Flying all the way to Zürich just to eat in an Italian restaurant sounds potty, I know. But then again, not all Italian restaurants are co-owned by the illustrious super Tuscan wine producer Ornellaia. So when the winery’s UK agent, Armit Wines, invited me for dinner there to celebrate the restaurant’s first Michelin star, I headed straight for City Airport.
Ristorante Ornellaia is Ornellaia’s first venture in restaurants. The reason it’s in Zürich rather than, say, Bolgheri (where the winery is), is that the financial centre is its number one market in Europe. (And when you consider that a top Ornellaia vintage can cost more than £200 a bottle retail, this is perhaps no surprise.) The restaurant occupies a prime spot just off the city’s high-rolling Bahnhofstrasse, a boulevard lined with luxury boutiques. It could have been flashy. But I thought it was rather elegant. With its high ceiling and pale stone walls it has something of the Tuscan castello about it. Along one wall, chefs in tall hats beaver away happily behind a long strip of glass, while overhead an installation of naked vine roots spreads from the ceiling in place of a chandelier.
If you don’t like Ornellaia, this is not the place to come. The majority of the wine list is given over to the house juice. If you do, though, you are in for a treat. There is a big selection of vintages of their top wine, Ornellaia – the opulent, bordeaux-style blend that, along with Sassicaia, created the super Tuscan category. Ornellaia Archivio Storico – a late-release wine usually available only at the estate or in Harrods – is also well represented. Among the whites an interesting USP is Le Volte Bianco, a 100 per cent Vermentino that’s made exclusively for the restaurant.
Head chef Giuseppe D’Errico (ex-Alma and Restaurant Troisgros) has devoted much care and attention to wine and food pairings. A dish of beetroot ravioli, burrata and tangerine with a glass of Le Serre Nuove Dell’Ornellaia 2012 was sensational – the sweet, earthiness of the beetroot fusing deliciously with the vibrant raspberry fruit and black chocolate tannins of the wine. For me, though, the wine of the night was Ornellaia Archivio Storico 2001. Aromatic as a forest floor, it came with a tromp-l’oeil fried egg made of poached yolk, milk custard and Périgord truffle.
Ornellaia isn’t the only luxury wine brand that’s seen the value of having an “embassy” overseas. Not long ago, Château Latour launched its first wine club, at London’s Ten Trinity Square. It seems the wine trade has decided: it’s time to embrace the experience economy.
Alice Lascelles is Fortnum & Mason Drinks Writer of the Year 2019. @alicelascelles.