Super Tuscan Wine at Ornellaia Vineyards in Bolgheri
In 1944, on the hillsides just outside Bolgheri in Toscana, an event took place on the famous estate of Tenuta San Guido that would change Italian Winemaking forever - The Birth of Super Tuscan Wine.
Mario Incisa della Rochetta planted the first Cabernet Sauvignon in his vineyard. This ”unholy act” in the Sangiovese and Italian grape-dominated wine region of Tuscany; sprung from an idea he had nursed for a long-time.
The Bolgheri climate was very similar to the Bordeaux climate and Mario wanted to make an Italian red wine closer to the full-bodied red wines he had come to love from the famous France region of Bordeaux.
Fredrik Goldhahn, Sticks and Spoons Food Travel
A Wine Enthusiasts Guide to Ornellaia and Super Tuscan Wine
The result became Sassicaia; his brainchild and marchese’s personal wine for many years until the 1968 vintage was produced. The wine Sassicaia is credited to be the very first Super Tuscan Wine and became commercial in 1971. Little could Mario Incisa Rochetta imagine he had started a small Wine Revolution: The creation of Super Tuscans in one of the most famous Italian wine regions.
In the middle of the ’70s, more winemakers in the wine region followed his example and today the Super Tuscan Wines have gained quite a reputation and have become world-famous for their overall high quality of Red Wine.
Table of Content: "Super Tuscan Wines at Ornellaia Vineyards in Bolgheri"
What is Super Tuscan Wine?
Shortly, the use of non-indigenous grapes in Italy, especially French grapes like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah, is essential in blends that allow the winemakers to produce red wines with more body, depth, and higher quality. Super Tuscan Grapes like the non-indigenous above varieties are the key to making wines we know as Super Tuscan Wine.
Who invented the term Super Tuscan Wine?
Some think it was the Italian wine critic Luigi Veronelli that came up with the phrase "Super Tuscan Wines", other say it was coined by David Gleave; a UK Wine Master and expert on Italy and Tuscany. Or was it the writer Burton Anderson who moved to Toscana to write about wine? Or the American wine critic Robert Parker?
The epitome” Super Tuscan” came around in the early ’80s and is probably a mix-up from many sources and it doesn’t really matter. The Super Tuscan label is a perfect one anyway to describe these types of wines.
Harvest time of Merlot Grapes at Ornellaia Vineyards
The Ornellaia Wine Estate in Bolgheri
Adjacented to the Tenuta San Guido estate you’ll find the Ornellaia Estate, which I had the privilege to visit early September, during the harvest period of Merlot grapes, for a vineyard and wine tasting tour. Ornellaia is one of the most interesting Tuscan and Italian Wineries today. Being blessed with a fantastic weather and the astonishing sourroundings of Ornellaia, we visited for a Ornellaia Wine Tour with the Ornellaia Vineyards, the beautiful Masseto Wine Cellars and a wonderful wine tasting of Super Tuscan Ornellaia wines at the Ornellaia Winery. When it comes to Super Tuscan Wine, Ornellaia is considered as one of the best Super Tuscan Wineries, both in Italy and worldwide, producing high quality Italian wine.
The Ornellaia Vineyards is divided by the famous Cypress Avenue that leads to the picturesque village of Bolgheri in the italian region of Tuscany and Bolgheri is without doubt one of the best wine regions in Italy.
The two main areas of Ornellaia vineyards; Tenuta and Bellaria, with almost equally hectares on both sides of the Cypress Avenue sums roughly 100 hectares of their main four super tuscan grapes viarities; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and smaller lots with Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Petit Manseng. These grapes are essential for the production of Ornellaias super tuscan wines and are Super Tuscan Grapes for sure.
The Estate of Ornellaia is located at the hillsides just outside the Tuscany village Bolgheri, beautifully protected from cold winter winds by the hills during the colder winter months and refreshed by the welcome cooling breeze from the Mediterranean on hot summer days. A perfect location for producing Toscana Wine and a Toscana Winery.
These weather conditions are also exceptional to grow the selections of grapes that is the foundation of Ornellaias Super Tuscany Wines, made mostly from French indigenous grapes.
The Estate on the top of the hill in the background belonged to Mario Incisa Rochetta and he planted the first Cabernet Sauvignon on the other side of the same hill.
When arriving to Ornellaia Estate, the first sight I saw was the well-managed fields beneath the hill, bathing in the sun with a smaller group of grape pickers between the rows of Merlot vines. So lucky to arrive in harvest time! The guide was a little late but that was just perfect to get the extra time to imbibe this unique athmosphere.
It was actually my first visit to a Vineyard in Italy and elsewhere, so this was going to be an exiting Wine Tour!
The guide arrived and started telling the interesting history of the first Super Tuscan Wines and the captivating Ornellaia story so far.
The Ornellaia History – Ornellaia Wine Tour in Tuscany
The vineyards of Ornellaia was planted 1981, and the first vintage of Ornellaia Wine hit the market in 1985. Ornellaia is considered to be one of the best Bordeaux styled red wines and wine brands in Italy. Wine critics around the world love the italian wine area of Bolgheri, Tuscany and have rated Ornellaia Super Tuscan wines with top scores since the very first vintage!
Marchese Lodovico Antinori established the Ornellaia Vineyards. Through the following years Robert Mondavi Winery took some interest in the estate back in 1999 and became the full owners of Ornellaiai by 2002.
In 2005 Robert Mondavi Winery decided to become partners with the Frescobaldi Family, who bought the remaining 50% shares from Constallation Brands after a asquisition of Mondavi holdings. The result is that the Frescobaldi Family now is the owner of Ornellaia Estate.
With Ornellaia, the Frescobaldi Family added one of the world’s most iconic Wine Estates to their comprehensive portfolio of Tuscan Wineries such as Masseto, Danzante, Luze delle Vite alongside the six Frescobaldi Estates of Nippozzano, Castel Giocondo, Pomino, Ammiraglia, Castiglioni and Remole.
The Ornellaia Winery and Masseto Wine Cellars melting into the Nature of Tuscany Hillsides
A top modern Winery was built on the estate in 1987 at Masseto vineyards and that was where we were headed next. The Ornellaia Winery and Masseto Cellars are beautifully incorporated with the sourrounding nature. When you stand above the winery, looking down from the parking, you can see that the talented architects of ZitoMori carefully have considered the environment.
ZitoMori is founded and based in Milan and Avellino, Italy by the architects Maurizio Zito and Hikaru Mori.
The Masseto Winery has an underground wine cellar and is an architectural beauty of a winery, in perfect harmony with the Tuscan landscape around it. In the middle you get a glimpse of several hundred of years old trees, that the architects left completely intact, building the winery around them. The Winery and Cellar complex is a fantastic building, capturing the Philosophy and Soul of Ornellaia so well.
And inside you will find an even more extraordinary interior as you walk through the winery working areas, the Wine Cellar, Wine Storage, and the Wine Tasting room on the top floor.
But your first impression, both outside and entering the Ornellaia Masseto Winery, will be Art.
Because Art goes hand in hand with the Ornellaia Wine Philosophy, and that’s probably why the Wine Producer started the Ornellaia Vendemmis d’Artista Project with the release of Ornellaia Superiore Vintage 2006.
Wine Art at the Ornellaia Masseto Winery
Ornellaia Philosophy and the Wine Art Project
Ornellaia Vendemmia d’Artista
At Ornellaia, every step in making a Vintage Super Tuscan is about excellence, details, and vinification technique.
Anything excellence in every step of making the wine is out of the question.
All grapes at Ornellaia Estate are picked individually by varieties, at optimal harvest conditions in the vineyards, and at different times to assure the highest possible quality in every grape variety.
Grapes then go through a double selection process and are fermented in individual steel tanks. There are more than 60 individual base wines, all with their unique specific character depending on the grape variety, vineyard area, climatic exposition, soil type, etc that go through a continuous analysis during the whole growth period of the grapes – but it’s only after 12 months on French Oak Barrels that the Wine Maker can select and blend a new vintage, using the base wines unique components to create another wine masterpiece. Making Ornellaia wine is, truly, a work of Art!
The very first collaboration in the Ornellaia Vendemmia d'Artista Project
It’s not that surprising then, that Ornellaia celebrates every new vintage of wine with a work of art, is it? Contemporary artists have designed each limited vintage label since the start of the Ornellaia Vendemmia d’Artista Project and the release of the Ornellaia 2006 Vintage Superiore! The artist's inspiration is sprung from one single word; chosen by the Winemaker, to describe the unique, new vintage of Ornellaia.
The Vendemmia d’Artists Project is also an Annual Charity Event to raise money in support of the Arts. Each year a limited amount of wooden cases with the new edition is sold. This wine auction event is highly coveted by Wine Collectors and Wine Connoisseurs from all over the world of wine.
Artist Shirin Neshat have made the label for the limited edition of Ornellaia 2016 La Tensione
Each Project of Vandemmia d’Artista includes wooden cases of Ornellaia with the artists designed label on 6 pieces of 750 ml bottles and Ornellaia also release a special limited edition of 111 large size bottles all in all; 100 pieces of 3 litres Double Magnums, 10 pieces of 6 litres Imperials and 1 piece of 9 litre Salmanazar.
All the bottles are numbered and personally signed by the artist and will bring in some of the highest prices for Super Tuscan Wine on the Wine Auction held every year to celebrate this beautifulmarrige of Wine and Art.
Ornellaia Masseto Winery Wine Press and Steel Tanks where each individual grape is fermented
Ornellaia Masseto Winery and Wine Cellars
As we took the Winery Tour, it struck me that it didn't look any older than a few years! Every section of the Ornallaia Winery is perfectly maintained and it was hard to imagine that this Tuscan Winery was built already back in 1987!
The steel tanks, the press, and the bottling area look brand new. And especially the design of the Wine Cellar and Wine Storage Room with Ornellaia Vintages has a fantastic interior.
French Oak Barrels filled with Ornellaia Red Wine at Masseto Winery
The story behind the pieces of Arts in the Cellars is poetic and tells a story both of the artist and the Ornellaia Wine Philosophy.
Inside the Cellar, in the middle of rows of French Oak Barrels above, you can see a lamp that actually has moving light cones. This represents the moving of the sun which is essential for the grapes to grow, but it’s also a metaphor for ”Time”. Time is what the pressed wine needs on these Wine Barrels to mature and blossom.
L'Infinito by Photographer Artist Rodney Graham for Ornellaia 2011 Vendemmia d'Artista
The upside-down photo of one of the trees on the Ornellaia Estate in the Wine Room where all vintages of Ornellaia so far are kept is called ”Infinity”. With the branches and crown of the tree turned and growing downwards this represents the roots of the Ornellaia grapes, growing towards the sky…which of course, with this piece of Wine Art, is a symbol for the roots of Ornellaia Vines growing into infinity.
All the Vintages of Ornellaia the very first Vintage of 1985 in the Masseto Winery Wine Storage Room
In the Wine Storage Room, all vintage wine from Ornellaia is kept. There are just a few bottles left of the very first vintages, which have made the owners of Ornellaia want to keep more bottles from each new vintage here for future purposes. One amazing thing is that the Ornellaia 1985 vintage still is ”alive” and enjoyable!
A wine with 32 years on French Oak Barrel and bottle! This Ornellaia Wine is the true essence of a Super Tuscan!
Wine Tasting at Ornellaia Masseto Winery
After the visit to the Wine Cellars, we moved to the top floor and the Wine Tasting Room of Ornellaia, where we had a great introduction to their Super Tuscans and wine philosophy.
Our guide and Sommelier held a perfect Wine Tasting with so many facts on each wine, covering everything from the year's climate, and when the grapes were picked to insights into the complexity of making wines the Ornellaia way.
My Wine Tasting Notes of Super Tuscan Wine are in italic, so remember I'm a Wine Layman and no Wine Professional.
Wine Tasting at Masseto Ornellaia Winery
Poggio alle Gazze dell’Ornellaia 2017 – Toscana Bianco IGT
Poggio alle Gazze is an Ornellaia white wine. Our first impression is that this is a typical Sauvignon Blanc wine, the aroma gives it away that this blend contains a lot of this grape. But then the wine reveals deep, fruity aromas and a refreshing mineral finish, which makes it well-balanced and highly enjoyable. I'm not a big fan of white wine but this wine has some really pleasant tones and I really would like to taste it together with some savory seafood dishes!
81% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Vermentino, 6% Viogner, 3% Verdicchio Grapes
Wine Ratings: Wine Advocate 89, James Suckling 93, Antonio Galloni 91 on a scale to 100
Le Volte dell’Ornellaia 2017 – Toscana IGT Rosso
A complex, rustic body in this red wine with high tannins, but also fragrances including a lot of red fruit tones and spices. Even though I think it has too much roughness for my taste right now, but you sure can taste that this wine has a quality that will match well with the dishes famous in Tuscan Cuisine and the Italian region.
Wine Ratings: Wine Advocate 92, James Suckling 91
The Stars of our Wine Tasting at Ornellaia Winery
Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia 2016 – Bolgheri DOC Rosso
The bouquet of this Super Tuscan was big, deep, and wonderful and packed with intense red fruit aromas. Rich on the palate too with a strong and long-lasting aftertaste. A wine I reckon will need a few years…like 10?...to evolve fully but sure could be enjoyed today as well with the right food and wine pairing.
As a Chef, I get all these imaginary series of prepared ingredients I wished I had in front of me to combine with the wine I drink. I always intend to get pictures of Food as a first impression instead of what the wine sense or tastes like. So this was an instant favorite of mine, with a lot of Food imagine to go with it.
Even if Ornellaia calls it their ”second wine” – this potential long-aging Super Tuscan still is made with the passion and attention to detail as any Ornellaia Wine.
44% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Petit Verdot, 12% Cabernet Franc
Ornellaia 2016 ”La Tensione” – Bolgheri DOC Superiore Rosso
After tasting La Tensione, I quickly changed my mind about my favorite Ornellaia Wine! This was something completely different and extraordinary! Remember I love wine, but am an amateur and layman so my lack of knowledge and wine vocabulary limit my description here - but it was simply amazing. So deep flavors, and levels of aromas and taste!
I think the words of Wine Maker Olga Fusari capture it spot on: “A particularly dark and young color is the prelude to a complex nose of blackberries, spices, and cedar. The palate is rich and dense, balanced by a refined and firm tannic structure, lifted by juicy and bright acidity.” Couldn’t have said it better myself ;)
51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot
Wine Ratings: Wine Advocate 98, James Suckling 98, Wine Spectator 96, Antonio Galloni 96+
Wine Tasting with a view at one of the Best Tuscany Wineries - Masseto Winery on the Ornellaia Estate
List of Super Tuscan Wines and what Super Tuscans Cost
Of course, your taste in wine will definitely decide which types of red wine you’ll prefer. Maybe Super Tuscans aren’t for you? I know though that I will try to taste and experience the wines from Ornallaia and other Super Tuscans as often as I can. Life is too short not to drink great wine!
However, there are some inofficial lists of Super Tuscan Wine and Tuscany Wineries that are common to be known as some of the best Super Tuscans in the World today.
Are Super Tuscan wines expensive? You can presuppose that they will be as Super Tuscan Red Wines is highly coveted by Wine Connoisseurs and Sommeliers all over the world.
But let's dig into a short list with some of the Top Super Tuscan Red Wines and what these Super Tuscans cost to buy right now.
Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia
The First Super Tuscan that even has its own DOC, separate from Bolgheri DOC! So, if you are lucky, you can find some of the recent vintages for under $150. If you are lucky to get your hands on a 1985 Sassicaia, be prepared to pay $4000. Yes, per bottle!
Grapes from one of the best Wine Makers and Italian Wineries today, and grapes from a single Vineyard will result in some high prices as well. The 2002 Vintage of Solaia can be bought for anything between $120 to $280 but if you prefer an older vintage like Solaia 1978, be prepared to pay between $340 to $650 per bottle!
What about Ornellaia’s high-end Super Tuscan then? Even without the limited labels from artists on vintages, you’ll pay between $125 and up for a 2007 Ornellaia Bolgheri, and up to $450 for a bottle of the 1990 release. One of Ornellaia’s most expensive Super Tuscans was a 9-liter bottle; also known as a Salmanazar, of Ornellaia 2005. It was sold at Christie’s New York for a staggering $33,600!
Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Masseto
We need another Ornellaia Wine on this list! The Masseto is made from solely Merlot grapes grown and harvested from a single vineyard. Limited, exclusive, extreme quality and small production mean you’ll pay some top dollars for a single bottle of the best vintages! 2001 will cost you $850 or more while you pay a ”modest” price of $350 to $450 for a bottle of 2005 Masseto!
What Food should you pair with a Super Tuscan Wine?
The healthy kitchen of Tuscany is well-known for its braised and grilled meat dishes made from lamb, pork, veal, and beef. Seasoned with loads of herbs and the earthy tones of farmers' produce will match perfectly with the bold, intense, and deep taste which is significant for many of the Super Tuscan Red Wines found here.
Of course, french food would match perfectly with wines from french grapes even if they grow in a Tuscany Wine Region!
So the earthy meat dishes from France Cuisine would do great with a Super Tuscan Red Wine as well.
When matching wine with food, one of the easiest and fool-proof wine and food pairings is to go for local food with local wine. So meat dishes, charcuterie, and cheese from Toscana will without doubt be a well-matched food and wine pairing. Or even a simple Pizza!
Nduja Pizza and Truffle Pizza in Bolgheri, Toscana
After the Wine Tasting and Wine Tour of Ornellaia we went to the village of Bolgheri, where we ate some fantastic food and had another great wine from Tuscany and the Bolgheri region; Villa Donoratico Bolgheri 2017.
My choice of food was a Salami and Nduja Pizza but I also tasted a Truffle Pizza; rich, flavourful, and matching this wine perfectly.
Food Travel to Tuscany
This was my third visit to Toscana but my first Wine Tour at a Super Tuscan Winery. Vineyard and Winery Tours will be my new thing!
If you want to buy cheap flight tickets to Italy and find the nearest airport in Tuscany; you can search for flight tickets on Skyscanner.
You’ll find Tuscany Airports in the Italian cities of Pisa and Florence, or Firenze as the Italians call it.
Besides some of the finest Wineries in Italy, Tuscan Cuisine is fantastic. Tuscan Cuisine is famous for its simplicity but the use of really high produce like legumes, bread, cheese, vegetables, mushrooms, and fresh seasonal fruit.
Food Travel in Italy is really simple if you are headed for the Tuscan part.
Tuscany is also known for its wonderful landscapes, its history - the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, with great artistic legacy-making influences on high culture, history of art, and science. Some of the world's most famous museums and historical and architectural sights will satisfy any traveler with a lot of sightseeing to go between food and wine! So if you're into all that I'm pretty sure you will love Tuscany and this part of Italy!
Hotel and Accomodation in Tuscany
Enjoy your stay in Tuscany!
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