Saturday, March 31, 2007

Ornellaia 2004 and La Scolca 2006: More Wines From Vinitaly

Ornellaia 2004

Orenallaia is one of the cult wines of Bolgheri, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon, and a hint of Petit Verdot that displays great elegance and finesse in a decidedly international key. I was especially curious about the 2004 vintage, because it follows a rather disappointing, heat struck (at least for me) 2003.

No problems with heat for the 2004: It's deep cherry ruby with cherry rim, and has an elegant nose with delicate berry fruit laced with cedar, vanilla, and pencil shavings that add depth and balance. Fresh, inviting, and quite nice, though obviously very young. On the palate it's equally young, with full, powerful berry fruit supported by smooth sweet tannins that have faint cedary overtones -- youth -- that will fold in with time, and flow into a long clean fruit finish with some dusky bitter notes that add depth. Beautiful balance between structure and finesse, and a delightful return to type; it will drink nicely with flavorful, not too fatty red meats now, and though I fear the majority of bottles will be drunk soon, it will richly reward those patient enough to give it time. Expect it to climb for at least 10 years, and hold for many more thereafter.

Ornellaia not quite your cup of tea? How about Gavi, Piemonte's classic (and, in my opinion, underrated) white wine?

There are many producers, but La Scolca remains one of the references to which all turn. The 2006 vintage of their black label Gavi di Gavi (produced in the Comune di Gavi from free-run must, Lot 407P) is pale brassy white with brassy reflections, and has a rich, bright bouquet with bracing citric acidity mingled with honeydew melon and some honeysuckle, with underlying alcohol and spice. Interesting. On the palate it's graceful, with lively lemony fruit that gains depth from deft peppery notes that flow into a clean citric finish. It comes across as simple at first sip, but you'll find yourself wanting another immediately, and continuing until the bottle is gone. In short, it's quite pleasant to drink, and will be nice as an aperitif or with foods, in particular fish-based risotti or pasta sauces. I'd also be tempted to serve it with flavorful, moderately spiced oriental foods.
If you like smother, softer whites it won't work at all for you, but if you instead prefer whites blessed with clean, bracing acidity, you'll like it very much and (likely) want a second bottle.


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