Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia

It little over 30 years since the first vintage of the ‘super-Tuscan’ wine called Ornellaia was released. From the coastal DOC of Bolgheri, close to the sea in Tuscany’s southern Maremma region, it is a Bordeaux blend that comes from vineyards separated from its neighbour Sassicaia by an iconic line of cyprus trees.

With 115 hectares under vine, Ornellaia has since been joined by a second red wine, Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia. This is a second wine in the tradition of the Cru Classé of Bordeaux, often made from the younger vines of the estate, but lavished with similar care and attention as the Grand Vin. First produced at Ornellaia in 1997, grapes are hand-picked and selected by hand on sorting tables. Each variety and parcel is vinified and raised separately in French oak barrels for 12 months, before the blend is made and the wine returned to barrel for further ageing.

Le Serre Nuove 2018 was launched late in 2020, a vintage that enjoyed balanced conditions with spring rainfall restocking the water table, a mild and sunny summer and harvest “in almost perfect conditions,” according to winemaker Olga Fusari: “After a number of dry years, the conditions in 2018 gave a decidedly autumnal touch to the harvest, the perfect premise for a particularly balanced vintage of great aromatic complexity.”

Like Ornellaia itself (the 2018 just released at around £170 per bottle), Le Serre Nuove is a blend of Bordeaux varieties, led by Merlot which has emerged as a star of the Bolgheri region, along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Olga Fusari describes the 2018 as a “wine of great aromatic complexity, a distinguishing feature of the vintage. This is a charming and well balanced Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia, well structured, with a crisp and flavourful finish.”

I would taste it, alongside the 2013 vintage – which is said to be similar to 2018 – and a beautifully aged example in the 2005, those wines made by the current Estate Director, winemaker Axel Heinz. The 2005 certainly shows the balance and breed of the wine, drinking in perfect condition 15 years after the vintage.

The Wines

(2021) As with the 2013 vintage, Cabernet Sauvignon marginally dominates the blend with 33%, then 32% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc and 17% Petit Verdot. This was a rather wet year, but a warm one, with warm and dry conditions for harvest. Winemaking follows a similar recipe for this wine each year, with only 25% new oak for the barrel maturation, the separate components blended after one year in barrel before further barrel ageing. This is a particularly silky and sleek Le Serre Nuove at this young stage, smooth black cherry and cassis aromas, melding seamlessly with creamy oak, a little graphite and tobacco. Terrific fruit sweetness and juiciness on the palate, with smooth, unruffled black fruit but edged with keen cherry acidity and taut framework of tannins. This has the hallmarks to be an exceptionally good wine with longevity too. Many merchants are offering this by the six-bottle case currently, at under £50 per bottle equivalent. Use the wine-searcher link.
(2021) In 2013 the blend was slightly dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon with 36%, then 32% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 12% Petit Verdot, and it was a late harvest with a cool spring and autumn delaying growth. It is eight years younger than the 2005 of course, but seems to be a of much firmer character generally (possibly because of the upped Cabernet content), with firm black fruit on the nose and a savoury, liquorice bite to the acidity and fruit on the palate, tart berry skins giving grip and energy, a fine, long and flowing finish, though that slightly more austere edge is always there.
(2021) A blend of 50% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot, 2005 was generally a very good year, though careful harvesting was necessary in autumn showers. The different parcels and varieties resulted in 54 separate vinifications of base wine components. The wines were matured for 12 months in barriques (25% new barrels), then blended, and returned to barrel for a futher five months. It still exhibits a deep colour, quite opaque at the core. The nose presents a lovely amalgam of plum and glossy black cherry, gamey and balsamic notes, and a hint of woodsmoke wreathed through it. Classic pencil shaving and graphite touches too. In the mouth, beautiful and expansive sweetness, a rich, creamy weight of fruit that is glossy and ripe, then terrific support pushes through, with chocolaty tannins, as fine as you like, fine acidity, and the wine runs on and on into the finish. Not currently available retail in the UK, but may appear at auction.

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