Vintage Italian Postcards

Monday, November 16, 2009

Wine of the Month: Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia

Ten years old and still going strong. First made in 1997 and released in 1999, Le Serre Nuove is a complex aromatic red by the acclaimed Tenuta dell’Ornellaia winery in Tuscany.

One of the Tenuta’s three wines, it came 12 years after the flagship Ornellaia and, like its big brother, it quickly garnered international praise.

Le Serre Nuove is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, mainly made with grapes from younger vineyards. Technically, it is a second vin, a byproduct of Ornellaia, because it is produced with base wines that don’t make the cut during the flagship wine’s extremely rigorous selection process.

But second vin doesn’t mean it is a second rate wine. Its combination of intense aroma, structure, balance, but also freshness, softness and approachability captured critics’ interest from the very early days.

Each of the base wines is fermented and aged separately, first in stainless steel vats, then in barrels. After 12 months, the blending takes place. Once blended, the wine is aged in barrels for three months, and in bottle for six more. The end result has been described as “gorgeous”, “mellifluous”, “very rich”, and “elegant”, and, over the years, was awarded a minimum of 88 points (for the 1997 vintage) and a maximum of 92 (for the 2004 vintage) by wine bible The Wine Spectator.

Now the tenth anniversary vintage, which dates from 2007, promises to be among Le Serre Nuove’s very best. The weather was perfect in September two years ago, with hot sunny days and cool nights, ensuring the grapes ripened to perfection.

"Having ideal conditions in September enabled a perfect, slow, steady ripening of the grapes," says Leonardo Raspini, general director and agronomist of Tenuta dell’Ornellaia. "In this way, the grapes mature with a good concentration of aromas and polyphenols and without any hint of overripening.”
The resulting wine has “a complex bouquet, with intense red berry fruit, sweet spice and balsamic mint and eucalyptus accents," according to Axel Heinz, winemaker of Tenuta dell’Ornellaia. “Ample and silky on the palate, it displays an elegant, deft tannic structure, fresh sweet fruit, and intense minty accents.”

The 2007 vintage of Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia is available now.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Vampire trips in Volterra

Why are young people [and some of their mothers] flocking to the small Tuscan town of Volterra?

Ah, romance is far from dead in the twenty-first century and these particular pilgrims have set out for the “shrine” where Stephanie Meyer, the author of “Twilight” and “New Moon”, set a particularly important scene between her heroine Bella and Edward, the vampire she loves.

Volterra is also where the elite vampire coven, the Volturi, reside in the books and films of the “Twilight Saga”.

The film version of ”New Moon”, starring Kristen Stewart as Bella and Robert Pattinson as Edward, is due to be released on November 20th in the USA and Italy and on November 27th in the UK. Despite a vigorous online campaign for filming in Volterra the Italian scenes were actually shot in nearby Montepulciano but that has not stopped the townsfolk of Volterra from making the most of the tourism opportunity which has come their way: you can book Vampire Tours, New Moon weekends and a tour called “Hot on the trail of Bella and Edward”. You can buy “New Moon” mugs, calendars and even soaps.

Should you be in the town and suffer from “New Moon fatigue”, you can always explore the walled city itself, with its Roman Theatre, palaces, Museo Etrusco Guarnacci and twelfth century Duomo. And should you need a complete change of scene, you can escape to the medieval hill town of San Gimignano.
“New Moon” is not Volterra’s only claim to literary fame as the Italian novel “Chimaira” by Valerio Massimo Manfredi is set there and the town is mentioned in Dudley Pope’s “Captain Nicholas Ramage” series. In real life the French author Stendhal had a disastrous encounter with his unrequited love there.