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Enjoying Wine and Beer in the Augusta GA area

Ornellaia Offers Tasty, Affordable Super Tuscan

Le Volte dell’Ornellaia IGT 2016, Tuscany

Cost: $30-32

If you don’t know what Super Tuscans are, you need to check them out. No, they’re not big, handsome Italians in tights flying through the sky, but they do have extraordinary powers.

Super Tuscan is a clever marketing name that some Italian wine rebels coined to market their extraordinary wines that broke all the rules. If you are producing a wine in Tuscany it must have a high percentage of sangiovese grapes to get the government’s DOC or DOCG top classification.

Dorothy and Edith enjoyed the Le Volte dell’Ornellaia while rocking on the porch.

In the late 1970s some winemakers wanted to use other grapes. Many started planting Bordeaux grapes such as cabernet sauvignon and merlot, but a Super Tuscan does not have to be made from Bordeaux grapes. It can be anything outside the usual government standards, which in Tuscany means lots of sangiovese.

Wines that didn’t conform to the standards were labeled table wine and later got an IGT ranking, which just means the grapes were grown where the wine was made. Before Super Tuscans came along, wines with these designations were not considered high quality and sold at bargain prices.

The ranking systems in European countries usually are a mark of quality because over the centuries grape growers have figured out which grapes grow best in which places. It is not a guarantee, though, and it doesn’t allow for winemakers who like to color outside the lines.

American wine drinkers, and many others around the world, loved the Super Tuscans, so their producers sold them at high prices, despite their lowly ranks. Supply and demand always rule the market.

Ornellaia was one of the pioneers in making a Super Tuscan, and it was an immediate sensation. As often happens, Ornellaia then produced a second wine, Le Serre Nuove. Le Volte dell’Ornellaia is actually the third wine, made from cabernet sauvignon, merlot and sangiovese from the same vineyards used to make Ornellaia.

This wine gives you a good idea what the $200 Ornellaia tastes like, yet it is priced for us ordinary wine drinkers.

John D, Dorothy and Edith on the porch, the center of social activity at the Dekles’ Maggie Valley home.

Each varietal is fermented in separate small steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation, also in steel tanks, gives the wine extra smoothness. The wine is aged for 10 months, partly in barriques previously used for Ornellaia, and partly in cement tanks, to obtain a perfect balance between tannic structure and fruity expression.

“Few vintages have shown so well all the virtues of the coastal climate of Tuscany so clearly as 2016,” said winemaker Axel Heinz. “An almost perfect combination of sun, hot summer days and cool nights, with just enough rain to slow down the growth of the vine without suffering drought. All this led to one of the purest expressions of Le Volte dell’Ornellaia, combining perfectly ripe and inviting fruits with a generous and silky texture emphasized by a vibrant and fresh acidity.”

The wine is a gorgeous deep red in the glass with blackberry and black cherry aromas. It is smooth and silky on the palate with dark fruit flavors, especially blackberry, raspberry and blueberry with a hint of black pepper. The finish is long and tasty.

The wine should be widely available; they usually make more than 400,000 bottles a year. I would drink it soon and not try to age it. I thought it tasted better slightly chilled.

John D relaxes with a glass of Le Volte dell’Ornellaia.

Winery: Ornellaia was one of the Super Tuscan pioneers, founded by Marchese Lodovico Antinori in 1981, with the first vineyard plantings coming the following year. The land had been overlooked as a vineyard for many years before he stepped in. The estate is on the Tuscan Coast in the northern Maremma near Bolgheri.

The first vintage, named simply Ornellaia, was released in 1985, and was a sensation. It is a blend of predominantly cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc. Masseto, begun in 1986, is made entirely from merlot, full of rich, silky elegance and has rapidly become a modern classic, selling for $600-700 a bottle, much like a Bordeaux wine. A modern winery was built in 1987.

The second wine for Ornellaia is Le Serre Nuove, using grapes not considered of high enough quality for the main label. It, too, is a blockbuster wine. The second label is a practice often found among Bordeaux producers, and now among some California wineries.

Le Volte dell’Ornellaia was first produced in 1992 and released in 1993. The first white wine, Ornellaia Blanco, was made from the 2013 vintage.

Antinori sold part of the winery in the 1990s before selling it all in 2002. It has changed hands several times and is now owned by the Frescobaldi family.

Even though Bolgheri now has its own DOC classification many of the Super Tuscans go for the IGT Toscana designation.

The Magnificent 8 gather for another good dinner with good wine.

Goes with: We had this wonderful wine during a recent trip to Maggie Valley, N.C., with our friends the Magnificent Eight. We started out with it on the porch, sipping while we rocked in rocking chairs and talked up a storm.

All of us agreed this was an extraordinary wine, smooth and silky, easy to drink.

Then we had it with dinner, Italian sausage tortellini soup, which was perfect in the cool mountain air. The soup has crumbled Italian sausage, onions, tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers and kidney beans in a hearty beef broth. It also has cheese tortellini.

This complex, tasty soup needed a wine with some weight to handle it, and the Le Volte was more than up to the task.

This wine would go well with many grilled meats, a hearty beef stew and strong cheeses.

Here’s the soup recipe:

Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup

1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casing removed

1 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

5 cups beef broth

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup red wine

1 large can diced tomatoes

2 bell peppers, chopped

1 cup sliced carrots

1 tablespoon packed fresh basil leaves, or 3 tablespoons dried

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce

2 cans black beans or kidney beans

8 ounces fresh tortellini pasta

1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped

Grated Parmesan cheese for topping

 

In a Dutch oven or large pot crumble the sausage and saute for about 10 minutes, or until well browned. Drain most of the fat and add the onions and garlic. Saute for about five more minutes. Add the beef broth, water, wine, tomatoes, carrots, basil, oregano and tomato sauce. You also can add zucchini if you have a bumper crop in your garden.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes, skimming any fat that might surface. Add the bell peppers, kidney beans and parsley. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the tortellini and when it is done, add to the pot. Salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the cheese. Serves 8. This is one of those soups that keeps getting better if it is stored in the refrigerator for a few days.


If you have questions about wine you can email Dennis Sodomka at dennis@bottlereport.com

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