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Great wines from a great Italian producer

By Stephen Quinn--In a relatively short time Ornellaia has become recognized as one of the great red wines of the world. A vertical tasting in Hong Kong has emphasized that point.

The focus is producing quality wines, noted Giovanni Mazzoni, who markets the wine in the Asian region.

The estate — whose full name is Tenuta dell'Ornellaia — was founded in 1981 by Marchese Lodovico Antinori. Marchese Antinori planted cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot because these varieties were suited to the estate's terroir.

The marchese (count would be the English equivalent) comes from the Antinori family, one of Italy's most famous negociant companies. He wanted to create an exceptional wine estate on a property inherited from his mother's side of the family.

Ornellaia is located on the Tuscan Coast, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, in the section of the northern Maremma between Livorno and the island of Elba. The vineyards extend over two adjacent areas for a total of 99 hectares — 41 surrounding the estate, and the other 58 in an area known as Bellaria.

The property is next to Tenuta San Guido, producer of Sassicaia, which is probably the best-known “Super Tuscan” wine. This term, coined by famous American wine critic Robert Parker, describes any Tuscan red that does not adhere to traditional blending laws for the region.

The vineyards of the Ornellaia estate were planted in 1981, and produced the first vintage in 1985. A modern winery was built in 1987.

The 2006 Ornellaia is the current release. Robert Parker awarded the wine 97 points out of 100. The wines have developed such a reputation that they are difficult to find, and the 2008 vintage is already sold out.

The estate supports the arts, not by buying art but by selecting a word or phrase to describe each vintage of Ornellaia and commissioning an artist to do a work featuring that theme. The word for 2006 was “exuberance” and the wine fits that description.

It did not rain the summer of 2006, but the heat was not too powerful, which ripened the grapes superbly. This produced a wine of considerable grace and harmony combined with unusual structure and power.

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In a relatively short time Ornellaia has become recognized as one of the great red wines of the world. A vertical tasting in Hong Kong has emphasized that point.



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