Tag Archives: Axel Heinz

Vintage 2022 a year of contradicting weather: the winemakers display versatility and resilience to achieve an expression of the finest quality

The 2022 harvest has ended and now we can review a year of unusual weather contradictions. Axel Heinz, Ornellaia’s Estate Director, describes the vintage as a continual challenge that required the expressive abilities of mankind to adapt to the working processes. A vintage that was always on the edge, where disaster was constantly on the horizon, but where in the end various weather events balanced out the negative effects, enabling the winemakers to find a nuanced expression of the finest quality through mental nimbleness and resilience.”

A climatic analysis shows how the 2022 vintage began as usual without prognosticating any issues, with winter temperatures within the norm and a cool spring with a slightly delayed budbreak on the vines. The conditions inverted in May, with temperatures exceeding 30°C and a dearth of rain for 75 consecutive days, truly testing the growth, flowering and veraison of the vines.

The harvest started early on 9 August with the first bunches of Sauvignon Blanc, but was immediately interrupted by the arrival of the much-awaited summer storms, which again disrupted the conditions that had distinguished the year thus far. The abundant rainfall instigated a turning point, eliminating the water stress and reactivating the ripening process. A cool and sunny September brought near-perfect conditions to ripen the Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Interpreting the unusual weather contradictions in the vineyard and in the cellar required certain measures to achieve a fine expression, such as night harvesting of the earliest white grapes in order to preserve the freshness and aromas; the use of a refrigerating room to keep the temperature of the grapes low; and the meticulous discarding of dried grapes as well as ones that had remained green after the veraison. Experimentation on the winemaking front also occurred with the addition of the use of amphorae alongside barriques and tonneaux.

“The hallmark of a hot vintage is clear in the wines,” explains Axel Heinz. “The wines are ample and bodied, yet balanced by a beautiful acidity and precise aromas. The Sauvignon Blanc shows its exotic side with tropical fruit aromas, while the Viognier and Vermentino display prolonged floral notes. Less concentrated than usual and struggling to free the skin content, the Merlot required longer static maceration to obtain an enjoyable density, doing away with rustic tannins. On the contrary, the Cabernets demonstrated deep and layered hues, even in the first few days of maceration, developing a traditional aromatic profile with signature notes of cassis for the Cabernet Sauvignon and spiced violet nuances for the Cabernet Franc. The aromatic freshness is surprising, dotted with menthol and balsamic overtones, as well as plush tannins, all of which provide an exceptional basis for long, harmonious ageing.

Now comes the final challenge of 2022: “The blending, when we will need to find the right balance between the various parts to express the many virtues that 2022 yielded to those who listened to nature with respect and dedication through the struggles,” concludes Axel Heinz.

Dalla Valle Vineyards and Ornellaia Release 2019 DVO

The 2019 Vintage Marks the Second Release from the Collaboration Between the Two Iconic Estates

Dalla Valle Vineyards in Napa Valley and  Ornellaia estate in Bolgheri present DVO 2019, the second vintage in their collection, an expression of uncompromising excellence and the result of a partnership that reveals the expertise honed by the two estates and the traditions in each wine region. DVO 2019 will be available on the market starting with November 2022.

A project desired and designed by second-generation winemaker, Maya Dalla Valle and Naoko Dalla Valle, Founder and Proprietor of the Californian estate; Axel Heinz, Estate Director of Ornellaia and Giovanni Geddes da Filicaja, CEO of the Bolgheri estate, DVO is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (85%) and Cabernet Franc (15%). Bearing the authentic and distinctive personality of the region from which the wine takes shape, the style refers to traditional winemaking with the clear aim from the outset of obtaining a Californian wine with a European sensibility.

Maya Dalla Valle, who oversees the day-to-day operations, describes how “the 2019 vintage stands out as another classic yet modern Napa Valley vintage, balancing the expressiveness of Napa through a European lens. This has been and will always be the goal with DVO, to continue our core value of farming first, while honoring our Italian ties.”

The 2019 vintage highlights the rich terroir of Napa Valley with inspiration from Italy. It exhibits a progression of black and red currents, violet and cassis. The small influence of Cabernet Franc seamlessly ties together the blend with baking spices and crushed summer herbs. Velvety and polished tannins give the wine a prolonged and elegant finish. Aged for 22 months in a French Oak Barrel, the 2019 DVO is distinctive and authentic to both wineries.

With DVO, we are crafting wines that are representative of the legacy and expertise of our estates while moving towards the potential future goals that this collaboration could bring,” emphasizes Axel Heinz. “DVO 2019 is a perfect example of this. Blending the past with the future to shape a vintage to remember.”

Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia 2020

The elegance, amiability and complexity of Bolgheri DOC Rosso make a lasting impression

The 2020 vintage of Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia Bolgheri DOC Rosso has been released to the market on 1 September. The wine originally debuted with the 1997 vintage, when Ornellaia’s second vin became the most immediate expression of the estate’s hallmark style. The wine is produced with the same passion and attention to detail as Ornellaia. Every vintage is a blend of elegant amiability and Bolgheri-style complexity that is capable of evolving in the bottle for many years to come.

Axel Heinz, Estate Director of Ornellaia, describes 2020 as an extraordinary vintage of huge potential: “2020 will go down in history for many obvious reasons, but in terms of winemaking it will also be remembered for its energy, which resulted in the creation of opulent and full-bodied wines of huge potential. Over time, it will be regarded as one of Bolgheri’s greatest vintages such as 2006, 2010 and 2016.”

After a mild and rainy winter, the spring started slowly, protecting the buds from frost. A wet June was followed by a long spell of drought until the end of August. The dry conditions nurtured a slow and even veraison. The changes in temperature between day and night ensured that the grapes could develop all their aromatic potential and the right levels of acidity.

Like every year, each varietal and parcel was vinified separately in order to guarantee the utmost respect of the different traits of the grape with minimal human intervention. The wine was blended in barriques one year later and set aside to harmonize and form an array of flavours and colours.

Olga Fusari, the winemaker at Ornellaia, explains: “Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia 2020, with its deep ruby red hue and purple highlights, fearlessly reveals a clear and generous aromatic expression, marked by ripe red fruit aromas. The wine is soft, rounded and beguiling in the glass, in addition to being full-bodied, showing great balance between the structure, fullness and elegance.” This is a wine that displays attention to detail, character and terroir.

Masseto is ready to reveal its new vintage 2019

The new vintage, 2019, to be released to market on 1 October, an expression of energy brimming with nuances of colour.

Opening a bottle of Masseto is the equivalent of unleashing a liquid kaleidoscope,” says Estate Director Axel Heinz. “It’s the perfect balance between nature and climate, where humans play a fundamental role, like the conductor of an orchestra, gradually revealing the signature notes of a magical place, of a vineyard that still has many secrets to disclose.”

Masseto is an intact, harsh and complex place. The land is difficult to work and the sometimes extreme conditions make the result even more sublime as it can never be taken for granted. Axel Heinz defines it as “a place where nature makes the most important decisions.” Utmost care and simplicity: this is the concept that underpins the philosophy of the Masseto estate. On the score, the notes, shaped by the sea with its light breeze, are respectfully composed with aromatic and flavour accents, as the bunches are guided towards a slow and expert polyphenol maturity.

2019 was a vintage of unpredictable weather conditions, whose evolution has revealed a truly classical expression. Slow vine growth with cold spring temperatures, which delayed budbreak, made way for a hot summer that restored the equilibrium. The perfect balance between sun and rainfall, due to the maritime influence, contributed to the beginning of the harvest in early September, with the gradual gathering of the various parcels that constitute Masseto. Every parcel expresses itself uniquely, resulting in a complex mosaic, with the blue clay forming the core.

In Masseto 2019, the young colour is reminiscent of an intense and harmonious wine of exceptional aromas and flavours, rich in red fruit scents and viola nuances,” explains Gaia Cinnirella, Estate Winemaker. “The dimension of the fruit is striking in the mouth, entwining with dreamy, velvety and elegant tannins, plus a refreshing and vibrant finish, where power and simplicity enchant the palate and tell the story of this unique place.”

Ornellaia: the 2022 harvest is underway

Predictions would indicate smaller quantities, yet potential top quality if the weather stays fair

The 2022 harvest is now underway at Ornellaia. On 25 August, the first red grapes started to be gathered as confirmation of the precociousness already observed for the white grapes, whose harvest began on 9 August.

After the first few days of harvesting Sauvignon Blanc, carried out at night to preserve the utmost integrity and aromas of the fruit, the long awaited mid-August storms began. The plentiful rainfall slightly slowed the ripening, providing us with an opportunity to finish gathering the Sauvignon and Viognier with peace of mind. Merlot and Vermentino were the next varieties to be harvested. The precociousness is a logical consequence of an abnormal season,” observes Axel Heinz, Estate Director.

Heat and drought proved hugely challenging for the 2022 vintage. Key elements for correctly interpreting the harvest have been the agronomical decisions implemented to manage the soil and the vine canopy. Nevertheless, all the elements remain in place for a quality vintage: veraison in superb circumstances, limited natural grape production and potentially concentrated grapes.

“From this moment on and over the next few days, it will be extremely important to pinpoint with even more precision the harvest date for each variety and each vineyard parcel. Right now, our first impressions give the idea of a harvest that is unlikely to be abundant, but – if the weather stays fine – the vintage has high-profile potential. Making predictions is always very delicate and complicated, however. We are all too aware that realistic and concrete opinions can only be shaped after the grapes have arrived in the cellar,” concludes Heinz.

THE 2021 HARVEST at MASSETO

A fruitful conclusion to a vintage of extremes

The extraordinary reaction of the vines to climate change and the resilience of great terroir

Every harvest marks a new chapter that elicits new expertise in knowing how to best interpret the vines and their extraordinary ability to react to nature.

The 2021 vintage was rather difficult, with extreme conditions throughout the year as evidence of the climate change that now characterizes the seasonal development.

At Masseto, strength lies in the ability of the vines to react, helped by what Estate Director Axel Heinz calls the “resilience of a great terroir”: “the characteristics of the vines enabled the climatic extremes to be cushioned and channelled, creating conditions that were limiting yet without an excessive stress for the plants. Fine wines derive from these beginnings.”

The hallmark traits of Masseto – soil and microclimate – proved fundamental in these critical conditions. The blue clay, unique to Masseto, was crucial, capable of accumulating water reserves in the depths of the soil and only releasing the amount of water needed to avoid the excessive stress of the vines and overcome the summer dryness. Themicroclimate, with sea breezes and mild temperatures, provided shelter from the spring frost, while in the summer it ensured the ventilation required to withstand the heat.

The best way to understand this complex vintage is the relationship between men and terroir. The synergy between the soil type and the area, in addition to the constant vineyard management and attention to detail, enabled the year’s potential pitfalls to be turned into extraordinary strengths.

The harvest, which went without rain from start to finish, began on 30 August, with the youngest vines and higher, more precocious parcels in Masseto Alto. The Merlot was harvested on five different occasions until mid-September, while the Cabernet Franc was gathered between 15 and 28 September.

Initial impressions would point to a very stylish vintage. As soon as the wines (which are currently showing great potential) have been racked, which is about to finish, they will be moved into barriques for a lengthy period of ageing. The road ahead is long, but Axel Heinz explains his initial impressions: “The dry season concentrated the grapes, which yielded intense wines with great potential. The colours are particularly intense, like the aromas characterised by fully ripened black fruit. In the mouth we find the unmistakable balance between richness and firmness that distinguishes Masseto. The wines develop a rich and concentrated palate, with dense and velvety tannins, as the result of careful and soft extraction, underpinned by striking acidity that is reminiscent of some of the best vintages such as 2006, 2010 and 2016.”

All of these expectations will take two years to reach their conclusion, when the wine will have finished ageing and become ready for bottling. The established practice at Masseto means that cellar intervention is limited to a bare minimum so that the wines find their natural balance between fullness and harmony, which displays their sense of belonging to a terroir with an unmistakable identity. Masseto, as Axel Heinz describes it, is “truly a magical place where nature makes the most important decisions”.

News about the 2021 vintage

2021 brought news to the winery with the arrival of Gaia Cinnirella, who beginning with this harvest became the winemaker at Masseto under the supervision of Axel Heinz. Gaia, formerly Assistant Technical Director and Vineyard Manager at Biondi Santi from 2018 to 2021, is enthusiastic about contributing to the oenological development and stability of a winery like Masseto: “After work placements at leading wineries like Allegrini and Tenuta San Guido, I was able to hone my passion first at Istine and then at Biondi Santi. Now I’m proud to be part of this incredible team and I’m excited to contribute towards making uniquely characterful wines. It’s a dream for those, like me, who love their work and see every experience as an opportunity to grow. The extremely stimulating and ever evolving environment will be a challenge for me, while always looking to the future in the way that a wine like Masseto requires.”

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.

Mother nature waits for no-one: the promising 2020 harvest at Ornellaia is underway

2020 is a year we are unlikely to forget but, in the vineyards of Bolgheri at least, conditions so far this year give hope for an outstanding vintage.

 

With the exception of a few particularly cool nights in March, the spring was almost perfect: sunny, with some rain at the right time. The conditions ensured correct and consistent growth in the vineyards, resulting in a slightly earlier budbreak, only one week earlier than usual.

The fruit set was assured and laid the foundations for a generous harvest that has now been confirmed in August.

 

The summer commenced with a June that was wetter than usual, forcing the Ornellaia team to conduct considerable vineyard management to limit and protect the vegetation at the height of its growth. July balanced the circumstances, given the lack of rainfall, slowing down the development of the vines just in time for the veraison, which occurred during the last ten days of the month.

 

As the months under Covid-19 unfurled, the organization in the vineyard and cellar were swiftly adapted to protect Ornellaia’s employees. “Back in April,” explains Estate Director Axel Heinz, “we reorganised the cellar, where about 20 people work, whereas distancing is natural in the vineyards. We changed our working methods without altering our operation and without compromising our standards of quality. It has been a significant challenge.”

 

The harvest started about a week earlier than usual, on 13th of August, with the first bunches of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. The red varietals (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot) are expected to be harvested between the last few days of August and the first week of September.

 

 “The watchwords for this first harvest after the Covid-19 lockdown are ‘confidence & resilience,’” continues the Director. “Our commitment is to work as usual, interpreting the vintage to the best of our abilities while preserving the style and identity of Ornellaia.”

 

Hopes are high for the 2020 vintage, but, like every year, it will be the weather conditions in September that decide the definitive quality of the vintage. Meanwhile, the harvest continues…

MASSETINO A ‘SECOND VIN’ BORN AFTER THE SELECTION MADE FOR MASSETO

 

Massetino 2017 the ‘second vin’ of Masseto will make its début in October 2019 and will be available to selected accounts in Italy and the US during its first vintage release.

 

“Massetino comes from a strict selection from the estate vineyards made during blending” says Axel Heinz, Estate Director.

 

The 2017 vintage was hot and dry, requiring a very accurate selection. Less Masseto was produced, so it was considered the right moment to bottle Massetino. 

 

Giovanni Geddes, CEO Masseto comments: ‘It seems to be a natural development for the Masseto Estate to produce a ‘second vin’ and the 2017 vintage proved to be the right time to do it.  It is an exciting moment for the Masseto Estate and the new winery provides us with the right environment to pursue this new project’.

 

2017 will be remembered as one of the hottest and driest vintages in recent history. Due to an unusually mild winter with temperatures 3°C above average, budbreak occurred two weeks earlier than usual. Apart from a brief period of cold weather towards the end of April, the entire growing season was dominated by warm and dry weather, leading to a reduced development of the canopy.

As a result, Massetino 2017 represents the characteristics of this vintage: dark in colour with rich and ripe aromatics, dominated by ripe plums and blackberries. The palate is broad and rich, with a remarkable freshness and firmness of structure. 

 

Only a very limited number of bottles have been produced in this first vintage and distribution has therefore been concentrated to selected accounts in Italy and in the US.

Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia 2016 is on its way

 

Ideal temperatures and consistent ripening yield a textbook-perfect vintage

Ornellaia is proud to announce the release to international markets of Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia 2016. Together with the 2015, this 2016 is among the most eagerly-awaited vintages, inasmuch as it is a superb expression of the Mediterranean character classic to Bolgheri and its climate.  

As what seems to be becoming increasingly the norm, the winter of 2016 was characterized by abnormally warm weather, with heavy rainfall in February. Budbreak was ideal, taking place on time in the last week of March, thanks largely to plentiful water reserves in the soil and to warm weather in April, which stimulated rapid, normal vine growth.

Towards May, temperatures returned to normal, slowing the growth down slightly, bringing about flowering in the last week of May, while dry, sunny weather led to good fruit-set. Summer brought very little rain, resulting in significant water stress towards the end of the ripening stage; the usual August storms were also absent, conditions that maintained water stress through the first part of the harvest. Luckily, temperatures cooled off significantly at night, allowing the vines to recover from the daytime heat. Ripening was consistent, building excellent phenolics in the grapes and balanced sugar/acidity ratios. Harvest started early, on 24 August, under near-perfect conditions–sunny, moderately warm, with enough water in the soil to prevent the vines from shutting down.

“Le Serre Nuove dell’ Ornellaia 2016 benefits again from an exceptional growing year that showcases all the features of Bolgheri’s exceptional climate,” commented Axel Heinz, Ornellaia Director and Winemaker. “Dark in colour, the wine displays an impressive nose of perfectly ripe red berryfruit and spices. The palate is rich and well-rounded with beautiful, velvet-textured tannins that coat the palate. Here is a wine that combines immediate pleasure and extraordinary ageing capacity.”

 

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