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.