Depending on where you are staying in Tuscany, Bolgheri might be up to two hours away but is definitely worth the drive. Set right beside the Tyrrhenian Sea, this is the region that many of the most famous Italian wines come from. For this special visit we were destined for Ornellaia, which is located along the cypress tree-lined road next door to Masseto and across the road from Sassacaia. Definitely the Beverly Hills of Tuscany! We only got a glimpse of the town of Bolgheri but it is full of great little restaurants, a very popular wine bar and small shops. Definitely a place I want to go back to!
You may have heard of Ornellaia. Both Ornellaia and Masseto were started in the 1980’s by one of Italy’s most famous wine families (Antinori), and in this case Lodovico Antinori. Only 25 years old, the estate was under Mondavi ownership at one point, and today the Frescobaldi family now owns both Masseto and Ornellaia.
Not a great region for growing Sangiovese due to influence of the sea and the chalky soils, producers were slowly beginning to work with Bordeaux varietals. This was a potentially risky venture because at the time planting anything but Sangiovese was not widely accepted by historically traditional Italian producers. Because these wines didn’t fit into any of the rules set by the wine organizations (consorzio) a whole new category was invented, and the wines became known as “Super Tuscans”. On the bottles today you will either see Bolgheri DOC Superiore or Toscana IGT Rosso.
Our estate tour began with a visit to the famous tree for photos and a look at one of their manicured vineyards. It is a great spot for photos.
We went on in the minivan to the production and bottling facility. We arrived just in time to see Le Volte being bottled (their lower pricepoint Merlot), and got a glance at the circular wine cellar.
The line up of artfully decorated bottles was something as a marketer I loved to see. This is called the Vendemmia d’Artista project. Since 2009 they have had a theme for each vintage which inspires artists to create works of art around the large format bottles.
Our tour continued back to the tasting room where we sat down to taste Poggio alle Gazze, (Sauvignon Blanc) Le Volte (Merlot dominant), Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia (Merlot & Cab) and the 2016 Ornellaia (50% Cab, some Merlot, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot). What a treat. This was followed by tasting their delicious olive oil, and grappa. We learned how to test the quality of Grappa (seeing as there are so many bad Grappas in Italy) by rubbing our hands with a drop and the perfume was really very aromatic. I am not a Grappa drinker myself, but appreciated learning how to check the quality.
My visit certainly did give me an appreciation for the innovation, history and high quality and attention to detail in this area. I will be making Bolgheri a focal point of my next visit to Italy!