Ornellaia is one of Italy’s premier wine producers in the Bolgheri region of Tuscany. The wine estate is relatively young, founded in 1981 by Marchese Lodovico Antinori, a descendant of the famous Gherardesca family. While the soil in Bolgheri doesn’t suit the typical Tuscan sangiovese grape variety, he planted French Bordeaux varieties for red wine with great success. In 1985, the vineyard produced its first vintage.
Ten years later, in 1995, Antinori sold 50% of the estate to Robert Mondavi, the famous California wine producer. In 2002 Mondavi took full control, then transferred 50% to Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi who eventually bought Mondavi’s 50% in 2005.
The estate only creates blends. In addition to Ornellaia, the estate creates four other wines. Its second red wine is Le Serre Nuove dell'Ornellaia, its third is Poggio alle Gazze dell’Ornellaia, and its fourth is Le Volte dell'Ornellaia. In 2015, it developed its first white wine, Ornellaia Bianco. The wines are sold at top international wine stores, Michelin-starred restaurants, and auction houses.
Wine is a product where each little detail in the production from the field to the bottle makes a big difference in the final quality. The word “terroir” is used to talk about how the soil, climate, terrain, as well as the human intervention affect the final wine. Ornellaia is a winery with an exceptional terroir.
While the land is at the heart of Ornellaia’s excellence, it’s encompassed by the estate’s great know-how. At each stage of production, Ornellaia implements only best practices to make one of Italy’s most renowned wines year after year. For example, Tuscan wineries typically work 245 hours per hectare, while Ornellaia spends 623 hours per hectare tending to its vines without any mechanized activity to make sure each grape reaches its full aromatic potential.
The same meticulous attention is maintained during the vinification process. Once each plot of grapes has fully matured in French oak barrels, Axel Heinz, Ornellaia’s expert winemaker, brings his artistry and know-how to create a blend that expresses the specific character of the year’s vintage while maintaining the vineyard’s historic voluptuous elegance.
Ornellaia’s production demonstrates the complexity of wine. It’s a product where education is important, but not integral to enjoy. The same can be said about art. In order to communicate the excellence of Ornellaia without going into all of the technicalities, Ornellaia created Vendemmia d’Artista in 2009. Each year a contemporary artist creates a work of art and a series of limited edition labels inspired by a word describing the character of the vintage to further accentuate the excellence that is Ornellaia.
Signature Product: Ornellaia, Bolgheri DOC Superiore
The Ornellaia estate uses its best grapes to create 150,000 bottles of its flagship wine. Ornellaia 2016 is a cuvée (blend) of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
For the 2016 vintage, Ornellaia partnered with artist Shirin Neshat for the Vendemmia d’Artista. In 2019 the estate released Shirin Neshat for Ornellaia 2016 “La Tensione.”