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Enjoying Wine and Beer in the Augusta GA area

Ornellaia Produces Super Smooth Super Tuscan

Le Volte Dell’ Ornellaia IGT 2015, Tuscany

Cost: $29-32

Even in the blistering hot days of summer, sometimes you need a red wine. It helps if the wine is not too heavy or overloaded with tannins.

This wonderful Super Tuscan from Ornellaia is perfect for a good summer meal. It also is a great introduction to the legendary Super Tuscan wines at a reasonable price.

A deep, vibrant red in the glass, it opens with aromas of black cherries. On the palate it is approachable and balanced with ripe red and dark berry fruit flavors, primarily raspberry and blackberry, and a touch of black pepper. The rich, full flavors are wrapped in silky tannins leading to a long finish. While the wine is opulent, it is never cloying, and the firm backbone hints that this wine will continue to improve for another five years or so.

The blend is 67 percent merlot, 20 percent cabernet sauvignon and 13 percent sangiovese from the same vineyards used for the Ornellaia. The hillside vineyards are well-suited for growing the Bordeaux varietals. The grapes benefit from the maritime influences, with daytime sun and cool night breezes to allow the grapes to ripen evenly.

The merlot provides softness for the wine while the cab adds intensity and structure. Sangiovese adds a vibrant personality.

Each varietal is fermented separately in small steel tanks to keep the varietal characteristics intact. Alcoholic fermentation is followed by malolactic fermentation, also in steel tanks.

The wine is then aged for 10 months, partly in barriques used for the more expensive Ornellaia and partly in cement tanks.

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

Winemaker Axel Heinz said the wine benefitted from an ideal growing season in 2015.

“Rarely do we find a perfect balance between the various components of the wine, from the deep ruby color, to the crisp and fresh fruity hints with an ideally meaty texture, supported by silky, smooth tannins, devoid of any harsh edge,” he said.

I suggest serving this at cellar temperature (50-55 degrees). It will warm up quickly and release all the wonderful flavors.

I loved the smooth, rich flavors of the Le Volte.


Winery: Ornellaia was one of the pioneers in producing what is now known as a Super Tuscan wine. Essentially, a Super Tuscan is wine made in Tuscany that breaks the rules, relying on Bordeaux varietals instead of the traditional sangiovese called for in Italian law.

To get the highest DOC or DOCG classifications, wines from Tuscany must have a high percentage of sangiovese. In Chianti, for instance, the wine must be at least 70 percent sangiovese. In Chianti Classico, it must be at least 80 percent sangiovese.

Sassicaia is considered the first producer to forego the DOC designation in the 1970s by using Bordeaux style grapes and little or no sangiovese. These wines are bottled under the IGT classification, which has fewer restrictions and is considered a lower classification. Because of the classification system this was a gamble that paid off big for Super Tuscan producers.

Wine drinkers responded and soon some of the Super Tuscans were soaring in popularity and price. As tastes changed Sassicaia eventually got its own DOC classification, but most Super Tuscans remain IGT wines.

The Ornellaia Estate was 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. 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.

Le Volte Dell’ Ornellaia was a great match for pulled pork and barbecued ribs.

Goes With: We had this with tasty barbecue ribs and pulled pork from a North Carolina barbecue restaurant that was new to me, Butts on the Creek in Maggie Valley. The lush flavors of the wine perfectly matched the rich, smokey pork and spicy sauce.

Continuing my summer theme of easy meals, we picked up the barbecue while visiting friends in Maggie Valley. These are my wine touring friends, John and Edith from Savannah. They own a home on the side of a mountain in Maggie Valley and regularly invite three other couples who have been together on wine-tasting explorations.

The magnificent view from John and Edith’s porch in Maggie Valley.

There is nothing like sitting on a porch overlooking a mountain valley while sipping great wine with friends to refresh the mind and soul. We are grateful that John and Edith share this bit of paradise with all of us.

One night instead of cooking we picked up barbecue from Butts on the Creek. We all loved it so much I bought some before we headed home and ate it the night after we returned.

Teri and Michael both loved the wine and the barbecue. We added a wild rice dish, corn on the cob and sliced cucumber and tomatoes, so it was a perfect summer meal that required very little actual cooking.

The Le Volte also would pair well with tomato sauce over pasta, a juicy steak, beef stew and strong cheeses.

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