Ornellaia “Le Volte dell’Ornellaia” Toscana IGT 2016

Deep ruby color; cherry, dark fruits on the nose; blackberry, blackcurrant, cherry, plum, spice, mint hint on the palate.

Ornellaia “Le Volte dell’Ornellaia” Toscana IGT 2016

Dry; fine-grained tannin. Excellent acidity and balance. Super Tuscan primarily made with merlot, but sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon play supporting roles. Merlot gives this overall softness, lush quality. Sangiovese delivers freshness. Cab provides structure and dusty, round tannins. Medium body. Fermented in small, stainless steel tanks, then aged 10 months partly in wood and partly in cement tanks. Oak is very minor character in this vino drama.

Solid wine. Straightforward without layers of complexity, but the red and dark fruit dimensions make this a nice QPR (quality-price ratio) red wine. Medium finish, where the mint hint makes cameo appearance; 14.5% ABV.

Winemaker Axel Heinz certainly loved this vintage. From the website: “Few vintages have expressed all the virtues of the Tuscan coast’s climate as eloquently as 2016. An almost perfect combination of sunshine, warm summer days and cool nights, with just about enough rain to slow down the vine’s growth without making them suffer from drought have led to one of the purest expressions of Le Volte dell’Ornellaia, combining perfectly ripe yet vibrant fruit with a silky and generous texture underlined by a fresh and lively acidity.”

Frescobaldi family

Ornellaia pioneered Super Tuscan wines back in 1985, although the first Super Tuscans appeared in the 1970s. The Ornellaia estate is located in Bolgieri near the Mediterranean Sea, 65 miles west of Siena. Le Volte is Ornellaia’s second tier effort, their higher end bottles sell for $200 or more and are difficult to get. This is made in much larger amounts and priced to introduce you to quality Super Tuscan wines.

Super Tuscans were a revolution in Italian winemaking in Tuscany where sangiovese was the legally required grape in strictly controlled Chianti wines. The introduction of French grapes—particularly cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and syrah—initially was controversial. Winemakers coined the name Super Tuscan to distinguish their quality wines from low-quality, vino da tavola label required when they did not follow strict Chianti rules.

Today, most Super Tuscans use the legal appellation of IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica), a designation between DOCG and vino da tavola. Interestingly, some Super Tuscans are 100% sangiovese but choose the Super Tuscan name because of where the wine is made and to avoid adhering to the rules governing Chianti. Super Tuscans typically are made in a big, rich style. They often cost more than $100. Ornellaia’s Le Volte is a classic Super Tuscan blend; in order to achieve the lower price, it is made in part with grapes that don’t qualify for their higher end wines.

Ornellaia has a fascinating history in the story of major players in modern wine. Flying winemaker Michel Rolland joined the winery as a consulting oenologist in 1991. They introduced Ornellaia Le Volte dell’Ornellaia two years later. In 1999, Robert Mondavi gained a minority share in Ornellaia, then gained full control in 2002, then transferred half of his interest to Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi. When Constellation Brands acquired Robert Mondavi in 2005, Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi gained full control of the winery.

Frescobaldi vineyards and estate

The Frescobaldi family have been major players in Florence and Tuscany for more than 700 years. They began producing wine in Tuscany in 1308; some of their customers included Michelangelo and Henry VIII. In a foreshadowing of the Super Tuscan revolution, they began planting chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot vines in the region in 1855. They control Ornellaia today.

Ornellaia “Le Volte dell’Ornellaia” Toscana IGT 2016 is solid, tasty, somewhat simple Super Tuscan. Excellent value. Malbec-led effort with sangiovese brightness and cab gravitas. Substantial without being too complex or serious, thanks to easy tannic elements. Pair with red meat dishes; barbecue; meat-lover pizza; meatloaf; Italian dishes with red sauces; lamb; wild game—venison; hamburgers and sliders; Philly cheesesteak. $28-30

Ornellaia website

Frescobaldi winery
Ornellaia barrel room
Ornellaia vineyard
Ornellaia vineyard
Ornellaia vineyard pruning
Ornellaia vineyard grape sorting