First Taste – 2019 Ornellaia, Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany, Italy

2019 Ornellaia, Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany, Italy

2019 Ornellaia is the thirty-sixth vintage (a 1984 was apparently made but never sold) of this iconic ‘Super-Tuscan’ wine, and it is sure to grab headlines worldwide on its release on La Place de Bordeaux on the 1st April this year.  The wine itself is a suitably impressive beast, and the artwork connected to this vintage (see below) is also extremely eye-catching.

First, the wine – 2019 started with cold and rainy conditions and then, in the blink of an eye, the weather seemed to jump directly from winter to summer at the end of May! Estate Director Axel Heinz explained that they seemed to skip over Spring in terms of the weather conditions. Even so, flowering was neat and ordered, and a hot summer ensued, which is evident in this wine’s shape and scale. Fortunately, rain appeared just before harvest to allow the wine to retain some balance, and the pickers conducted a speedy vendange, starting one week later than usual and finishing one week earlier, too. The entire harvest usually takes six weeks or so, but in 2019 they started on the 7th September and finished by the end of the month.

It was not a particularly dry year, but you can certainly feel the sunshine in the ripeness of the fruit notes on the nose and palate, but this is a wine that stops short of over-ripeness and indeed any raisined notes.

Intense, rich, juicy and powerful, this is a cleverly ‘framed and clear-cut’ style according to Axel, and so his expression to sum up the vintage is ‘Il Vigore’.  The energy and elemental translations of this word are accurate in this vintage, and, as we know, vigour always needs to be controlled, and 2019 Ornellaia shows a degree of control.  Of course, without control, this wine would have tipped over into being too muscular and dense and even though the alcohol sits at 14.5%, there is an element of freshness on the finish, which thankfully cuts through the muscle and the oak.  There are also touches of flora, salinity and gaminess, giving it a rakish character that further cuts through the heat and allows it a semblance of equilibrium.  As the wine opens up, over a few hours, the fruit notes sink into the earthiness and the spice, making it even more enticing.  18.5+/20  (Drink 2025 – 2040)

And now the art –  Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg designed the artwork linked to 2019 Ornellaia.  These artists work with mixed media, drawing and sculpture.  Using “Il Vigore” as inspiration and a visit to the estate to draw inspiration from the vineyards, Nathalie and Hans have created a series of bottle adornments drawing on the strength of nature and the importance of the soil.  There is a regenerative power theme here, picking up on the process of metamorphosis and the generation of new life.  The resulting artwork is playful and rather enchanting with Ornellaia soil stuck to the bottle necks with what looks like children’s caterpillars (they remind me of jelly snakes from The Natural Confectionery Co.), mushrooms and flowers popping up all over.  Earthy, vital, vigorous and light-hearted – I have to say that I love the results.

Some extra notes taken from the official Ornellaia press releaseOrnellaia is delighted to reveal Il Vigore (‘Vigour’), the latest Vendemmia d’Artista dedicated to Ornellaia 2019 and thus described by Estate Director Axel Heinz: “Il Vigore is the strength of the healthy growth of the vines.  It is the active vigour of mind and body. It is the character of a wine that captivates the senses and projects the flavour into a natural landscape of energy, power, strength and vitality. The flavours, aromatic nuances and the body of the wine transport it into a spiritual dimension, where the power of nature is central to the experience.”

The Vendemmia d’Artista project took root from this inspiration to celebrate the unique character of every season on a yearly basis. Some of these exquisite labels will be sold during the Sotheby’s online auction scheduled from 5th  to 19th  October 2022 before being delivered to lucky collectors. Since 2019, profits have been donated to The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation to support the innovative Mind’s Eye program.

Giovanni Geddes da Filicaja, CEO of Ornellaia estate, is also delighted to state that: “Since the introduction of Vendemmia d’Artista in 2009, we have donated more than 2 million dollars to art charity. It’s immensely rewarding to see the project grow internationally and to know that the work we are doing gives the possibility for the blind and low-vision people to discover contemporary art by using the senses.”