This week, we attended the launch of the Serre Nuove 2016 vintage, hosted by the affable Matteo Zanardello. An opportunity to not only showcase the 2016 but to taste a selection of back-vintages, a treat as they sell out of their reasonably small production every year.

The history of the Ornellaia Estate is an interesting albeit relatively short one, founded in 1981 but even then the estate as we know it today is even younger and the first vintage of Le Serre Nuove didn’t hit the market until 1997. Unlike most of the appellation, the vineyards are situated on the hillside above and around Bolgheri. In addition to exceptionally varied soil and direct sunshine, the vines here benefit from the reflection of the light from the sea nearby, enhancing the Mediterranean concentrated character of the wine, whilst the cooling sea breezes cool the vineyards in summer give the resulting wines the freshness, acidity and structure for which they are known.

Most interestingly, with regards to its brief history, are its rather Noble beginnings. Having established Ornellaia as one of the top wines in Italy, the Frescobaldi family went in search of a new project. This resulted in the late, great André Tchelistcheff identifying the small 7ha within the estate, perfect for Merlot (thanks to its clay rich soils) which was to become the home of Masseto, perhaps Tuscany’s most acclaimed wine. This was the first proof of what Merlot was capable of in this region and within a few years it had taken the fine wine market by storm. This, in turn, paved the way for a second wine, Le Serre Nuove, a more Merlot-forward Bordeaux blend whose grapes come from the same vineyards as Ornellaia; its big brother, making it a true second wine in my eyes. Grapes are still hand harvested and go through gentle pressing followed by over a year in largely old French oak; this wine is no afterthought.

Furthermore, and rather boldly, they have not made any attempt at consistency across vintages to bend to the market, so that in every bottle you can taste the terroir and the vintage to its’ full expression. Even the blends can range dramatically from year to year, so every glass was a surprise.

After tasting a couple of whites; approachable, zippy fresh Sauvignons, we went on to taste the 2016, 2015, 2013 and the 2010 of the Le Serre Nuove. The stand out wines of the tasting were, for me, the 2016 and 2010. The 2016 was wonderfully complex, with a balanced bouquet of concentrated black and bramble fruit, balsamic and a hint of greeny blackcurrant leaf and cedar. This was supported by a strong backbone of firm tannins and high acidity with a lengthy finish; this wine will only improve over the next 7+ years. This was proven by the 2010 vintage, which even though having been an exceptionally cool year was still clinging to the last of the fading dark fruit leading the way for the wonderful tertiary palate of tobacco leaf, spice and coffee. The tannins are silky smooth, and the acidity is still there holding it all together for an exceptionally lengthy and evolving finish.

This delightful tasting was rounded off by some exceptional bites to soak up the juice from Manicomio City (which I can also highly recommend if you’re in the city!) Overall an excellent introduction to the 2016 vintage.

To buy the Serre Nuove and other wines from Ornellaia click here.

Gemma Wood