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Tuscan History in a Glass

World class winemaking in Italy, for many decades, has progressed by leaps and bounds and so has its global reputation. And Tuscany — arguably the most famous wine region — has earned its place in which some of the most famous, well-made wines in the world are made. In the States long gone are the days of the candle-dripped, straw-flasked Chianti bottles adorning checkerboard tablecloths in tomato-based pasta restaurants and thankfully, along with it, Italian wines’ less-than-stellar image.  

When thinking of some of the pioneering Tuscan producers of the time who had so much to do with the surge in quality, no one can deny the impact of families like the Frescobaldis and their wines; Tignanello, Sassicaia and Ornellaia.

A few nights ago, I had the opportunity to taste the 2015 Le Serre Nuove Dell’Ornellaia, the “second” wine of the famed Tuscan property, no longer owned by the Antinori family.

Considered one of Italy’s leading Bordeaux-style reds and produced since 1997, Le Serre Nuove did not disappoint. Made from the estate’s young vines in coastal Bolgheri, the 2015 is still quite youthful, the fruit showing restraint with savory notes and grippy tannins. The wine needs a bit of time, but with its great structure and acidity, it’s clear that in 3–5 years, it will open up beautifully.  

Ownership of Ornellaia changed hands in 2002 when Robert Mondavi purchased the estate from the Antinori family and sold half to Marchesi di Frescobaldi. They are now owned exclusively by the Frescobaldis, one of the oldest and most prominent winegrowing families in Italy. 

The “Super Tuscan” blend of Le Serre Nuove is comprised of 2/3 Merlot, a variety in which the Frescobaldis are well-versed. Their 2001 Masseto, pure Merlot, scored a perfect 100 points and earned the #6 spot in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2004.

The aptly-named “Super Tuscan” wines of Italy are some of the best known and most expensive. Robert Parker, Jr, wine critic, coined the term in the 1970’s to characterize the higher quality, non-indigenous blended wines that vintners were making in protest of the restrictive Italian laws of the time.

The “movement” towards this new winemaking style was so powerful that, eventually, the legal system in Italy added a new classification, referred to as IGT, to distinguish these higher quality wines from the less expensive, lower designated, table wines. Many of the wines from these trailblazing vintners and their properties are still considered the cult wines of Tuscany.

The exact blend of Le Serre Nuove is 64% Merlot, 17% Cab, 10% Cab Franc and 9% Petit Verdot. Try it with a beautiful dish of roasted duck or braised osso bucco….Delightful!

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