further vintages down to 1998. As it turnes out- they have spectacular ageing potential.
The sniffing, slurping and spitting took place at fine venue L'Avventura in the presence of Matteo Zanardello, Ornellaias competent Area Manager Europe. He was visiting a colourful autumn Stockholm to shine some light on the all grown up 20-year old.
Mr. Zanardello explains that as time has gone by, this second wine has taken on its own personality and style and is much less a second wine today than it was initially.
Back when it started, the Serre Nuove was dominated by cabernet sauvignon with an addition of 20-25 % merlot. As of late the blend holds mostly merlot, a good portion of cabernet sauvignon and various but smaller parts of cabernet franc and a dash petit verdot. Depending on the condition of the specific vintage, the shares differ from one year to another.
"Petit Verdot is like adding seasoning to food, It can either improve it or ruin it, if you add too much." (Axel Heinz, Winemaker, Ornellaia)
The 7 vintages of Le Serre Nuove I got to try all performed very well at this interesting journalist tasting.
The oldest vintage was from the cool vintage of 1998 and was very Bordeaux-like in style, with much class and elegance. Yet displaying surprisingly youthful vigor.
The 1998 Le Serre Nuove shows a bit of development and fantastic drinkability. Great balance with acidity still prominent, accentuated by opulent fruitiness. Juicy cassis, dark plum, orange peel and dried cranberries goes hand in hand with more developed notes of forest floor, farmhouse, soy sauce and sesame seeds. Crushed stones for mineral notes, green bell peppers, herbal aromas and a hint of intriguing spiciness adds to the utter complexity and marvel. Long and silky finish. Isn't she lovely!
Certainly this brilliant wine has some years ahead still. I wouldn't say the student becomes the master, but the second wine of Ornellaia surely holds its own.
Founded in 1981 by the Antinori family, arguably Tuscany's most important wine producer, Ornellaias "opulent and extrovert" supertuscan wines quickly rose to fame. In 2005 the Frescobaldi family took over and in the process skilled winemaker Axel Heinz (French mother, German father), schooled in Pomerol, got hired and a new era had begun.
With all of 280 acres Ornellaia vinifies each and every of the 70 high density vineyard plots separately. Just short of 3 miles to the shore, they are enjoying a sunny, mild maritime climate.
The production consists of the iconic "Grand Vin" Ornellaia, the "Second Wine" Le Serre Nuove, and also a third wine. Le Volte. This wine delivers serious bang for your buck. It is not only a steel but a must for the severely impatient as it is drinkable right away. Ready for action. Enjoy with stew, tuscan ragu, a nice steak or just some aged cheese. Get cooking'!
Super Tuscans are high quality reds (usually) normally with a price to match, made from non-indigenous grape varieties or using blends not allowed under Tuscan appellation law.
Back in the 1960s, some Tuscan producers began experimenting with non-indigenous varieties from Bordeaux, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. This was the springboard to the Super Tuscan hype that is still ongoing today. The term Super Tuscan became synonymous with adventurous winemaking, with experimenting with French small barrels and french viticultural methods. However, ending up outside the appelation regimen, these world class wines were only allowed the classification Vina da Tavola, i.e. a plain table wine. Eventually, a classification named IGT was created in 1992 specifically to recognize the quality of these radical wines. Today Super Tuscans can have IGT, DOC or DOCG status.