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Best of the Best 2007: International Red Wines: Tenuta dell' Ornellaia 2004 Masseto, Toscana

Anthony Dias Blue

Tenuta dell’Ornellaia 2004 Masseto, Toscana

As will happen to an exclusive product when it becomes more abundant, Super Tuscans have lost some of the cachet they had two decades ago, before Bordeaux varietals grew so plentiful in Tuscany. However, the handful of daring wines that initiated the phenomenon are still around. Hardly the upstarts they once were, Sassicaia, Tignanello, Ornellaia, and Masseto are now veritable éminences grises among the Giovanni-come-lately Super Tuscans.

Bolgheri, on the Tuscan coast, was the cradle of the Super Tuscan movement. It is home to the Ornellaia estate, which Ludovico Antinori, advised by André Tchelistcheff, first planted in 1981. Robert Mondavi acquired Tenuta dell’Ornellaia in 2002 and then sold a 50 percent share to the Marchesi de’Frescobaldi. In early 2005, the Frescobaldi family assumed complete ownership of the property. Its flagship wine, Ornellaia, is mostly Cabernet, but Masseto is a Pomerol-influenced Merlot. The property yields only a quarter as much Masseto as Ornellaia. Since its first release, from the 1986 vintage, Masseto has achieved a cult status that eclipses Ornellaia’s.

In sharp contrast to the difficult, heat-stricken 2003 vintage, the 2004 is reminiscent of the now-legendary 2001. The growing season included moderate rainfall and normal temperatures, leading to classic flavors and impeccable structure in the Bolgheri wines. The 2004 Masseto offers astoundingly deep plum, blackberry, and cassis flavors, as well as lively acid. This collector’s trophy will show its best only after a decade or more in the cellar; after that it should continue to age beautifully.

Tenuta dell’Ornellaia
www.ornellaia.it ($250)

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