Ornellaia, Bolgheri Superiore (Tuscany, Italy) 2014

($175, Folio Wine Imports): Axel Heinz, Ornellaia’s winemaker, described 2014 as a vintage that was “challenging for reds.”  He continued, “One thing we can rely on in Bolgheri is summer — but not in 2014.”  The weather in July and August was dreadful — cool and rainy — which meant that in many sites, even some of the very best ones, the grapes did not achieve full ripeness.  It was the longest harvest on record, starting with Merlot on September 6 and ending with some Cabernet Sauvignon on October 22, as Heinz waited hoping for better ripeness.   Heinz commented, with a smile, “we picked the grapes with fear,” worried they’d still have green qualities.  One thing that characterizes a truly great producer, such as Ornellaia, is their ability to make great wine even in “challenging” years.  (Ornellaia’s 2002, from another “challenging” year, was beautifully balanced and evolved when I tasted it last year.)  So don’t let the overall poor reputation of 2014 Tuscan reds prejudice you when assessing the 2014 Ornellaia, a distinctly atypical wine for the vintage.  And the blend is atypical, which helps explain why the wine is so impressive.  It contains the greatest amount of Petit Verdot Heinz has ever used, 20%.  (The remainder of the blend is Cabernet Sauvignon 34%, Merlot 32% and Cabernet Franc 14%.)  Great aromatics predict something special.  And your palate is not disappointed.  Plush and ripe, there’s not a hint of greenness. Savory nuances balance and amplify the black fruit flavors. Silky tannins, always Ornellaia’s hallmark, contradict the reputation of the vintage. Remarkably forward, it delivers great pleasure now, but I suspect it will close up over the next couple of years.  So plan on drinking it over the next year or so or be prepared to cellar it for a decade.
94 Michael Apstein May 16, 2017