Cabernet Sauvignon a maturing investment

Left: Tenuta dell'Ornellaia's 2011 Le Volte dell'Ornellaia and 2011 Le Serre Nuove dell'Ornellaia....

Left: Tenuta dell'Ornellaia's 2011 Le Volte dell'Ornellaia and 2011 Le Serre Nuove dell'Ornellaia. (Supplied photo)

Christopher Waters, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:47 AM ET

Anyone looking at the rave reviews and sky high prices of the red wines from the Ornellaia estate in Tuscany, Italy today, might be hard pressed to believe that the project was originally considered to be a risky venture.

The idea of planting Cabernet Sauvignon and other French grape varieties in a region made famous by traditional Italian varieties, notably Sangiovese, put the founders of Tenuta dell’Ornellaia and maverick neighbours like Tenuta San Guido at odds with the makers of Tuscany’s legendary Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino wines.

“The people didn’t roll out the red carpet in the beginning,” says Alessandro Lunardi, who is responsible for marketing Tenuta dell’Ornellaia and other Frescobaldi brands in the Americas. “We were the outsiders who broke the tradition in a region where the wine culture is deeply ingrained in the culture of the people.”

But it’s clear to see how well Ornellaia’s gamble paid off as representatives from the grand Tuscan estate make the rounds to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their top wine. The world tour pulled into Toronto last week for a series of high profile tastings of the new 2010 vintage.

“I keep saying that 25 years in the world of wine is like you’re six-months-old. It’s really not much,” Lunardi says. “But it does show that in 25 years, we have been able to achieve a level of quality and a personality in our wines that people compare to wines that have much longer history.”

It also shows how quickly Ornellaia has moved from the fringes of the Tuscan winemaking scene to become one of its focal points, despite planting vineyards in an area where the most famous wine previously had been a rosé made from the Sangiovese grape.

“It was a gamble at the beginning, but we knew that those (international) varieties could do exceptionally well in that area,” says Lunardi. “It has paid off maybe more than we were expecting. It certainly has brought a lot of fame, a lot of interest from avid collectors, which would have been unimaginable 25 years ago.”

The new vintage of Ornellaia retails for $189.95, which puts it out of reach for everyone save the most cashed-up wine lovers. Thankfully, the estate also produces two other top-notch red wines that command less exclusive prices. The estate’s second wine, Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia, comes pretty close to matching the thrills of its big brother at roughly a third of the price, while the affordable (by Ornellaia standards at least) Le Volte showcases the complexity and verve that makes Tuscan red wines so appealing.

Wines of the Week:

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Tenuta dell’Ornellaia 2011 Le Volte dell’Ornellaia

Tuscany, Italy

BC $34.99 (431155) | AB $35 (431155) | ON $29.95 (964221)

As the price would suggest, the entry-level red from Ornellaia is a serious and sophisticated wine. A blend of Merlot, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, it reveals rich layers of spice, fruit and chocolate with a characteristic lively character that marks the best Tuscan wines.

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Tenuta dell’Ornellaia 2011 Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia

Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy

BC $62.99 (091496) | AB $65 (091496) | ON $59.95 (606194)

Ornellaia’s baby brother promises to be a memorable and stylish gift for someone special — or yourself. Made with more Merlot to be accessible and ready to drink upon release, Le Serre Nuove maintains much of the class, complexity and harmony of its more expensive sibling. Drink now with steak or a roast or send out a save the date card for a special night in 2018 to make the most of your investment.


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