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Masseto was born ‘almost by chance’ in 1986 when it was decided to vinify the Merlot from the Masseto vineyard alone as it ‘promised well’. This small, exceptional and legendary cru has soon become a collector’s item sold in auctions all over the world. The first vintage was called very simply ‘Merlot’ but, from 1987, it has taken on the name of its vineyard ‘Masseto’.
The Masseto vineyard is a unique place. Blessed with the generosity of a Mediterranean climate, this small vineyard enjoys breath-taking views, which stretch to the Tuscan coast, and a mosaic of different soils including an exceptional presence of grey clay. The gentle breezes coming off the sea during the war summer months, the intensity of the sunlight and the specificity of the unique soils, allow the vines to develop and ripen gradually and contribute to granting Masseto its enchanting combination of freshness and ripeness.
The wine is the synthesis of its singular 7 hectare vineyard formed of three types of soil. At the top of the hill, at around 120 metres above sea level, the loosest ground is made up of clay and sand with numerous pebbles and, this contributes to the elegant nature of the wine. In the sloping part of the vineyard (with about a 10% gradient), grey clay predominates and gives the wine its structural backbone. Lastly, the lower rows grow on less clayey soil which lends the wine its fullness, warmth and generosity.
The bunches, hand harvested in 15kg crates, were carefully sorted by hand on a double sorting table before and after destemming and then subjected to a gentle crushing. Six different lots were vinified separately. Fermentation took place in both steel and wood tanks, followed by 15-20 days maceration at a temperature between 25 and 30° C. Afterwards, malolactic fermentation took place in 100% new oak barrique, and the different lots were kept separate for the first 12 months of maturation. The wine was then blended and reintroduced into the barrels for another year, making a total of 24 months. After bottling, the wine was aged for an additional 12 months prior to release.
Tenuta dell'Ornellaia makes outstanding wines even in poor vintages - better than any other. In the capable hands of winemaker Thomas Duroux and consultant Michel Rolland, the estate continues its long-standing, stellar record of world-class wine production. Even the estate's "second" wines demonstrate high quality grape growing and flawless production methods. Located in Tuscany's tiny coastal DOC of Bolgheri, the estate was one of the first to plant vines in the area. With producers like Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia, Antinori, Grattamacco, and Le Macchiole among others, Bolgheri is the hotbed of winemaking momentum in Toscana.
With the same name as the winery, a reference to the grove of flowering ash trees surrounding it, Ornellaia is the estate's principal wine. The 63 acres of predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with small plantings of Cabernet Franc vines, lie on elevated parcels composed of clay, gravel, and loam soils. The clones of diverse origins yield a rich palette of nuances. All grapes are destemmed, gently pressed, and introduced into either wooden or stainless steel fermentation vessels. Maceration takes place over a period of 25-32 days at a temperature not exceeding 30 degrees Celsius, during which time the wine completes its alcoholic fermentation. The juice remains unblended until the wines have spent approximately one year in small French barriques. The final cuvee is assembled to evoke the vinous finess of the Cabernet highlighted by ripe, aromatic notes of Merlot in an elegant yet firm style balancing fruit, acidity, oak, and tannic backbone.
The estate's Le Volte is a blend of Tuscan Sangiovese with Bordeaux's Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that can be considered a "Young Ornellaia." They also produce Le Serre Nuove, the "second Ornellaia," and Masseto, one Bolgheri's greatest wines!
Climate and Harvest 2001
Winter was milder than the norm and rain above average: this brought about an early budbreak, between the end of March and the beginning of April. A spring characterized by abundant rainfall and average temperature favoured the Merlot, which flowered around the middle of May. Fruit set was good, with grape size above the norm. Summer temperatures were within average with very little rain. At the beginning of July, the Merlot grapes were thinned by about 20%.
During September, temperatures were slightly below average, and this allowed for the berries to achieve a slow and complete ripening of polyphenols.
The harvest in Masseto started at the beginning of September and was completed about four weeks later. Grape conditions were very good and ripening very uniform.
The first wine produced and released from the Masseto vineyard was the 1986 vintage. It was simply called “Merlot“. The name of Masseto then appeared on the label with the 1987 vintage.
Masseto is a wine of great and complex personality where its remarkable structure always combine with beautiful elegance. Naturally each vintage has its own identity and exemplifies, for the enjoyment of its aficionados, the stunning possibilities of interpretations which climate variations offer: noble opulence for the 2001, dense tannic structure for the 1988, or great elegance for the 2007…
So each vintage of Masseto is one and yet, at the same time, a piece of a whole . A single testimonial of the unique alliance of terroir, climate, and human talent which defines Masseto, as well as an inspiring evidence of Masseto’s timeless value.
2001 is a very “classic” vintage and shows the peculiar characteristics of the Bolgheri terroir. Masseto 2001 has a great structure while showing balance and harmony, due primarily to the perfect ripening of the Merlot grapes.
Tasted September 2011