An Exercise in Opulence and Hedonism – Tasting the New Release Ornellaia 2017…

Hot on the heels of the Sassicaia 2017 release comes the opulent, extroverted Ornellaia expression. From a warm dry vintage, conditions certainly played to the Ornellaia style of richness and opulence.

The vineyards extend 115 hectares and are broken down into 70 different plots, all with slightly different characteristics. There are two main areas, one around the Ornellaia winery itself and another around Bellaria to the north and north-west of Bolgheri, where the land slopes gently down towards the sea some 5 km away. All vineyards within the Bolgheri DO are dedicated to the production of the Ornellaia range with the very best plots being blended into Ornellaia and also the highly respected second wine, Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia.

Ornellaia 2017, DO Bolgheri Superiore, 15 Abv.

Facinating to see how individual and unique the expression of Ornellaia is vintage after vintage. This warm sunshine vintage boasts a ripe, plush opulent nose jam packed full of cherry confit, black plum preserve and blueberry pie laced with a dusting of vanilla pod and brûléed oak spice. Such a dense, dark core with hedonistic notes of mocha and chocolates filled with blueberry reduction, creme de cassis and buttered brown toast. A bold, extroverted, flamboyant expression of Ornellaia that will appeal to those who enjoy riper, more exotic vintages. Drink from release and for 15+ years.

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

Note: Tasted after bottling, this wine was rated 94+/100. A subsequent tasting in April 2020 resulted in an upgraded score of 95+/100 GSMW.

Sassicaia 2015 – An Outstanding Vintage Release to Rival the Great 1985 from Tenuta San Guido in Bolgheri…

2015 was another wonderful year all across European winelands, producing some truly exceptional wines in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Spain, Germany, and of course Italy. While longer aged Brunello’s and Barolo’s are still some way off being released, 2018 is the year for a whole long awaited tranche of 2015 Tuscan gems from Sassicaia to Ornellaia, Tignanello to Solaia.

The release of the 2015 vintage of Sassicaia from Tenuta San Guido captures the essence of this truly unique vine growing terroir, showcasing generous, refined black fruit aromas, power and balance, together with beautiful freshness and elegance.

There has been much excitement about 2015 in Tuscany which the estate of Tenuta San Guido confidently compares to the very famous 1985 vintage. Both shared similar climatic conditions – a mild winter that was followed by heavy rains in the spring and a hot summer, with higher than average temperatures in June and July, resulting in very healthy vineyards and excellent ripening across all varietals.

Tenuta San Guido has created what James Suckling calls “potentially one of the best Sassicaia’s in decades”, awarding it 98/100 points in his most recent tasting report. Antonio Galloni’s early Bolgheri reports for Vinous, confirms that the “warm, dry growing season produced generous, highly expressive wines.” Collectors and connoisseurs of Italian Super Tuscan blends are in for a very big treat this vintage.

The Wines

Tenuta San Guido Le Difese 2016, IGT Toscana, 13.5% Abv.

Made up of its usual blend of 30% Sangiovese and 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, this is Sassicaia’s answer to an earlier drinking wine. Deliciously bright and inviting, the nose is intensely aromatic with spring violets, cherry blossom, dried rose petals and a wonderful melange of raspberry, crushed red cherries and salty red liquorice. Crunchy and crystalline, the palate shows velvety soft chalky tannins, mouth wateringly fresh acids, beautiful purity and a corresponding amount of verve and vigour. One wonders what else you could possible hope for from a classy little wine like this. Drink from release and for 10+ years if well cellared.

(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto 2016, IGT Toscana, 14% Abv.

Officially the second wine of Sassicaia created in 2000, this 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot blend is always one of the wineries most sought after wines due to its exceptionally high quality, outstanding value for money on release and its impressive ability to age. The aromatics tip their hat to big brother Sassicaia, with a dense core of Cabernet Sauvignon cedar spice, violets, cassis, earthy black berries and subtle mineral graphite notes. There is an abundance of opulence, expressive plummy flesh, leafy black currant spice and the most seamless, polished mineral tannins imaginable. A structural reprise on the finish reveals juicy tart red berry and cranberry fruit notes which combine with chalky grippy tannins, ensuring a long, distinguished finish brimming with power, elegance and superb textural balance. Drink from 2020 until 2035+

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

Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2015, DOC Bolgheri Sassicaia, Toscana, 14% Abv.

Always exciting to taste this icon wine on release, none more so than in block buster quality years like 2015. First bottled commercially in 1968, this 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc blend comes from vineyards at 100 to 400 metres altitude, planted in soils rich in limestone and clay. The aromatics are instantly noticeable for their deeper, darker, riper, broodier fruit profile. Fairly closed and tight on opening, the perfume is a little shy but you can sense the depth and complexity waiting to emerge from beneath. So many notes of pithy black cherries, black currant, leafy black plum and a sappy, resinous fragrance from the Cabernet Franc component. The oaking is almost imperceptible, allowing the fruit and mineral terroir notes to take centre stage. The palate shows beautiful poise, elegance and harmonious balance, framing the red and black berry fruits with incredibly dense, creamy, velvety tannins. The acids are fresh and vibrant, embroidering the palate and keeping it crystalline and vital. Beautifully complex at this youthful stage, it remains imposing yet light on its feet, concentrated but energetic and pure. With such depth of fruit, intense structure and graphite minerality, this vintage looks set for a very long and distinguished road of evolution. A really outstanding effort. Drink from 2022 to 2045+

(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi Masterclass with Elisabetta Geppetti…

Elisabetta Geppetti was only 20 years old when, in 1985 she first took the reigns at her family’s tiny 2 hectare property near Pereta in the Scansano zone. At this time, Tuscan wines were often seen as being of underwhelming quality and fine wines in the Maremma itself were practically non existent.

The original Sangiovese based wines of Le Pupille were made under the Morellino di Scansano appellation. So when Elisabetta proceeded with her vision to add an international dimension to the estates wines, the Maremma’s first quality Super Tuscan was born.

The Cabernet Sauvignon based blend Saffredi was first released in 1989 with the 1987 vintage, made in consultation with Giacomo Tachis, one of the founding fathers of Italy’s Super Tuscan wine style. The Tachis era ended in 1996 and subsequent consultants involved with Saffredi have included Riccardo Cotarella, ex-Chateau Latour winemaker, Christian Le Sommer and currently, Luca del Toma.

As various consulting winemakers have taken the reigns and made their mark, so the Saffredi blend has slowly evolved, starting off initially as a pure Cabernet Sauvignon wine until 1990, after which Merlot, Syrah and Alicante have all played differing supporting roles. Today, the modern expression of Saffredi relies on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot, all harmoniously blended to produce one of the most highly sought after reds in Tuscany.

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi 1992, 12 Abv. (Giacometti Tachis)

78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 5% Alicante (Cannonau or Garnacha)

Real depth and allure from this small vintage, the nose is a perfect melange of tertiary and creamy savoury red berry fruits. Plenty of graphite, woodsmoke, diesel rag, blood orange, liquorice stick and sweet earthy bramble berry confit notes. Cool and fine, this is really classy, the work of a master, with a tender touch and soft chalky tannins, stony minerality and spicy, macerated black berries and rooibos tea notes on the long finish. A real rarity.

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

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi 1998, 13.5 Abv. (Riccardo Cotarella, brother of Renzo)

55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 5% Alicante (Cannonau or Garnacha)

Rich, aromatics, with sweet leather, savoury plums, liquorice stick and sweet herbal pot pourri notes. Quite lactic and chocolaty, very sleek, elegant and fine boned, this has powdery pithy tannins, and a wonderfully fine texture. So seamless, complex yet vibrant with beguiling leather, aniseed root, creamy strawberries and raisined savoury black cherries on the long, cool, finish. Really grows on you.

(Wine Safari: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi 2004, 14 Abv. (Christian Le Sommer)

50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 5% Syrah

First thing that strikes you about this wine is its purity, clarity and modernity. Perhaps the intensity of the superb 2004 vintage helps shape its character. The nose is dark and seductive, vital, brimming with black cherry, kirsch liquor, saline cassis and black current leaf notes with a subtle backing of graphite, herbs and liquorice. Seamless balance, vibrant acids, a creamy intense palate breadth and wonderful harmony reinforce this wines pedigree. Very fine indeed.

(Wine Safari: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi 2007, 14.5 Abv. (Christian Le Sommer)

45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 10% Syrah

The aromatics are laden with dark black fruits, black cherry spice, Kirsch liquor and creamy black current, cassis, pastille confectionary notes. Another superb vintage in Tuscany, the palate of the 2007 shows more coffee bean, bruleed cherry and a hint of molasses and liquorice spice. A complex, animated expression, with layers of graphite, crush gravel and subtle savoury Syrah black pepper seasoning. Plenty of life ahead of this wine.

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

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi 2010, 14 Abv. (Christian Le Sommer)

50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 5% Syrah

Another lifted nose with plenty of youthful fragrance. There is a dark broody depth suggesting both a higher alcohol and ripeness level. Aromatics of sweet raisined cherry, black berry, tar, graphite and liquorice tease the palate with subtle layers of caramelised cherry, and vanilla pod spice. Deep, dark, fleshy depth shows some alcohol lift, picante, sweet black berry Syrah spice, but remains compact, full bodied and elegant with admittedly more muscle and ripeness.

(Wine Safari: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi 2013, 14.5 Abv. (Luca del Toma)

60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot

A wine that shows its Cabernet base from the start. Violets, cedar, graphite and wood spice mix with liquorice, black current leaf and bramble berry spice. Still youthfully taught, the minerality rises to the fore without too much coaxing out the glass. Like the 2004, the purity and clarity of the crystalline black current and cassis fruit is so impressive and mouth watering, but lacks none of the flesh, density, and earthy power of previous vintages. Another excellent vintage in Tuscany, 2013 combines the best characteristics of fresh acids, harmonious fruit depth and all round complexity.

(Wine Safari: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi 2015, Toscana, 14.5 Abv. (Luca del Toma)

60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot

Opulent classical Tuscan aromatics of sweet cherry, tannery leather, tobacco, aniseed root, and pot pourri. Complex notes of wood smoke, liquorice stick, graphite and saline sweet black berry develop. There is plenty of intense concentration and the palate is fine and suave showing fleshy red cherry and salty earthy red current fruits that drift across the palate lubricated by fine, creamy, polished tannins. Like all great Tuscan 2015s, the palate is under pinned by vibrant fresh acids, adding to the wonderful harmony and palate impact of this impressive wine. Drink now or keep for 20+ years.

(Wine Safari: 96+/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