China gets a taste of world's best wine
Bolgheri, a small village in the province of Livorno, Tuscany, Italy, was once a sleepy fishing village. Fast forward 40 to 50 years, it is now better known as the place producing one of the best red wines in Italy - the Ornellaia.
The village's wine is often compared to Bordeaux in France because of similarities in grape varietals.
Compared to France's Bordeaux red wines, which have about 100 years of history, Bolgheri's grapevines are just 30 years old on average - making its achievement rather impressive.
"In the 1960s, people experimented and discovered the area could produce good wines with traditional Bordeaux grape varietals," says Axel Heinz, winemaker and production director of the winery. Of French and German origin, he studied wine making in Bordeaux, before moving to Ornellaia in 2005.
Wine produced by the village will soon be easily available in China, with the recent announcement by Italian wine producer Tenuta dell'Ornellaia to cooperate with China wine importer, ASC Fine Wines.
Bolgheri's winery covers only 97 hectares of vineyards, across soils influenced by the sea, volcanic formations, and a relatively stable Mediterranean microclimate.
Commenting on the comparison with Bordeaux, Heinz says: "It is similar, but different, which you can taste in the wine. The climate is warmer, and a bit drier. The wine tastes ripe, rich and full. At the same time, it has a freshness, and nice acidity in the richness, making it more approachable."
He says the wines are fruity and can be consumed right away, while Bordeaux wines are best kept seven to 10 years. But that doesn't mean Ornellaia wines are not suitable to store in the cellar. Those aged between eight and 15 years taste best.
In 2001, Wine Spectator selected Ornellaia 1998 as one of the world's best wines. Heinz says 1998 was not particularly a good year for Tuscany, but it was a good year for Bolgheri, which made 1998 Ornellaia a success.
But if he was asked to pick a wine, he would pick 2001 as "it is not only a good wine to express Bolgheri, but also a good year to show how Bolgheri is different from other wine producing regions".
Some people believe Ornellaia wines are good value for money compared to some French wines. At the same time, it has an aging potential.
Ornellaia produces 900,000 bottles of wine a year. Some 30 percent of the production is consumed within Italy, while 2 percent will be exported to China, according to export area manager Giovanni Mazzoni.
The wine is sold to 77 countries, with the United States as the biggest importer.