The Italian estate has launched Ornellaia Bianco - a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier - and clearly has lofty ambitions for white wines in Bolgheri.
In Ornellaia Bianco, estate winemaker and director Axel Heinz has created a white wine deemed worthy of the Ornellaia name; a name built on ageworthy, red Bordeaux blends from Bolgheri in coastal Tuscany.
A chance beginning
The genesis of this new wine goes back as far as 2006. An end-of-harvest party – Heinz’s second at the estate – was celebrated with some white wine fermented just a few days previously, made from Sauvignon Blanc that had resisted grafting onto Merlot.
Its promise prompted further experimentation, ‘with the aim of seeing how far we could go with white wines in that area of Bolgheri’, Heinz said.
‘Nobody else was thinking of that, but then neither was anyone 20 or 30 years ago with red wine,’ he added.
Tenuta dell’Ornellaia clearly has lofty ambitions for Ornellaia Bianco. The first release has been priced around £130 per bottle, similar to its more established red counterpart.
There is a rarity factor, because only 4,000 bottles of white were produced. That is just 2.5 percent of the amount of red, and only 200 bottles were initially available for the UK, with a significant proportion kept back as ‘library stock’.
The estate also chose a favourable vintage for launch. ‘2013 was a cool year, with a late harvest,’ said Heinz, adding that it was especially good for whites.
Ornellaia Bianco tasting
Ornellaia Bianco, like its red cousin, is made from international grape varieties, comprising 70 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 30 percent Viognier. It is aged for one year in 30 percent new oak and 70 percent used oak.
Like the red, it is reminiscent of Bordeaux in style, and yet possesses something distinctly, uniquely Italian. There is a savouriness to the Ornellaia Bianco which transcends the combination of two aromatic varieties, and can only be put down to terroir.
The robe is of glowing gold. The nose, though characteristic of Sauvignon Blanc, is less grassy than some Graves whites, and the Viognier lends a unique richness, with notes of both fresh and dried apricots, as well as white peach, and then lychee.
On the palate, the wine is consummately elegant, with a suave decadence, counterpoised by a fresh, mineral vein. A distinctly Italian savouriness and Mediterranean salinity give flair to the finish.
Ornellaia’s other white wine
Tenuta dell’Ornellaia also produces Poggio alle Gazze, a white wine that includes the Italian varieties Vermentino and Verdicchio. Heinz thinks it ‘unlikely, but not impossible’ that he will ever use these in the grander Ornellaia Bianco, saying ‘it really depends on the quality we will be able to obtain’.
The new wine is starting out life as a Toscana Bianco IGT, but perhaps one day it will prove the area capable of producing white Super Tuscans which merit a dedicated appellation.
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