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Vinchio Vaglio: the Nest of Barbera

The story of the Vinchio and Vaglio winery is a love story where the inhabitants of these two villages transformed a difficult and poor, inarable land with slopes so steep that some local sayings proved true: “S’ot dròca la colassion, it la treuvi pì!” (if you drop your breakfast, you won’t find it again!) or “S’ot dròca ël bertin, ot toca curije drera fin ant la val” (if your hat blows off in the wind, you’ll need to run down to the end of the valley to get it”). The name results from both Vinchio and Vaglio Serra villages where 19 vine growers used to live and founded the cooperative in 1959. The winery is located in Piedmont, Monferrato, core zone of UNESCO World Heritage Patrimony, right at the foot of the Alps. This area with its steep slopes and overhanging vineyards at the edge of the woods has been tended and “tamed” to dramatic effort, where every single drop of the “Ruby of Vinchio” (Barbera wine) equates to thousands of drops (and certainly not an exaggeration!) of farmers’ sweat. However, the vineyards have never failed to reward their hard work. These vine rows, in fact, repay the industrious farmers with grapes of rare and exceptional quality. Nowadays the cooperative represents 192 family vine growers who take daily care of 450 hectares mostly planted in Barbera grapes (60% of our production) and all other indigenous grapes from Piedmont such as Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Ruché, Albarossa, Grignolino, Arneis, Cortese, Moscato and Brachetto. The territory is characterized by a distinctive terroir of calcareous soils and sandy soils in Vinchio and mostly clay soils in Vaglio Serra what makes the Barbera of Vinchio Vaglio unique for the structure (white soils), elegance (sandy soils) and aromas (clay soils). The sun usually shines all day on these hills, there is seldom hoarfrost or fog and no shadow. Great wines grow on these hills.

Tenute Silvio Nardi ‘s Brunello 2016, A natural cycle of elegance

2016 has already won recognition as a stellar vintage for Brunello, with superbly balanced wines. For Tenute Silvio Nardi, this vintage displays the hallmarks of a particularly felicitous conjunction of factors.

Emilia Nardi, head of the family operation, explains: “Over the last 30 years, we have gradually replanted all our vineyards, following a massive zonation project, and in addition, we launched a significant programme of clonal selection. The results are that today, our vineyards are magnificently expressive.”

Brunello Tenute Silvio Nardi is a cuvée of grapes grown in a full 54 individual parcels on the two properties that compose the wine estate. Casale del Bosco, in the north-east quadrant of Montalcino, where the historic winery is located, is wooded and still wild, while Manachiara lies in the sunny, gently-rolling hills in the southeast. The voices of these vineyards’ “chorus” are even further tuned by precision viticulture and separate vinifications. After individual maturations, the lots find their common expression in the assembly of the cuvée, composed with the assistance of the exceptionally sensitive palate of consulting winemaker Eric Boissenot.

Zonation, soils, clones, elevation, aspect, and, obviously, the hand of man are critical for producing a great wine, but a favourable climate is just as important, and weather conditions in 2016 have been just perfect. Following spring rains that lasted into mid-June, sun and cool breezes got the upper hand. Heat in July, which averaged over 30oC, providentially alternated with sporadic rains in August, which brought temperatures down as low as 12oC, ushering in the cool conditions necessary for a high-quality crop, and a slow, gradual ripening allowed tannins and aroma precursors all the time they needed to develop. The first picking started in mid-September and concluded in October.  

“After years of intense work on our vineyards, and with the fortunate kiss of 2016, I am pleased to state that the elegance achieved by our Brunello 2016 represents a great milestone for us, but the starting point as well for striving further,” concluded Emilia.

The wine exhibits an impressive balance of red berries and purple fruit, with a near-endless progression infused with mineral and vegetal aromatic impressions, all supported by a lively acidity and firm tannins that promise an enviable development over 10 years or more.    

Ornellaia Bianco 2018

The latest vintage of Ornellaia’s signature white is released to the market.

Say Ornellaia and shades of ruby red and silky texture spring to mind, but there’s another side to the Bolgheri winery, a limited-edition jewel that serves as the alter ego of the Tuscan wine sharing the same name: Ornellaia Bianco. This year, the 2018 vintage is being released to market. 

An intriguing and balanced cuvée in a deep shade of straw yellow, Ornellaia Bianco interprets the spirit of the Bolgheri estate with the grace and light that define this bucolic place. The grapes originate from a unique mélange of land: three small north-facing parcels, woven among the red-grape vineyards, which bestow a crystalline quality and hints of the Mediterranean shrub, sea breezes and a sumptuous style on the wine. Ornellaia Bianco stands as testimony to Bolgheri’s undeniable capacity to grow white varietals.

Ornellaia Bianco 2018, a Sauvignon Blanc-led blend with a touch of Viognier, displays “aromas of exotic fruit accompanied by mild hints of finely roasted vanilla, with a rich and fragrant palate perfectly balanced by a savoury tanginess,” comments the estate’s winemaker, Olga Fusari.

“2018 was rather harmonious, consisting of rain and sunshine in useful and necessary measures,” explains Estate Director Axel Heinz. The spring nurtured and revived the canopy with many showers, which was duly replaced by a summer of sunshine, in which the area’s typical breeze kept the vines healthy and dry. “In August, the various microclimates were accentuated by scattered showers,” Heinz continues. “This resulted in marked differences in the ripening stages of the grapes, which we harvested at very different times, starting after the 15th of August and continuing until the 13th of September. It was perhaps the longest harvest in the history of Ornellaia.

This wine is a product of meticulously harvested grapes picked in several stages before being fermented and set aside to refine for 10 months on the lees. Ornellaia Bianco does not undergo malolactic fermentation, therefore enabling its fresh character and Mediterranean identity to shine through. 

The desire to convey the estate’s exceptional qualities has shaped Ornellaia’s philosophy since the beginning, and Ornellaia Bianco 2018 keeps the banner flying high, ready to inspire wine enthusiasts with evocative images of the beautiful Tuscan coast.

Nights of frost on 7th and 8th April 2021 at Tenuta di Trinoro in Val d’Orcia, Tuscany

 

During the nights of the 7th and 8th of April, the vineyards at Tenuta di Trinoro offered a moving sight: vine rows lit up in the thick of night with thousands of candles lined up and burning. 

The whole winery team of 36 workers fought a wave of frost that had come down the mountain to threaten fragile buds just beginning to sprout; the team had already prepared and set 3.000 large candles made with buckets filled with wax, placed along the rows during the day, as is customary in many of the colder vineyards of northern Europe. At Tenuta di Trinoro operations started at around midnight, with careful monitoring of the falling temperatures, until fire had to be set to stacks of firewood piled around the vineyards; then the 3.000 candles were lit. This kept the air around the plants above 0° degrees, while all around the vineyards, temperatures as low as 4.5° below freezing point were registered. 

In the morning, at 9.45, the team left, after 8 hours of frantic work against this spell of cold air. More nights like this are expected this year.

Ornellaia & Masseto CEO Giovanni Geddes da Filicaja announces a new Sales and Marketing Director

Today, Giovanni Geddes da Filicaja, CEO of both the Ornellaia and Masseto estates, announced a change in the management team for the two wineries. Vianney Gravereaux will join the team as Sales and Marketing Director alongside Axel Heinz, Estate Director, as of 1 April 2021. Tim Banks, who has held the position to date, will return to France, where he will continue to work in the wine world.

After nine years of close collaboration, Tim Banks receives a warm farewell: “I thank Tim personally for his professional contribution to the company’s success as well as his personal contribution in forming a team and relations, for which he will not be forgotten easily,” confirms Giovanni Geddes. “At the same time, I am delighted to continue this journey with Vianney. I’m certain that we will achieve new goals together.”

Vianney Gravereaux, French by birth but multilingual by vocation, has vast international experience in the fine wine world, which he honed while working for globally renowned brands such as Philipponnat, Salon and Peugeot Saveurs. Formerly International Sales Manager for Masseto, Gravereaux was asked to take on the new role, an offer which he has enthusiastically embraced: “When I visited Ornellaia a few years ago, I was astounded by the exceptional quality of the wines and the place where they are made. I never thought that I would become part of the impressive Masseto team in 2020 and that, only a year later, I would have been offered the role of Sales and Marketing Director for both estates. Continuing the work carried out by Tim Banks will be an exciting challenge, which I cannot wait to begin.”

Ornellaia’s current team consists of winemaker Olga Fusari and Brand Manager Greta Roscioni; Eleonora Marconi and Susanne Weber hold these positions respectively at Masseto. Elena Oprea is the Communications Manager across both brands.

Le Volte dell’Ornellaia 2019

 

Vibrant and expressive, released on 1st March

Many components define the style of Ornellaia, the renowned Bolgheri estate, but the underlying philosophy is reflected in all the wines produced on the estate. Le Volte dell’Ornellaia is no exception. A predominantly Merlot-based cuvée, Le Volte dell’Ornellaia 2019 is “a vibrant, expressive and well-balanced wine, the perfect introduction to Ornellaia for every wine lover”,according to estate director,Axel Heinz.

2019 was characterized by a highly variable climate, which alternated cold and wet spells with long bouts of drought and heat. After a normal winter, budbreak took place in the first week of April. The rainy conditions throughout April and May slightly delayed flowering compared to usual, but plant development recovered in June due to bright days. All summer long, the weather remained hot and sunny, except for two days of rain in late July, which readjusted the temperature to the seasonal norm with ideal conditions for the gradual and complete ripening of the grapes.

The harvest began with the Merlot on 5th September and the last of the Cabernet reached the cellar on 4th October. As usual, in the last week of September, falling temperatures preserved the vintage’s finesse and aromatic freshness. The different grapes were fermented separately in small steel tanks in order to maintain their varietal characteristics. The wine was then aged for 10 months, partly in barriques used previously for Ornellaia and partly in concrete tanks.

Versatile and immediate, “Le Volte dell’Ornellaia combines a Mediterranean expression of generosity with structure and complexity,” winemaker Olga Fusari comments. “With its bright ruby red, intense scents of red berries and rose petals are clearly distinguishable on the nose, while on the palate the taste is full-bodied and enveloping, characterized by dense tannins and a vibrant acidity which make this a pleasing and enjoyable wine”. Le Volte dell’Ornellaia 2019 will be available on all markets, ready to bring joy to wine lovers on these early sun-filled days.

Ornellaia 2018 “La Grazia” Red coral for the artist’s interpretation of the vintage’s character

Jan Fabre for Ornellaia Vendemmia d’Artista

“The 2018 vintage resulted in wines of particular harmony,” comments Axel Heinz, Estate Director of the Bolgheri winery. “Synergy and interaction among the varied terroirs on the estate created proportion and complexity. The outcome is a rounded and silky wine in which all the elements blend together in an expression of grace and beauty.” In tribute to this sense of proportion and symmetry, Axel Heinz has called the character of Ornellaia 2018 “La Grazia”.

Belgian artist Jan Fabre was called upon to interpret this trait in his role as an eclectic and innovative figure on the international art scene. Continually seeking convergences across a range of disciplines, Fabre offers an original and personal interpretation of visual art, taking cues from theatre, literature and the world of symbolism.

Ornellaia 2018 “La Grazia” is the expression of a perfectly balanced vintage. After unusually hot, dry seasons, the earth finally received the rainfall and winter cold needed to rest and reset the vine’s lifecycle. The spring enjoyed occasional showers, which renewed the protective layer of the vineyard, while the summer proved dry, encouraging fruit set and culminating in veraison on clear, sunny days in late July. Healthy grapes benefitting from a superb balance of acidity and sugars were harvested between 31 August and 8 October.

Taking inspiration from Ornellaia 2018 “La Grazia” as a “divine gift of nature and a balance of symmetry and proportion,” Jan Fabre used his trademark style and coral, the precious golden red of the Gulf of Naples, for the sculptures that top three Salmanazars (9 litres): A Candle of Mercy, The Crown of Kindness, and The Heart of Virtue. “I believe that art should conciliate ethical values and aesthetic principles,” explains the Belgian artist. “For this reason, I decided to use forms such as the heart, crown, candle and wings in the sculptures for Ornellaia 2018. These are symbols of passion, virtue and purity, which come alive by means of twigs and red coral pearls; in “A Candle of Mercy” or “The Heart of Virtue” they liquefy, like the melting grace of Ornellaia wine.”

In addition to the coral artworks for the 111 precious large formats of Ornellaia, Jan Fabre has also designed a special label for the 750ml bottles and a site-specific installation for the winery’s dining room Orciaia: a set of drawings inspired by the sculptures and their symbolism.

Accompanied by the other large formats, only one of the three Salmanazars of Ornellaia 2018 “La Grazia”, which was named by the artist “The Crown of Kindness”, will be auctioned by Sotheby’s in September 2021. Collectors around the world will be able to place bids online on the lots and have their purchases delivered directly from the evocative Bolgheri winery.

For the third consecutive year, profits will be given to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation’s “Mind’s Eye” project.

Jamie Ritchie, Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s Wine says: “This is our 13th partnership with Ornellaia for their annual Vendemmia d’Artista project, which is so special to us because it supports worthy artistic causes and combines the brilliance of the estate’s wines with the visual ingenuity of the artists who take part. With its emphasis on the senses, the Mind’s Eye project has been the ideal beneficiary these past three years. We look forward to offering a range of bottles from the 2018 vintage “La Grazia”, illustrated by Jan Fabre, in our online sale later this year, headlined, as ever, by a unique Salmanazar. As in previous years, we expect the lots to attract an international group of bidders who wish to purchase these exclusive bottles and enjoy unique experiences.”

The profits made by Vendemmia d’Artista allow the Mind’s Eye program to be extended both on site at the Guggenheim as well as online and ensure that its excellence continues to guide museum programming in different parts of the world.

“With the continued support of Ornellaia, the Guggenheim has been able to amplify the reach and resonance of our Mind’s Eye program,” said Richard Armstrong, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation. “Ornellaia has helped us remain connected to our visitors through increased access programming and the creation of a new digital sensory guide that shares the experience of being at the museum with an ever-widening global audience. We speak for the many beneficiaries of Ornellaia’s generosity in expressing real gratitude.”

Giovanni Geddes da Filicaja, CEO of the Bolgheri winery says: “Since the introduction of Vendemmia d’Artista project in 2009, we have donated more than 2 million euros. It is deeply rewarding to see the program develop and know that the work we are doing gives the blind and persons with low vision an opportunity to discover contemporary art through the use of the senses. At the same time, the Mind’s Eye program will soon offer the possibility to extend the same model not only to other museums belonging to the Guggenheim Foundation, but also to art institutions in the rest of the world, thereby making art accessible to even more people.”

Tenuta di Ghizzano encounters David Tremlett

 

And voila! ViadiMezzo, a tribute to the borgo and to its art

ViadiMezzo is Tenuta di Ghizzano’s new red wine, named for the main street in the historic village of Ghizzano di Peccioli, in the province of Pisa, as well for the project of the same name by British artist David Tremlett, who painted the street’s house façades, thus transforming the street itself into a colourful, vivacious work of art.

Nor is that all. In addition to this plein air art gallery, Tremlett also designed the front label for the ViadiMezzo wine, as a tribute to Tenuta di Ghizzano’s philosophy of sustainable winemaking and to its producer, Ginevra Venerosi Pesciolini. Since the wine is produced biodynamically, its label is dominated by colours “lent” from nature.   

“This wine, fruit of our biodynamic viticulture, displays all the qualities of a vibrant, appealing Sangiovese, firm-structured yet warm and velvety,” commented Venerosi Pesciolini. ViadiMezzo 2017, produced in a limited edition of only 1,200 bottles, fittingly serves to welcome visitors to this striking borgo and to the historic Tenuta di Ghizzano, a wine estate adorned with meticulously-designed, intriguing gardens alluring even in winter. In taking home ViadiMezzo, visitors will become ambassadors of an authentic corner of Tuscany, and its enjoyment will remind them of the borgo’s multi-hued street.

ViadiMezzo is only available at Tenuta di Ghizzano and on its e-shop at http://www.tenutadighizzano.com/shop.html. In autumn 2021, it will be joined by its white-wine sibling, ViadiMezzo bianco, which also bears a David Tremlett-created label.    

2020 Harvest in Trecciano

The year 2020 will always be connected to the COVID-19 virus appearance all over the world and, in particular for us, in Italy. Our lives – daily and family activities – either stopped altogether or slowed to a trickle. Mother Nature’s activity in the countryside did not stop and indeed showed us all its beautiful vigorous energy!

After a dry winter season characterized by a low rainfall, vines began to sprout in late March, during very cold days. These low and freezing temperatures, even below zero, caused moderate damage in our vineyards located at the bottom of the valley, and consequently a 15-20 per cent reduction in grape production.
Spring season gave us warm and sunny days, with temperatures above the seasonal average. We worked our vineyards following the vine’s vegetative cycle. We tied the shoots to the support wires, we removed secondary buds formed on the vine stock, and as needed, we made phytosanitary organic treatments to support the growth phase and ensure our vineyards’ good health.
The blooming period was delayed to the second half of May. This brought an excellent result favored by a good climatic trend, with warm, dry and slightly windy days. Th fruit set was excellent and produced optimum new young clusters.

vendemmia 2020 a Trecciano

 

vendemmia 2020

 

Despite a fresh and rainy June, the Summer season started, bringing very high temperatures, especially in August, when we had extremely limited excursions between night and day temperatures.
This climatic trend caused water stress in the grapes, which we promptly solved by practicing drip irrigation during the hottest days and nights, according to the rules laid down by the production regulation.
Fortunately, such a dry season led an excellent ripening of our grapes: perfectly healthy, sound and very concentrated in fruity aromas.
Traditionally September would symbolize the beginning of Fall, but instead, as has happened in the past few years, this 2020 vintage has seen an extension of the Summer.

The first two weeks were very balanced, with sunny weather and mild daily temperatures, and our 2020 Harvesting Season began on September 14th with the Merlot grapes in our small vineyards; followed, in the third week, by the harvesting of Sangiovese. Late September brought fresh temperatures and some rainfalls, that allowed our Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab. Franc and Syrah grapes to reach an optimum ripening to be harvested in first ten days of October.
Thanks to the optimal climate trend that improved week by week, we can say that we had a quality 2020 Harvest: delivering very promising grapes, especially for medium to long aging red wines.

With great optimism, we welcome the gifts of nature and, contrary to the negative world economic situation, we have a renewed enthusiasm as we now are patiently working the musts, which begin to take shape, telling us a new stimulating story: the story of our new wine.

2020: the year that changed the world? The story of an extraordinary vintage in the words of Axel Henz

 

2020 will remain in the history books for many reasons, first and foremost for all the emergencies caused by Covid-19, which put the whole world on standby for several weeks. Also from a winemaking point of view, there will be plenty to remember: a dynamic year, full of climate-related twists that maintained an incredible level of suspense until the final days of the harvest. In a few years’ time, 2020 will undoubtedly be remembered as another fine vintage for Bolgheri wines.

Axel Heinz, Estate Director, reports the vintage in his own words:

FIRST, QUIET, THEN THE COVID “STORM”

Nothing in the winter foretold a vintage so different than usual, except for the repeated mild and rainy climate, with temperatures rarely close to 0°C. Nevertheless, at the beginning of March, we just managed to finish the winter vineyard work and to bottle Le Volte dell’Ornellaia before the national lockdown was enforced. Fortunately, the buds took their time and broke in the last week of the month, giving the Ornellaia team time to prepare and organize our work in utmost safety.

A MAGNIFICENT SPRING, TIME OF SERENITY

In April, Mother Nature seemed to want to compensate for the difficulties of the lockdown, gifting the vineyards with textbook conditions until the end of May, with hot, mostly dry days. The vines grew regularly, allowing the leaves to be pruned without too much haste. The flowering and fruit set occurred in perfect conditions during the last week of May. June, on the other hand, proved very wet, accelerating the growth of the vines and upping the pressure for plant treatments. The bunches grew substantially at this time and considerable vineyard management was required to keep the foliage under control.

JULY AND AUGUST: THE LEGEND OF THE BOLGHERI SUMMER IS A FACT

July was hot and dry, essential for initiating the veraison, which developed slowly and punctually towards the end of the month. In August, the temperatures increased further, totalling 47 days above 30°C for the entire season, with frequent highs of 36-37°C, making this summer comparable with 2015.

As we could have expected, the first samples of Sauvignon Blanc at the beginning of August already showed a high sugar concentration, which gave rise to predictions of an early harvest. Fortunately, the high daytime temperatures also dipped under 20°C at night, allowing the grapes to develop their aromatic potential and maintain good acidity.

Meanwhile, the red grapes continued to ripen slowly, creating an interesting phenolic potential. At the end of August, rain arrived in time to alleviate the excessive water stress and lower the temperatures. During the Merlot harvest, the temperatures dipped to 14-15°C at night, perfect for gathering these grapes at the height of their perfume and energy.

HARVEST: ONLY THE RAIN CAN STOP US

The first bunches of Sauvignon Blanc were harvested on 13 August, finishing with the final berries on 25 August. The Viognier harvest saw similar times, from 14 to 28 August, showing moderate sugar levels and excellent acidity. For the reds, the harvest commenced on 3 September with the youngest Merlot vines.

In mid-September, a sudden change occurred: a heatwave shortly before the Merlot and Vermentino harvest had been completed. The sugar levels increased and the berries started to become concentrated, accelerating the ripening. In many vineyards, the harvest had to be carried out in two stages: separating the healthy fruit from the grapes burnt by the sun. The Cabernet was harvested immediately after the Merlot, a rare event for Ornellaia, as too was the simultaneous harvesting of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.

A second wave of rain, this time longer, granted a moment of rest for the team during the harvest, which resumed at the end of September, ending earlier than usual, on 3 October. The late harvest of the Petit Manseng noble grapes, used to make the estate’s dessert wine, took place a week later, concluding on 9 October.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE WINES: ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL

I can certainly say that 2020 will be a successful vintage for all Ornellaia wines,” Axel Heinz concludes his vintage report. 

Given the particularly hot summer, the white grapes were harvested early to preserve their aromas and freshness. The Sauvignon Blanc is very balanced, with moderate alcohol, fresh and juicy acidity, and magnificent expressions of ripe tropical fruit. The Vermentino and Viognier are rich and floral, also showing good energy, while the Petit Manseng achieved concentration levels rarely seen before.

The reds are very promising, with a rich and structured style. The Merlot has a smooth texture and great intensity of fully ripened red fruit, without being heavy. The Cabernet Sauvignon, in some cases, is still fermenting, but early samples reveal wines with a regal poise, darkly hued, with classic notes of plants and blackcurrants, and dense and solid tannins.

It’s no longer a secret that Bolgheri is one of the best places to grow Cabernet Franc, but the level reached with the 2020 vintage remains astounding. Rich and dense, with refined tannins, it literally explodes into notes of blackcurrants, violets and delicate plant aromas.

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