Even Little Unicorns Grow Up One Day ~ Tasting the New Release Ornellaia Bianco 2015 Release…

I have always been a big lover of the exceptional wines of Ornellaia. Their reds offer such delicious opulence, intensity and complexity in youth and with age, while their resurrected whites have titillated the fine wine market and earned this beautiful Bolgheri estate a host of new converts.


I guess for me, it all started in 2010 when I bought the new recreation of a Bolgheri white classic under the Poggio alle Gazze label. Usually a Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Petit Manseng and Vermentino blend, the Poggio label acted as a laboratory for the estate to find and vinify the finest white wine parcels that demonstrate their capacity to express the unique character of Ornellaia’s terroir.


In 2013, winemaker Axel Heinz felt confident enough to select parcels of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier to create the estate’s first Ornellaia bianco. A 70/30 blend led by Sauvignon Blanc, this wine birthed a new unicorn wine in Italy and the demand has grown ever since. In the summer of 2017, retailers, including myself, were inundated with allocation requests from wine suppliers to super yachts on the Med for Ornellaia Bianco, the oligarchs chosen summer wine of choice.


Of course this phenomena was a simple reflection of absolute scarcity and sublime quality, not marketing prowess. But needless to say, the birth of the 2015 vintage was highly anticipated. 2015 was a text book vintage after a standard winter. July proved to be very hot and dry with temperatures over 30 degrees C every day of the month. With fears of an early, problematic vintage rising, rain arrived on the 10th August to unblock ripening and healthy white grapes were eventually harvested in the last week of August.


Ornellaia Bianco 2015, IGT Toscana, Bolgheri, 13.5 Abv.

The produce of north facing vineyards planted on sandy clay-rich soils, the 2015 harvest represents an almost perfect vintage. The wine shows a defined mineral laden expression, with crushed granite and wet river pebbles, and plenty of black currant leaf, tart gooseberry, green apple and tart pineapple pastille fruit precision. There are also ample herbal notes punctuated by saffron, dried mint leaf and baking herb spices. The palate is taught and crisp with intense concentration of waxy green apples, cassis, greengage, and boiled green apple bon bons with just an ever so slight lick of honey. The finish is bold, bright and beautifully saline, leaving the wine to impose a thoroughly mineral, “Pouilly Fume’esque” minerality footprint. At 100% Sauvignon Blanc in this vintage, there are ample reminders of the finest Bordeaux whites, which suggests this vintage will age comfortably for 12 to 15+ years. 

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Ornellaia 2014 ~ Exceeding All Quality Expectations For the Vintage…

I recently had an incredibly interesting tasting Masterclass with Ornellaia winemaker Axel Heinz as he launched the new bottled release of their Bolgheri red blend 2014 in the UK. The tasting took the format of a deconstruction component tasting Masterclass for barrel samples from the upcoming 2015 vintage.


The point of the tasting was not specifically to explain the 2014 vintage per se, but to illustrate the analysis, tasting, micro-vinifications, and terroir analysis that goes into the construction of the Ornellaia flagship blend every year. We tasted nine Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot single varietal vinifications that illustrate the jigsaw of terroirs that are analysed to create the perfect completed wine jigsaw within any given vintage. Fascinating.



2014 was considered a very challenging vintage with a warm and wet winter followed by a mild and dry spring, allowing for normal vegetative growth with punctual and regular flowering. Perfect July weather was followed by a cold and rainy August, creating very difficult conditions for ripening and greatly increasing the risk of vineyard diseases.


Meticulous work in the vineyards was required to keep the canopy and fruit healthy. But this work was rewarded with two successive months of mostly dry, sunny weather creating excellent conditions for ripening. It was at harvest time that the intricate analysis of various plots really came into its own. The result was one of the longest, most delayed harvests on record ending on the 22nd October.


Tasting Note: 

Ornellaia 2014 Bolgheri DOC Rosso Superiore, Italy

Having already tasted and scored most of the Bolgheri 2014s, it was with great anticipation that I finally got to taste both the Ornellaia 2014 and the Le Serre Nuove 2014. This is a very impressive expression of Ornellaia, blended from 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, 20% Petit Verdot. Born out of a very difficult vintage, winemaker Axel Heinz has exceeded expectations producing a rich, opulent, yet classically proportioned wine that overflows with black berry fruits, cherry, liquorice stick, damson plums, bramble fruits and dusty graphite notes. The palate is bright and pure with a real sense of textural precision. There is wonderful cut and freshness, but also superb black and blue berry fruit intensity and linear, mineral definition. This wine is the ultimate surprise package. With 20% (instead of the usual 4-5%) of late ripening Petit Verdot in the blend, you’d expect this vintage to feel a little different. It is a true testament to the obsessive commitment winemaker Axel Heinz has committed to this challenging vintage. Drink from 2020 to 2040.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


“This year represents the heart of the estate, Ornellaia’s ‘Essence’: its natural style, the exceptional quality of its terroir, and the competence of those who work in the vineyards and the cellar.” ~ Axel Heinz, Winemaker, Ornellaia

Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2014 from Bolgheri – Reviewing The New Release of One of Tuscany’s Most Successful Fine Wine Brands…

Over the past decade, the Sassicaia Bolgheri estate has done a sterling job cementing its status as a “must buy” fine wine on release. One thing you can be assured of if you pay the opening release price for this wine is that you’ll never find the same vintage on the market, 3 to 6 months later, for cheaper. 


But how is this achieved year after year? Well, for starters, the wine is always offered at a very reasonable opening release price, or in the case of 2014, at £545 per 6 Under Bond (US$675). Admirably, despite demand growing yearly,  this release price has remained nearly unchanged for 2 to 3 years. This modesty and “un-greedy” positioning has found great resonance with fine wine consumers and earned the estate a solid amount of continued loyalty.


After the spectacular 2013 release, the 2014 was always going to have a tough act to follow and was characterised by a late growing cycle with Sassicaia’s last grapes only being harvested on the 31st of October, and was generally considered to be a difficult vintage, along side the likes of 2005, 2004, 1999, 1998 and 1988…(challenging years which all scored 93/100 points or below).


Recent tastings of some of the above vintages reveals some of Sassicaia’s prettiest wines with 1988 often touted by the Marchesi as possibly a finer vintage than even the mythical 100 point 1985. And what not to love about the dense, powerful 2004 or the elegant, finesse laden 2005. This all bodes very well for the 2014. 


Tasting Note: Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2014 Bolgheri ~ The 2014 has a dark ruby plum colour and the most charming lifted aromatics of dark black plum, bramble berries, and spicy peppery graphite notes. Also plenty of sweet broody raisined black cherry, dried herbs, tobacco leaf and dried mint. The palate is bold and plump with a sweet fruited entry showing exotic hints of tart Victoria plums, dried peaches, and red apple Bon Bons. Plenty of fleshy, suave textural puppy fat on this young wine but also a core of subtle tension lurking below the overt fruit layers. This is one of the most forward and accessible Sassicaia wines in many years, and a genuine extrovert offering wonderful overt generosity. This beautiful wine is going to make a lot of friends. (Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting the Sassicaia 2002 from Magnum along side the 2014. The 2002 from a “difficult” vintage was once regarded as the ultimate “restaurant vintage”.