The 2003 Masseto opens with a huge, expressive super-ripe nose. Ample and expansive on the palate, it displays much opulence in its generous fruit, with awesome concentration, outstanding length and a lovely vein of minerality which provides a level of freshness that is surprising for the vintage. A lingering note of sweetness punctuates the long finish. It should drink well for at least another decade, although it is absolutely irresistible today. It is a stunning wine. Owing to the challenging nature of the vintage, in 2003 Masseto was made only from the central part of the vineyard which is planted with the oldest vines. 93/Anticipated maturity: 2007-2017.
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.