Introducing the 2021 Ornellaia Vendemmia d’Artista: La Generosità Collection

By | 31 May 2024

The Bolgheri estate has launched its latest collaboration between the worlds of art and wine.

By Robin Lee

Robin Lee appraises the latest vintage from Ornellaia, and its special-edition label by Italian multidisciplinary artist, Marinella Senatore.

A not uncommon phenomenon is when two people, most often two women, pretend they are best friends because it is useful or necessary, even though they really dislike each other intensely and are in fact deadly enemies and rivals. This kind of friend is known as a frenemy. Are Wine and Art a good example of frenemies? You see them all the time hanging out together, but are they really friends?

At various art openings, attendees usually expect refreshments such as wine, Champagne, or warm Prosecco. However, it was intriguing to find that at this year’s Venice Biennale, only water was offered to attendees at the most chic opening – that of Casper Williams at Palazzo Soranzo Capello. One might wonder, however, given the trend at the Venice Biennale, whether Art has preemptively ended its relationship with Wine.

In the previous year, the 2020 Vendemmia d’Artista edition featured a label designed by Joseph Kosuth. Despite the resulting artwork’s high value (which exceeded the wine’s), its impact on the art world appears to have been lacking. The artwork only managed to sell for a disappointing £27,500 at a Sotheby’s auction, falling way below the estimated £30,000–80,000 range. This year, however, there might be a reversal of fortunes as the label for the 2021 Vendemmia d’Artista edition is being designed by Italian artist Marinella Senatore. With an expected range of £15,000–40,000, it is yet to be seen how this year’s edition will fare.

The main theme chosen by Ornellaia for the 2021 vintage is Generosità, meaning “Generosity”. Senatore was inspired by various aspects of nature like the sea, wind, and stars. She included elements of human energy in her design, aiming to highlight the correlation between nature and human contributions. The wine labels feature a collage of hands from Ornellaia’s workers. The Salmanazar is further embellished by a line from “Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman. While the use of neon lines give the artwork a unique touch, it feels derivative of previous works by artists like Tracey Emin and Joseph Kosuth. Even the incorporation of Whitman’s words may seem a bit uninspired. However, the collage labels still manage to draw attention with their aesthetic appeal.

Giovanni Geddes da Filicaja, who recently stepped down after 24 years as CEO of Ornellaia, has been the driving force of the estate, and the Vendemmia d’Artista is his brainchild. He announced his retirement last year at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice, where Ornellaia has hosted an event every year until this year. All good things come to an end. Geddes is the one who saw the advantages to be gained by using art as a marketing tool and a charity fundraiser, and it was he who had the idea of linking Ornellaia to the Guggenheim Museum by supporting its Mind’s Eye program, aimed at encouraging the blind and partially sighted to experience art with verbal descriptions and sensory guides.

With Geddes stepping down, it seems this might be a significant turning point for the estate. The owners, the Frescobaldi family, are now taking over the direct control, which could mean a major shift in how Ornellaia’s image is managed henceforth. Lamberto Frescobaldi, the present president of Marchesi Frescobaldi and the 18th generation of his family in the business, resides on a vineyard property that his family has owned since 1252. However, during our conversation, he emphasized, “I do not appreciate tradition. Tradition feels like a safety net for those who fear future. The power of the world lies in change. If my family feared change, our business wouldn’t have stayed this long.”

Art and Wine stand at a crossroads to discover if they can truly befriend each other. Art can surely enhance a label’s look, but only when it really connects with the wine. It would be unfortunate if the longstanding, albeit undistinguished, tradition of serving wine at gallery openings were to permanently cease. Maybe Ornellaia, in a demonstration of goodwill and generosity towards art, could donate wine to emerging and financially burdened curators for their inaugural event at the upcoming Venice Biennale. The blind and partially sighted should also be allowed to taste the wine. As per Simonetta, her goal was to “translate the character of the wine into a language that everyone understands.” And indeed, wine is a universal language that can spark inspiration and revelation, particularly for blind or partially sighted people, as the pleasure of wine is not reliant solely on sight but involves other senses, like smell, taste, touch and even sound, to evoke and communicate emotions.

2021 Ornellaia

The 2021 Ornellaia, characterized by a dense and muscular texture, invites the senses with an enticing blend of mulberry, myrtle, and cassis, subtly transitioning to box, bay leaf, bonfire smoke, and hedgerow. Pleasing notes of wild plum, Karkar Island cocoa, and faint conifer undertones are complemented by a lively acidity and sleek, polished tannins reminiscent of shiny river pebbles. The palate discovers a sweet, dark core tasting of pigeon blood, which deepens into the smoky dark of charcoal black espresso, pencil shavings, black pepper and lapsang. Impressively, the hefty 15% alcohol content is seamlessly integrated. This exquisite wine leaves behind a lingering impression, interweaving a tapestry of savory herb extracts, sweet camphor, and sandalwood. Consumable between 2025-2050. | 94

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