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The 2001 Masseto is one of the all-time great wines here. Vertical and soaring in its intensity, the 2001 occupies all dimensions, especially texturally, where it is so rich, so heady and so compelling. Next to other wines, or other vintages, the 2001 just has more of everything. I imagine well-stored bottles will drink well for another 15-20 years. The 2001’s reputation as an iconic wine is clearly justified. This magical vintage was marked by cooling temperatures in September that resulted in a drawn out harvest that took four weeks to complete. Note: The bottle in the Nashville tasting was not perfect, so this note corresponds to a more recent and more representative example. I have seen more bottle variation with the 2001 than other vintages. 2018-2033
The 2001 Masseto lives up to its reputation as a modern-day legend. The wine has everything; beautifully delineated aromatics, generous fruit and plenty of structure to support all of the elements. It is a big, massive Masseto endowed with huge fruit and an exotic, powerful personality. An eternal finish rounds things out in style. The 2001 is dazzling from start to finish. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2023.
In just a few short years the 2001 Masseto has become one of Italy’s most collectible wines, and this tasting confirmed that it is fully deserving of the accolades it has received. The 2001 is an extraordinary Masseto, bursting with layers of vibrant fruit intermingled with finely nuanced suggestions of minerals, menthol and eucalyptus. Boasting superb concentration and length on the palate, it is a powerful wine that is in need of at least another few years of cellaring. 97/Anticipated maturity: 2011-2021.
The 100% Merlot Masseto, on the other hand, has proven to be a wine of greater singularity. Its unique, unmistakable personality always comes through, especially in a set of widely diverse vintages, as this vertical attests. The Masseto vineyard measures roughly 7 hectares. Set on a gently sloping hill, the vineyard is divided into three sections which contain different clay-based soil types. The structure of Masseto comes from the central portion of the vineyard (Masseto Centrale), where the terrain is most compact. Towards the upper part of the hillside (Masseto Alto) the soils contain a higher percentage of rocks and thus yield wines that are more aromatic. The lower stretch of the vineyard, known as “Masseto Junior,” is also the most recent to be planted. According to Raspini the fruit from these vines bridges the qualities of the wines from the central and upper portions of the vineyard and thus serves to give Masseto its finesse and balance. There is also a small amount of fruit that comes from the “Vigna Vecchia” plot which is the source of the Merlot that is used for Ornellaia.
Each parcel is harvested and vinified separately. Fermentation and maceration typically last around 25 days, give or take, depending on the quality of the fruit, after which the wines are moved into 100% new French oak barrels for the malolactic fermentations. The wines spend 12 months in oak prior to being assembled, after which the final blend spends an additional 12 months in oak prior to being bottled.
Tenuta dell’Ornellaia is without question one of Italy’s blue-chip properties. The gorgeous, sprawling estate is located in Bolgheri in Tuscany’s Maremma. On a recent visit I had the opportunity to taste a number of the estate’s wines with General Manager/Agronomist Leonardo Raspini and Oenologist Axel Heinz, including verticals of the estate’s top bottlings Ornellaia and Masseto.
The massive 2001 Masseto forms with Le Macchiole’s Messorio and Tua Rita’s Redigaffi a trio of world class Merlots in a ten square mile area where the variety virtually did not exist 15 years ago. The volume, richness, and sumptuousness are almost beyond description, as are the length and density of the flow and finish, but there is an underlying vein of purity and freshness which help maintain an impeccable balance. Drink: 2006-2025.