Supertuscan white could happen, says Ornellaia winemaker

Richard Woodard

08 March 2018

The Tuscan enclave of Bolgheri is well known for its top-end red wines. But Ornellaia winemaker Axel Heinz believes the region needs to step up with its whites too.

‘It’s time to show that the same can happen with the whites, but on a smaller scale,’ he told Imbibe. ‘The conditions are right to make interesting and fine white wine. It’s a matter of finding the right spot.’

After 10 years of experimenting with ‘Mediterranean-style’ white varieties including Viognier, Vermentino and a small plot of Verdicchio, the winery has settled on Sauvignon Blanc.

‘If it’s great conditions for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, it should be no surprise that you’re doing well with the Bordeaux whites,’ admitted Heinz.

And Sémillon? ‘Initially, I didn’t want to – I thought, let’s not fall into the trap of doing a Bordeaux white blend. Now, seeing how well Sauvignon Blanc is doing, I might plant a little plot of Sémillon just to see how it works.’

Ornellaia Bianco 2015 is 100% Sauvignon Blanc, with production limited to less than 5,000 bottles, while the estate’s second white wine, Poggio alle Gazze, blends Sauvignon Blanc with Viognier and Vermentino.

Turning to the 2017 vintage for Ornellaia’s red wines, Heinz said the very dry conditions had reduced the crop by about 30%, but added that quality was ‘very fine’.

All of the Ornellaia estate’s Merlot was harvested in August, with the youngest Cabernet Sauvignon picked on 31 August – something which Heinz had never seen before.

‘The clusters were smaller and the wines are Mediterranean in style – very rich and relatively big, and not necessarily in the current fashion. But it is a natural concentration, not from aggressive vinification methods,’ he said.

We're told Ornellaia Bianco is sold on a strict allocation-only as quantities are minute.

POA, Armit Wines

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