“A slender ray of sunshine seems to be arriving from China regarding wine sales,” is the cautiously welcome message from Ornellaia Ceo Giovanni Geddes da Filicaja. “With orders slowly increasing, in particular for the currently-available 2017 vintage of Ornellaia, it actually seems that one of the most important markets for Italian exports, and not just wine, is re-opening. This positive change is a great relief and reason for optimism, not only for us but for all of Italy’s wine industry.”
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The Argentinian artist Tomás Saraceno interprets the 12th edition of Vendemmia d’Artista
“Vintage 2017 was certainly one of extremes, in which frosts, sun and drought certainly captured the imagination. Despite the fact it was a challenging year for the team in the vineyards and for us winemakers, I am very happy with the high quality and character of this vintage. We have chosen the word “Solare” (which in English translates as “Radiant”) to describe Ornellaia 2017 because it expresses its positive qualities,” explains Axel Heinz, Estate Director of the Bolgheri winery. “To preserve the strong and opulent personality of this wine, we had to apply the upmost care and attention from the vineyard to cellar – more so than in a normal vintage. This careful management of the grapes, starting with an early harvest, has resulted in a harmonious wine in which scents of black berries and liquorice prevail alongside velvety tannins typical of warm vintages. In short I would say that Ornellaia 2017 is sumptuously Mediterranean”.
In line with these words from Axel Heinz, this year’s Vendemmia d’Artista project turns its attention to our planet and the star that illuminates it. The artist chosen to interpret the character of “Solare” is the visionary Tomás Saraceno, known worldwide for his interactive installations that, in this age of ecological upheaval, propose new, more sustainable ways to live.
For Ornellaia, sustainability has always played an important role. The estate itself is a harmonious ecosystem with internal checks and balances that expresses the characteristics of each single plot and its unique terroir. Sustainable viticulture, defined by the conservation and enrichment of our terrain and the landscape in general, is essential to Ornellaia’s production philosophy. Through minimal intervention, we encourage the plant’s spontaneous tendency towards equilibrium. Precision viticulture addresses the specific needs of each parcel, whereas low-impact intervention stimulates the plant’s natural defenses.
Ornellaia 2017 Solare was produced in a year with above-average temperatures, with early budbreak and a sharp dip in temperatures in April that fortunately did not influence the vegetative growth cycle. The proximity of the Bolgheri DOC to the Mediterranean Sea played a decisive role and meant that we avoided the spring frosts that struck other parts of Italy. We then moved from one extreme to another with a dry heat spell that lasted from May until nearly the harvest. Luckily, hot and dry summer days were followed by much cooler nights which contributed to the development of Ornellaia 2017’s olfactory complexity.
Inspired by the radiant nature of Ornellaia 2017, Tomás Saraceno looked to the connection between the Sun and the Earth, inviting greater care and attention to the most important source of our planet’s energy. This is the concept behind the artwork developed for the estate and transposed to the unique Salmanazar. PNEUMA 4.21×105 recalls an atomic structure composed of glass spheres which, like clouds, create a suspended city whose form and size are in constant evolution – an expansion of traditional concepts of borders and territories. The suspended sculpture’s forms, as imagined by Saraceno, would be able to float without fossil fuels, powered only by the sun.
Alongside the installation for the estate and the Salmanazar, the artist has also customized 110 large-format bottles and designed a special thermochromic label for the 750ml format, through which he invites us to reflect on the impact that the human behaviour has on the environment.
As with every year, the 100 double magnums will be sold to avid collectors around the world meanwhile the unique Salmanazar and the 6 litre Imperials will only be available for sale through an online auction, hosted by Sotheby’s, the profits of which will be donated exclusively to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation’s “Mind’s Eye” program.
“Sotheby’s Wine is delighted to continue our long-term partnership with Ornellaia supporting the 12th edition of their Vendemmia d’Artista project. The 12 lot online auction of the 2017 “Solare” vintage, illustrated by Tomás Saraceno and including many experiences, will open on Sotheby’s online platform, where clients can easily bid through the Sotheby’s app. Similar to last year, we anticipate these lots will attract a truly global roster of bidders who wish to buy these exclusive bottles and enjoy unique experiences.” Jamie Ritchie, Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s Wine.
“Since the inception of Vendemmia d’Artista in 2009, we continue to have the pleasure of supporting leading cultural foundations through celebrating the unique character of Ornellaia,” says Giovanni Geddes da Filicaja, CEO. “In 2019, we embarked on a three-year partnership with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York, which in the first year raised $312,000 for the project through auction at Sotheby’s. The connection between art and wine remains a passion for many people, ourselves included; we hope that in the years to come we will be able to contribute just as much, if not more, to the Mind’s Eye program through which the Guggenheim assists blind and low vision persons to experience art.”
Donations from the Ornellaia Vendemmia d’Artista auction will make it possible to advance superb educational programs at the museums in the Guggenheim constellation.
“We offer our sincere appreciation to Ornellaia for their longstanding involvement with the visual arts and their ongoing support of our Mind’s Eye program,” stated Richard Armstrong, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation. “With the generosity of Ornellaia, we are able to expand the programs that allow us to promote an understanding and appreciation of modern and contemporary art to audiences of all abilities.”
The artist Tomás Saraceno will open the Vendemmia d’Artista online auction during the annual event organised by Ornellaia at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York on April 30, 2020.
The profits will be announced and donated to the Mind’s Eye program on May 15 when the auction will close on Sotheby’s website, the long-time partner of Ornellaia Vendemmia d’Artista project.
Travelling along the Viale dei Cipressi, one first catches sight of Bolgheri’s roofline and the Tyrrhenian Sea behind it. Then, just a few more minutes and the gates of Ornellaia greet its visitors on their adventure to discover the famous Bolgheri Superiore DOC. Now that the weather has warmed up a bit, it is in fact the ideal time to plan a trip along the Tuscan coast, exploring its villages, and above all to understand where and how one of the Italy’s true treasures emerge: Ornellaia, a wine that has succeeded in positioning itself at the top of international wine charts in only 30 years.
The wine experience starts in the vineyards, on a discovery tour of the different micro-zones, the soil composition of the vineyards, and how the vines are trained. Following the path of the grapes, the journey continues into the cellar, where visitors can see where the wines “take shape” and also admire the art installations that from 2009 to today, one each year, have enriched the Ornellaia collection, thanks to the Vendemmia d’Artista art project.
Even before entering the cellar, visitors can gaze upon some artworks out in the open air: “Happily Ever After” by Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh, “Splash” by John Armleder, and Yutaka Sone’s interpretation of L’Eleganza. Once visitors enter the cellar they are struck by the explosion of colours of Luigi Ontani’s installation, followed by those of Zhang Huan, Rebecca Horn, Michelangelo Pistoletto and others along the way. Descending into the heart of the cellar is increasingly exciting: the oak barrels are imposing, and in the air – in a perfect silence – you can almost smell the wine.
At the end of the tour, finally, a tasting of the entire range of the current vintage. Wines include Le Volte dell’Ornellaia, Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia, and Ornellaia. But there’s more. Ornellaia has saved a truly exclusive surprise for its guests: a tasting of “Variazioni in Rosso dell’Ornellaia”, a cuvée that can only be tasted and bought at the estate. With this limited-production Tuscan IGT, Ornellaia expresses the individuality of each vintage through a particularly distinctive grape variety that the winemaker highlights in the blend. An inimitable tasting experience.
The “Tour & Tasting by Ornellaia” is available with advance booking. For info and prices: email@example.com
Great satisfactions from a challenging vintage
For over 25 years now, Le Volte dell’Ornellaia has shone as the most youthful expression of Ornellaia’s wine production; its generous, Mediterranean character combines with a firm structure and multi-layered complexity to offer, year after year, immediate, joyous pleasure.
The 2017 version has just arrived on retail shelves across the globe, the interpretation of a vintage that those near Bolgheri’s iconic Viale de Cipressi will remember as a hot, dry season.
A mild winter brought a slightly-early budbreak, whose progress was favoured by warm, temperate spring, of the kind that only the Mediterranean coast can gift. April was a more restless month, with some unexpected winter-like conditions, without, however, doing any damage to shoot growth. May seemed to usher in summer; its uninterrupted sun slowed vine growth, but flowering continued unabated. July and August were true to form, refreshed by the providentially-cool night-time temperatures typical of this area.
The harvest started early, on 24 August, and concluded in the final week of September. Towards mid-month, a few rain showers helped lower temperatures, creating, in fact, ideal conditions for finishing the harvest on a high note.
As is our custom, fermentation was performed in small steel tanks, a technique that preserves the characteristics of the varietal components (largely Merlot). The final wine was matured 10 months, part in oak barrels previously used for Ornellaia, part in concrete vats, with the objective of achieving a perfect balance between structure and fruit.
“The result of a particularly hot, dry year,” remarked Winemaker Olga Fusari, “Le Volte dell’ Ornellaia 2017 is characterised by its usual deep ruby red colour. An appealing bouquet of ripe red berryfruit and spices is sustained on the palate by crisp acidity and an open, enveloping tannic structure.”
Another award of notable prestige joins the myriad honours won in recent years by Ornellaia, the Bolgheri-based producer whose stunning, world-class wines have kept the international spotlight focused on the immense quality possible on the Tuscan coast. The award cites “this Made in Italy sector leader, with its rich portfolio of universally-coveted wines that are the envy of the entire wine world,” a tribute that was officially made in the presence of a prestigious audience composed of wine producers, opinion-leaders, journalists, and wine sector professionals.
This tribute is simply the latest milestone in the impressive record that Ornellaia has steadily created for itself from its beginnings, gaining an international reputation that has brought it to the very pinnacle of world-wide success. Its position is further strengthened this year by the distribution of the iconic Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore through the Place de Bordeaux network in order to ensure more consistent distribution in markets it has more recently entered–Asia, Africa, South America–, while the long-established markets of Europe and North America will continue to be addressed by the winery’s traditional distribution channels.
The fruit of the unique and uncompromising quality of Ornellaia’s production has been its astounding evolution and current world ranking, a position that has been strengthened over its history by the far-sighted strategic decisions of CEO Giovanni Geddes de Filicaja, whose goal has always been to further raise its intrinsic value and image. He has pursued that goal from the very start, as he stated in his speech of acceptance: “Would you like to know how we grew? My goal was clear from the beginning: increase value by investing in the highest quality—the absolute finest team, wines, and communications.
Our corner of Tuscany has also become an open-air museum, thanks to the art installations of our Vendemmia d’Artista initiative, which for ten years now has attracted internationally-famed artists who have personally interpreted the distinctive characteristic of each individual going year. The latest vintage to be so recognised was the inimitable 2016, named‚ La Tensione‘ (Tension).
Ornellaia 2015 and Château Mouton Rothschild 2016: William Kentridge creates art labels for iconic wines
William Kentridge, considered by critics South Africa’s finest contemporary artist, created the unique labels for the 10th edition of Bolgheri-based Ornellaia’s Vendemmia d’Artista project. Specifically designed to convey the character classic to the 2015 vintage—expressed as Il Carisma, Charisma—, the labels for this Tuscan wine estate have encountered impressive success and are now coveted by collectors across the globe.
Kentridge designed the label for Château Mouton Rothschild 2016 as well, which features a vibrant parade of festive, primal bacchantes. The prestigious French maison has scheduled the wine’s official launch for this week. Kentridge is the first artist from the African continent commissioned to design the dress for these top-ranking Italian and French wines.
Liv-Ex, London’s authoritative wine-market performance index, ranks Ornellaia as one of the ten most sought-after wines in the world. With its value increasing each year, Ornellaia represents a superb investment, as well as a nonpareil gift for Christmas. And ne plus ultra for art-lovers!
THE VIRTUES OF AUTUMN
In recent years mother nature seems moody and willing to put us on a roller coaster of changing vintage patterns. After the heat and drought of 2017, that perfectly fits the idea of global warming, 2018 turned out the almost exact opposite, one of the rainiest years in the last decade, saved “in extremis” by a glorious autumn of sunny weather during harvest.
THE GROWING SEASON
After a few years that made us forget what winter looks like, 2018 brought back normal conditions with a sufficient number of days with temperatures below 0°C to put the vines to well-deserved winter rest. Bolgheri even enjoyed a rare number of days with snow. After the exceptionally dry 2017, abundant rain allowed to fill the water tables again.
March was almost entirely dominated by record amounts of rain, more than four times the seasonal average, leading to a delayed budbreak the second week of April. Immediately after a period of exceptionally warm and dry weather led to explosive shoot growth in the vineyard, requiring our entire workforce to keep up timely with the operations. In May though rain was back again in unprecedented quantity and frequency. While bringing temperatures back to the norm, it built up a high level of disease pressure, especially for downy mildew, which put the nerves of vine growers to the test for the rest of the growing season. Only through perfect organization and capacity to enter the vineyard for spraying in the few days without rain was it possible to get control of the disease keeping canopies and grapes healthy. Ornellaia’s soil management with frequent green covers between the rows proved once again hugely beneficial, not only by keeping vine vigour in check, but also helping to absorb excess water in the soil, allowing us to enter in the vineyards quickly after the rain.
Although budbreak had been late, the climatical conditions and the rapid shoot growth made the vines recover the delay and anticipate flowering by one full week. While lower than in May, rainfall remained higher than average all through June, keeping mildew active and aggressive.
July only barely gave us a rest with dry and hot weather. Véraison arrived quickly around the 22-25 July, before the vines had stopped growing. While colour changed very quickly in a few days, we observed great heterogeneity within the clusters with a significant number of pink, or even downright green berries.
August got almost as hot as 2017, but slightly rainier than average, with some significant storms around the 15 August, which occurred only in Bellaria, leaving the other vineyard areas of Ornellaia out, thus creating a significantly different ripening pattern for Bellaria. Sugars and acidity evolved at a slow pace, while – due to the high water status in the soils – berry sizes increased. September saw beautiful and warm weather without rain. Temperatures where high for the season but cool nights allowed the vines to recover and preserve their flavours and acidity. Morning mist, only rarely observed in Bolgheri, was frequent in 2018, giving a decidedly autumn feel to the harvest. In order to keep the grapes healthy and help them take advantage of the ventilation we operated leaf removal earlier than usual.
Harvest kicked off immediately after “Ferragosto” with the Sauvignon of the “milleviti” vines sprinkled around some of the red vineyards at Ornellaia. The difference between vineyard sites was extremely marked leading to the longest sauvignon harvest in Ornellaia’s history with the last grapes picked on the 13th September. Viognier came in in the last days of August, while Vermentino and Verdicchio where picked in mid-September.
More than in any other vintage we observed a different ripening pattern of the different terroirs of the estate, leading to a long harvest, especially for Merlot, that was picked from the 31st August and finished between the 29 September.
Cabernet franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot where harvested from the third decade of September on, Picking was briefly interrupted after a rain storm on first October but resumed with the oldest Cabernet vineyards after a few days of dry and windy weather.
In the cellar a few elements were critical to express the full potential of this vintage. In its third year of use, the optical sorting proved once again a precious tool, this year to remove all imperfectly coloured fruit, allowing to put only homogeneous and ripe berries into the tanks.
The large berry sizes lead us to frequently operate saignées on the tanks. To fully capture the tannin potential of the vintage, without extracting overly harsh and rustic tannins we went through long macerations of about four weeks with soft and moderately frequent pump overs, deciding how to operate on each single lot according to our daily tastings.
After a challenging spring, conditions improved significantly during the summer, culminating in almost perfect weather during harvest which culminated towards the end of September and beginning of October – autumn rather than late summer.
While 2018 at an early stage does not appear to be an extraordinarily powerful vintage it displays good colour, an unusual aromatic quality with incredibly fresh, vibrant and pure aromatics that perfectly reflect the character of each varietal. The tannins are already refined and silky with no hard edges, acidities are well balanced.
The whites are fragrant with moderate acidities, particularly for Sauvignon and Viognier. The later picked Vermentino look very promising with textbook flavours of yellow stone fruit and white flower.