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Le Serre Nuove Dell'Ornellaia 2006

Le Serre Nuove Dell'Ornellaia 2006Last week saw Sotheby's in New York auction off a number of special bottles from Tenuta Dell'Ornellaia, one of the leading estates in Bolgheri in Tuscany, purportedly in order to celebrate the estate's 20th anniversary. Hidden amongst the Roederer Cristal, the Cheval Blanc, the Mouton, La Tache and Bonnes Mares were three lots sent from the estate's cellars.

Established in 1985 Tenuta Dell'Ornellaia actually celebrated two decades of wine making back in 2005, and this was marked with the production of 80 numbered imperials of the 2005 vintage. The main attraction here then was imperial number one, a six-litre bottle which was expected to fetch anything up to $15000, and which eventually sold on the fall of the hammer for $12100. Following on from this was the Ornellaia Collection, the first of 600 numbered twelve-bottle cases containing three bottles each of the 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 vintages. With a top estimate of $3000, this lot exceeded expectations, selling for more than $4500. Finally there were three magnums of 1997 Massetto, a 100% Merlot wine which came into being as an experiment in 1986 and which proved a runaway success. These fetched a little under $4000, almost midway between top and bottom estimates. Although I don't really follow the auction scene (you don't tend to find a lot of interesting Loire Valley wines hidden inbetween the Latour and Lafite), a quick review of this auction suggests to this untrained eye the current global recession has yet to have a hugely tangible effect here. Clearly there were some of the 188 lots that didn't sell, but many did, including two separate lots of Romanée Conti which sold for more than $100000 each, and overall the sale netted $2 million.

Le Serre Nuove Dell'Ornellaia 2006These are wines which I am quite certain - unless a serious lottery win comes my way - that I will never be buying. Fortunately there is no need to do so; there are thousands of wines which do not appeal to the auction market and which as a result sell at more reasonable prices. Although in Bordeaux many such old favourites are also looking distinctly over-priced, elsewhere there are still bargains to be found. But what if we want, once in a while, to sample the wines of these great estates? There are options to us, even beyond the usual suggestion that we band together with like-minded wine drinkers to split the cost of a bottle. Sometimes second wines can be good value, and having tasted a number of vintages of Tenuta Dell'Ornellaia's second wine, Le Serre Nuove, in 2005, I was recently glad to take the opportunity to take a look at the latest release.

Decanted for an hour before tasting, the 2006 Le Serre Nuove from Tenuta Dell'Ornellaia, a dark, glossy, claret-coloured wine has an enticing if rather youthful nose. Its composition is 50% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc and 6% Petit Verdot. There is dense, dark fruit, rather akin to damsons, or black cherries, but also a high-toned slightly volatile note which flips in every now and again. On top of this we have fleeting glimpses of raspberry ripple ice cream, toffee and vanilla, which are most probably oak-related elements which will integrate and disappear with time in the cellar. Later on it shows a more vibrant cranberry character. The palate starts off dense and creamy, and this impressive texture persists through the midpalate to the finish. Beneath it all, chalky tannins, ripe and grippy structure and a tingling acid backbone. There are notes of black pepper, flower petals, ash and more, all rounded off by a firm finish. A good, vigorous, nicely framed wine which has a little length, which shows waves of damson fruit and more of that peppery ash. A really very good wine, and a true success for the estate; it would stand up very nicely against many of the wines from my recent assessment of 2006 Bordeaux. 17+/20 (3/11/08)

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