Masseto Unveils New Winery
An architectural masterpiece perfectly represents and embodies the Estate's identity
Masseto, Italy’s most collectible estate wine, is elated to have just unveiled a brand-new winery that brings together stunning design and uncompromised functionality devoted to producing the Estate’s highly-acclaimed, single-vineyard wine.
Carved deep into the ancient blue clay that underpins the vineyard, the Masseto winery is a physical and symbolic tribute to the Estate’s history and rapid evolution from intuition about the hidden potential of a vineyard site to an internationally-acclaimed wine.
“The Winery is a tribute to the past, present and future of Masseto. It celebrates the incredible story of a wine that was never meant to exist,” said Masseto CEO Giovanni Geddes da Filicaja. “Years of planning and effort have been dedicated to building the right home for Masseto. One that consolidates three decades of experience, where every aspect has been designed to meet the winemaking team’s highly detailed requirements.”
Technical facilities in the subterranean building have been stripped back to minimalistic, low-impact basics. “Nothing is missing, and there is no more than necessary,” said Masseto Estate Director Axel Heinz. He stressed that winemaking at Masseto, which balances austerity, modernity and tradition, will remain unchanged. “Our winemaking is about reducing the process, reducing intervention, with a ‘less is more’ philosophy.”
Designed by architects Hikaru Mori and Maurizio Zito of the ZitoMori Studio, the building represents and reinforces Masseto’s discreet but powerful identity. Above ground, only the low lines of the grape reception area and the restored Masseto House emerge from the hill.
Built to incorporate a gravity flow winemaking process, and benefiting from the blue clay’s natural insulation, the structure is symbiotic with the hills and vineyard that surround it. The architects called their underground design concept The Quarry. “To represent the effort required to produce the wine made here, we created a series of spaces - not by construction, but by extraction from the hill’s monolithic mass. The diverse internal volumes, heights and levels are reminiscent of a gold mine as it follows seams of precious metal to the core,” said Japanese-born architect Hikaru Mori.
Cast-in-place concrete was used for the winery’s architectural framework. Inside, clean lines of glass and steel predominate, balanced by rows of oak barrels. Textured and scored surfaces throughout are a reminder of the extractive construction process, while openings in the walls frame vertical profiles of the vineyard’s inimitable blue clay terroir.
At the very heart of the structure lies the Estate’s wine library, Masseto Caveau. Bottles of every vintage since 1986 are preserved here, in perfect cellaring conditions, each suspended in its own stainless-steel mesh cradle. There could be no better physical manifestation of the Estate’s history.
The 2018 vintage is the first to be vinified in the Winery, by recently appointed cellar master Eleonora Marconi.
Ornellaia Celebrates 30th Anniversary of First Vintage (1985) and 10th Anniversary of Vendemmia d'Artista Project with Custom Artwork by William Kentridge and Charity Auction at the V&A in London
To commemorate the 30th vintage of iconic Italian wine Ornellaia and the 10th edition of the Ornellaia Vendemmia d’Artista project, the iconic Bolgheri estate invited world-renowned artist William Kentridge to create special-edition labels centered on the theme of “carisma,” or “charisma.” The art, created to represent the character of the vintage itself, will adorn a limited number of Ornellaia 2015 wine bottles. Continuing its partnership with Sotheby’s, Ornellaia will donate 9 rare lots to be auctioned off during a gala evening at the Victoria & Albert Museum, and all proceeds will be used to support the arts and art education at the V&A.
For this year’s edition of Ornellaia Vendemmia d’Artista – a project launched in 2009 to showcase the unique relationship between fine wine and contemporary art – South African artist William Kentridge developed a site-specific art installation, designed a limited series of 111 large-format bottles, and created a limited-edition label that will appear on one of the six bottles in each case of Ornellaia. As explained by William Kentridge, the images on the labels depict the work of winemaking, specifically the unique combination of craft and processes involved in the vendemmia, or the wine harvest.
“The secateurs come from a memory of the one occasion I took part in a Tuscan vendemmia… when I spent six months in San Casciano outside of Florence…” Kentridge recounts. “The aspects of wine-making that combine both manual craft and mechanical processes suggested the transformation of people into machines and machines into workers…. The drawings are done on pages from various old Italian cash books found in flea markets and second-hand shops in the Tuscan area.”
The theme “Il Carisma,” or “charisma,” was selected for the 2015 vintage, as it perfectly captures the stunning spirit and energy of this wine. Its rich, deep color suggests a wine of great texture and intensity, while the fruit-rich nose shows both ripeness and freshness, with hints of classic balsamic and spice. On the palate, it is rich, dense, and full-bodied, with an exceptionally tannic texture that is simultaneously dense and velvety along the palate. The lengthy finish concludes with an impression of firmness and delicate hints of spice.
The classic flavor profile and exceptional character of this particular vintage can be attributed to the fact that 2015 was a particularly well-balanced harvest season, with relatively normal, almost textbook-like weather patterns. Winemaker and Estate Director Axel Heinz explains, “Like people of great ‘carisma’ (charisma), wines of great vintages know how to impose themselves naturally, without force, their balance allowing them to shine without having to flaunt themselves.”
On May 23, the spotlight will shift to the celebratory event, a benefit auction featuring 9 rare lots, which will include the special bottles created by William Kentridge for the Ornellaia 2015 Il Carisma. Stephen Mould, Sotheby’s Senior Director and Head of the European Wine Department, will preside over the gala dinner and auction, and all funds raised will be donated in their entirety to the host sponsoring the event, the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) in London.
V&A Director Tristram Hunt states, “The V&A is thrilled to host Ornellaia, Sotheby’s, and the renowned artist William Kentridge, as they present the 10th edition of Vendemmia d’Artista. We are honored that Ornellaia have chosen the V&A for this spectacular event and we are hugely grateful for its generous support.”
Stephen Mould continues, “I admire how William Kentridge interprets Ornellaia 2015 “Il Carisma” through his allegorical language – the artworks he has created for the bottles and the estate transform the spirit of Ornellaia through visual art and make concrete his interpretation of Ornellaia 2015’s character. This vintage, born during an optimal harvest season, is set to be one of Ornellaia’s greatest.” Jamie Ritchie, Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s Wine, further elaborates, “Sotheby’s Wine is proud to participate in our tenth collaboration with Ornellaia’s superb Vendemmia d’Artista art program… These unique large-format bottles will find homes in new cellars and will always remind their new owners of the joys of bringing wine, food, art and friendship together.”
Ornellaia CEO Giovanni Geddes da Filicaja concludes, “Today, as Vendemmia d’Artista marks its 10th year, it continues to attract funds for the restoration of artworks belonging to our universal heritage. In just first nine editions we have succeeded in donating almost two million euros across the globe; just a small drop perhaps, but there is much more to come.”
Masseto Announces 2014 Vintage
Bolgheri, 1 October 2017. Due to a warm, rainy winter, dry spring, and damp August, 2014 was an unusual year in Masseto’s history. The weather conditions – particularly those experienced in August – made it difficult for the grapes to ripen and significantly increased the risk of fungal diseases. However, thanks to vineyard’s resilient blue clay soils, and the team’s meticulous work in the vineyard, including leaf-pulling and anti-fungal treatments, the grapes remained healthy up through harvest in September and October, when the weather was mostly sunny and dry. During harvest, the best clusters were hand selected, getting passed through multiple times before being re-examined on the sorting tables.
Following de-stemming and yet another sorting, the grapes were separated according to the eight vineyard blocks from which they were picked. Grapes from each vineyard block were gently pressed and vinified separately. Fermentation took place in a combination of steel and wood tanks, then malolactic fermentation started in 100% new oak barrels. The different lots were kept separate for 12 months before being combined and aged in barrels for another 12 months. The wine was then aged in the bottle for another 12 months before release.
“Stylistically, the wine displays outstanding balance, with supple, velvety tannins and remarkably complex aromatics,” noted Alex Heinz, Winemaker and Estate Director. “This Masseto expresses a refined sensuality and silk-smooth seductiveness, all in its own distinctively classic, elegant fashion. The combination of terroir and style found in the 2014 vintage attests to the incredible ability of Masseto to cope with adverse weather conditions.”
“This year marks a very special year for Masseto,” explained Alex Belson, Director of Masseto. “We have started excavations, delving deep into the heart of the Masseto hill, in order to lay the foundations for a dedicated winery that will be completed for harvest 2018. It has been amazing to witness the uncovering of these clays... blue, impenetrable and exceptional.”
Masseto is a unique place producing a unique wine. The Masseto hill, which looks out towards the Mediterranean sea, can be divided into 3 main sections due to its different subsoils, which combined give the wine its unforgettable character . An intriguing combination of structure & opulence, matched with elegance & softness, Masseto owes its distinct personality to the blue clays of the Pliocene Era which dominate the soils of this small Estate. Masseto, controlled by the Frescobaldi family, has received international acclaim since its birth in 1986.
ORNELLAIA BEGINS ‘GREAT’ 2016 HARVEST
The Tuscan estate began harvesting its Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier on 22 August and is gearing up to begin picking the red grapes.
Axel Heinz, director and winemaker at Ornellaia, explained that the precocious harvest was a result of “no significant rainfall” during August.
“Significant heat in July and August speeded up the ripening process,” he explained. “Fortunately, Bolgheri is a blessed island in that it experiences wide day-night temperature differentials, which in turn allows the vines to recover during the night from the daytime heat and dryness. In addition, the depth of our soils creates optimal conditions for developing the aromatic qualities of our grapes.”
He said that the white grapes showed “excellent component levels”, with a potential alcohol level of 13% and good acidity.
The pickers began on the Merlot this week and will move onto other varieties next week.
Heinz added: “Looking at things at this moment, it is quite possible that 2016 could be among the best vintages at Ornellaia, on a par with 2001, 2006, 2011, and 2012, which were all characterized by hot, dry summers and yet gave us wines of great concentration, structure, and richness.
“The first vine-rows we pick are never the whole story, so we are still sampling all the various vineyards and evaluating their data. In point of fact, though, the figures we are seeing do indicate a vintage similar to the great ones of past years.”
Given that August had been rainy and cold, the 2014 harvest began with a great deal of trepidation. The ripening process had been considerably and the vineyards required a lot of extra work; leaf-pulling and removal of damaged or under-ripe clusters, for example, gave the clusters better exposure to the sun and helped them to ripen.
Fortunately, after these extensive efforts we were also rewarded with two sun filled months, September and October, that allowed the grapes to achieve perfect ripeness. The 2014 harvest was not only one of Ornellaia’s latest ever, but also one of its most satisfactory.