Le Difese Tenuta San Guido and Le Volte Tenuta dell’Ornellaia are the superb third wines of Sassicaia (Tenuta San Guido) and Ornellaia (Tenuta dell’Ornellaia). The estate’s flagship wines Sassicaia and Ornellaia are long-lived and require a decade of ageing before one can calmly pull a cork, safe in the knowledge that the wines have entered their drinking window; their great second wines Guidalberto and Le Serre Nouve respectively require 2-3 years of ageing. Both estates therefore have crafted third wines which can be approached on release, in much the same way as Chateau Latour has Latour, Les Forts de Latour and Pauillac de Latour.
Le Difese and Le Volte are thereby fashioned in the image of Sassicaia and Ornellaia, grown in the same estate but heralding from younger vine plots or grapes that did not make the Grand Vin blend. They also contain parcels of grapes that do not form part of the Grand Vin for example, Le Volte and Le Difese both contain Sangiovese taken from plots the estates are experimenting with. They therefore, take advantage of the great terroir and climate of Bolgheri and the exceptional technology and winemaking techniques of the estates.
Le Volte 2011, 6×75, 89 points Antonio Galloni – £75 IB
Le Volte reengages Ornellaia with Tuscan tradition by including Sangiovese in the blend: 50% Merlot, 30% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. The different varietals are fermented separately in small steel tanks. The wine is then aged for ten months in barriques that are between two and four years old, they have previously been used for Ornellaia and contain its remnants: think special edition cask aged whisky! The oak age improves the wines structure, softens the ripe tannins further and adds the magic of Ornellaia. As such Le Volte is an expression of an estate at the top of its game, passing excellence down, by bringing together the best terroir in Tuscany and combining Mediterranean lavishness and vivacity while maintaining structure and complexity. The softness of the Merlot is balanced with the firm structure of Cabernet Sauvignon, while the indigenous Sangiovese combines to create a unique blend reflecting the class, style and integrity of the estate. We tasted it again over dinner this week and the wine is rich, full bodied and beautifully balanced. The nose has a lovely liveliness and intense aromas of dark berries, violets and sweet spice. The wine has a lovely mineral finish and fresh acidity with a generous but velvety mouth feel, easily a 89 point scoring wine and it is almost unbelievable that is costs £17.40 a bottle including duty and VAT.
Antonio Galloni 89 points – tasted August 2013
The 2011 Le Volte dell’Ornellaia is juicy, expressive and radiant in this vintage. Sweet dark cherries, flowers, tobacco and mint all flesh out in a wine that impresses for its harmony and supple, gracious personality. At times Le Volte has been a bit different in style than the rest of the wines, here, but the 2011 is quite similar to the rest of the range. In 2011, Le Volte is 50% Merlot, 30% Sangiovese and 20% other grapes.
Le Difese 2011, 6×75, 90 points Antonio Galloni - £70 IB
Fruit for Le Difese is selected from Tenuta San Guido’s younger vines, many of which will one day be used to make Sassicaia. The blend is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Sangiovese, a powerful heady mix which combines the pedigree of Sassicaia’s Cabernet Sauvignon with lovely plots of Sangiovese. The vineyard plots are planted in soils with different morphological characteristics and has a strong presence of limestone. The vineyard is rich in clay and rocks and located from 80 to 300 metres above sea level, facing east and south east. Le Difese benefits from all the aspects that make Sassicaia great, it is just a younger less intense version. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel vats and maceration lasts for 12 days for both varietals. The wine is then aged for 12 months in French and American oak barrique, again using some barrels previously used for Sassicaia, and then a further three months in bottle. The result is extraordinary given its £16.40 all-inclusive price tag. It displays succulent blackberry, bilberry and cassis, however it is clearly the sibling of Sassicaia, displaying its tell-tale leather, tobacco, smoke, delightful dried cherry and earthiness. This is a super ripe wine, with notes of eucalyptus and mint chocolate. Tasted blind this would make a fool of most tasters.
Much has been made of the world beating 2010 Super Tuscan vintage but 2011 is shaping up to challenge it. Both wines are drinking wonderfully yet tasted together are quite different. If ordered this week we can have the cases delivered ready for Christmas and they will provide immense pleasure, however they can be left in storage and will age well for 4-5 years. Which is better is hard to say, Monica Larner prefers the Le Volte giving it 90 and Le Difese 89, while Antinio Galloni awards scores that are the exact reverse. As such it is worth taking a case of each for a discount and making your own mind up!
Antonio Galloni 90 points – tasted August 2013
The 2011 Le Difese is a fabulous introductory level red. Freshly cut flowers meld into red berries in a juicy, expressive red that will drink well for the next few years. A soft, creamy finish rounds out this accessible and highly appealing red from San Guido. There is a lot to like here.