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Tag: Veneto

Wine bars and restaurants

Verona’s Osteria Nosetta

Verona is located in near vicinity of many recognized wine areas, but I can’t see that it has a lot of dynamic wine bars. One can always go to the Antica Bottega, that boasts hundreds of wines, not least for references, as they present many of the leading houses in several vintages. But I am more attracted to the smaller, distinctive bars with a clear idea, call it underground, avant-garde, rock’n’roll, jazz or whatever you like – especially when the idea is to present organic, natural, artisan wines, that the proprietors and sommeliers have a personal relation to.

Osteria Nosetta is located in the pleasant neighbourhood of Borgo Venezia, just outside Verona center. And Nosetta is the kind of place that I am talking about. The restaurant is intimate and full of atmosphere, the decor is a rustic, retro, and the music was vintage jazz on vinyl when I was there. The food is without limits; their small dishes -locally called ‘cicchetti’- are vegetarian, vegan, and you can have fish and meat too. The kitchen is based on fresh ingredients. The inspiration is from various places though, not least Asian-middle east, and there are some vegan dishes alongside more usual Italo-European stuff. The menu of the day was taped onto page 98 and 99 in an old paperback.

And the prices are undoubtedly to live with.

Andrea and Lorenzo

Lorenzo Folati has been leading the venture until now, but Andrea Venturini and a couple of friends are in a period of taking over.

They have a fine selection of wines and beers from independent artisan producers. I enjoy picking smaller ‘bites’ among those displayed at the bar, to go with a few glass of wines. Some were mint glass, a falafel, various greens, such as the delicious tomatoes, frittered squid, tomato and eggplant sandwich, zucchini with cous-cous, onions, honey and balsamico, and -why not- chocolate salami. The list goes on.

Here are a few of the wines that I enjoyed during my visits. (The order is changed according to “normal tastings logic”.)

Durello 2017 (Calesio dalle Ore) is made with the charmat-method. It’s a light coloured, apples, citrus, and bread scented, light-bodied sparkler with good acidity. Simple and good.

A postcard on the wall-board

Trachite 2016 (Alla Costiera), an unfiltered, yellow and cloudy moscato-prunella-garganega regional Veneto white with a sweet (moscato) sensation, together with flowers and citrus peel, and with a medium body, light tannin, and slightly bitter aftertaste.

Lugana 2015 (Marangona). This is a lugana from 100% turbiana grapes. It’s a fresh, simple, dry wine with light, almost blank colour, with a greenish hint. And the aroma is dominated by pears and citrus.

On the contrary, the next wine, was all but simple. Sassaia 2016 (Angiolino Maule), a varietal garganega showed light yellow, slightly turbid, and on the nose could be found mature apples, flowers, ginger and a touch of toast. Slightly yeasty, quite full and with decently acidity, all in perfect harmony. Maule is a long time favourite, and there is a report from a visit in an earlier post in this series.

Musella is one of the better producers of both standard valpolicella and amarone. Here is a white IGT from the Valpolicella area, biodynamically cultivated as always. Pinot Bianco “Fibio” 2014, from that variety, is a bit more on the wild side. Yellow with green hints, smells deliciously of flowers, yellow apples, and I would say, plays with oxidation.  Quite slender, integrated acidity, very pure, and the fruit shines on to the end.

On to a real rarity: Il Fresco Cesane 2014 (Marco Antonelli), that is from the DOC (sometimes: Cesane di) Olevano Romano, Lazio. Got it? The production area lies in the province of Roma and includes the municipality of Olevano Romano and, in part, Genazzan. The wine was nice enough; cherry red, red fruits, plums, and hints of leather on the nose; smooth, juicy, and with an adequate acidity.

Merlot “Casa e Chiesa” 2015 (Lenzini) is a biodynamic Colline Lucchesi. It’s cherry red, hints of green green pepper, a sweetish element from the oak elevation, and a light tannin on the palate and a touch of bitterness in the aftertaste. (14,5% alcohol, while most of those tasted here were around 12.)

We close the chapter from this gem of a wine bar with another pleasant surprise, nothing sensational, but better than most of its kind, a Moscato d’Asti 2017 from producer Emilio Vada. We are talking about a straw yellow coloured wine with the typical moscato rose aromas, clean, and pure. It’s a lightweight, but it has an inspiring acidity and it’s not sticky sweet, compared to what you often can find in this category. The alcohol here is 5%.

Arriving in Verona centre after a nocturnal walk

 

See the other posts in my Veneto series:

#1 – Maule’s Masieri

#2 – Prosecco in Verona’s Osteria la Manzorla

#3 – Gambellara: Maule and the two Davides

#4 – Zýmē’s Recioto Amandorlato

#5 – Vicenza province I: Tenuta l’Armonia

#6 – Vicenza province II: Siemàn

#7 – A Durella sparkling

#8 – Vicenza province III: Contrà Soarda

#9 – Filippo Filippi, Soave top producer

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Vicenza province III: Contrà Soarda

From Siemàn in Colli Berici it was almost an hour’s ride back on the north side of the motorway, to Bassano del Grappa, in the extreme east of the Breganze DOC. Here is Vignaiolo Contrà Soarda, whose wines I had been familiar with since a few years ago. I had tasted their wines in London, both at the Raw fair, including the tasting that Fiona Beckett talks about here, and in natural wine bars.

I came half an hour early, so I started to make myself comfortable, as I believed I was going to meet the person with whom I had corresponded. So I started with a short tasting in the shop. It turned out that it was nobody else than one of the owners, Gloria Gottardi herself, that kept the shop going at that time.

The first wine was exactly the one that Beckett started her tasting with, as an alternative to sauvignon blanc to match with a goat’s cheese. And it stood the test with its crisp, citrussy flavours. That time it was the 2012. Now the Soarda Vespaiolo is in the 2017 vintage. Vespaiolo is a wonderful grape, one of the great Italian V’s (alongside verdicchio, vermentino, a.o.).

Vespaiolo (or vespaiola), named after the wasps (vespa in Italian) thrives especially well in this area of Veneto. -it’s our star grape, the whole family agrees. It is often used for passito (dried grapes) style dessert wines, such as the Torcolato, and the wasps have also found out that the sugar levels can be very high because of the sweet aromas in the vineyards. The grape is often fermented to dryness, and produces wines with high acidity and other aromatic characteristics.

Contrà Soarda’s Vespaiolo 2017, fermented and raised in steel and bottled unfiltered, was light straw coloured, with green apples, pears in the aroma, and a high, but well integrated, acidity. Vignasilan 2013 (made in the same way, also 100% vespaiolo); light straw, apple and citrus aromas, but it also goes towards peach and apricot, and a touch of honey. The great concentration and elevated acidity makes the finish long, and at five years of age it keeps very well. 121 B.C. Time Flows Bianco 2014, named after a fabled vintage a long time ago, is also a varietal vespaiolo, I tasted before I left for Italy, and it’s convenient to mention it here. It’s spontaneously fermented, with 7 days of skin-maceration, and stayed 12months in oak barrel (with steamed, not toasted staves), and no added sulphur. Nice golden colour; complex aroma with floral components, honey; concentrated and structured (high acidity and some tannin).

121 b.C. Time flows Bianco 2014

 121 B.C. Time Flows Rosso 2012, is the red version. Here the variety is carmenère. It’s aged for 18 months in steamed oak, the rest is similar. Deep cherry red; mature fruit (blackberry, dark cherry), with some herbs and spices; luscious and fresh in the mouth, with a light tannin structure.  Veneto Rosso 2009 is a blend of  marzemino 30%, merlot 25%, pinot noir 20%, and the rest teroldego and groppello, fermented in steel and barrel before blending, then matured 24 months in barrel and steel. Deep purple; fresh aromas of dark berries, cherries, morellos, herbs, and some underwood; fresh, immediate and juicy in the mouth, with a nice integrated tannin.

Back to the Bassano tasting, the last wine I tasted with Gloria was Musso Riserva 2007. A lovely wine from marzemino and merlot, and the first wine that really showed development: Brick nuances; developed aroma somewhere between cherries, dried fruits and smoke; quite slender on the palate with plums and some lickorice. -Musso is a different project, explains Gloria. -Musso means donkey in Venetian dialect. When thinking about terroir images of vines, soils come along. And our philosophy is based on the respect for our land, but alto the animals that live on it. So Musso offers a none ironic perspective, suggesting that the animals are in fact part of the terroir. Donkeys are much more than workers; they are gentle and intelligent companions, curious and with an incredible memory. While horses often will run away from any danger, donkeys are cautious and steadfast.

Anyway, in comes Marcello, the wine maker, and his father Mirco Gottardi (Gloria’s husband obviously), and we have a chat and a brief tour around the premises.

Mirco (left) and Marcello Gottardi

The hill was bought in 2000, and 2004 was the first vintage. They started with a 4 hectare vineyard, now it’s 18. A successful traditional restaurant in Bassano centre, that the family has been running for three generations, has been important for the project’s overall economy, says Marco. In 2011 the restaurant, Pulierin, was moved to the hills where the winery is located.

Down to some basic information: Contrà Soarda, meaning ‘on the slope’, is located in the hills at the foot of the Asiago plateau in San Michele of Bassano del Grappa, a place dedicated to vines and olive trees since ancient times. The soil here is volcanic, often called “onion type”, because it’s old lava solidified in various layers. This makes the rock easy to break, thus it’s easier for the roots to go deep. We also find clay and rocks with fossils here.

A green manure is used to improve the biodiversity. The vines are normally trained in ouble guyot. Only own grapes are used, growing and vinification is all natural, with natural yeast, spontaneous fermentation, and also natural temperature control. The first harvest is normally done in the 2nd week of September, three weeks later for the sweet wines. The winery is modern, but based on traditional winemaking techniques, such as gravity, and wisely integrated with the environment.

They come back to the vespaiolo, -our star grape, the family rejoices. -It’s versatile; we use it for sweet wine (torcolato), natural wine, basic wines, cuvées, and special selections. We love it for the high acidity and the citrus notes, the mineral character. And after ageing it gains in hydro carbon, like truffle.

Time flies, or flows, as the labels say. I take a look at the watch, appologize that the visit became shorter than intended. But the good impression I had before I came here is confirmed, and I am already looking forward to next time, when a visit to the restaurant should be obligatory.

 

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Wine of the Week

A Durella sparkling

You don’t travel much in Vicenza and other Venetian areas before you learn that durella is a grape you ought to come to terms with. It’s a grape that originated there. First and foremost it gives acidity.

In ancient times there was an underwater volcano in the eastern Verona province and neighbouring Vicenza. Now there are rolling hills here in the Monte Purga, with volcanic soil and huge amounts of fossils.

In Italian the name means “little hard one”. It is supposedly so called because of its thick skin, but also because the vines are difficult to manage.

While the high acidity in the past has been regarded a weakness, one has now learned to appreciate this feature. It contributes to the longevity of wines, and it’s very useful in blends. And it was in the hills of Monti Lessini that the first DOC was established in 1987.

In the time of afterthought, after coming home from the trip, I decided to order a varietal durella to be delivered to my local shop. And among three available wines I chose this one.

Flavio Prà, experienced producer and consultant based in Soave, started this project in 2000. The aim is to offer typical wines from several designations to a wide audience. The portfolio includes most Soave and Valpolicella categories. The cultivation is always organic, and they also employ other sustainable practises, such as renewable energy. Corte Allodola own some vineyards and also collaborate with farmers in rented plots, in the different areas. Fermentation, winemaking, ageing and tbottling is then done in the cellars in Monteforte d’Alpone, one of the Soave wine villages.

This wine is from the slopes of the Lessini mountains. It has the typical durella acidity (9 g/L), and is balanced with 6-7 grams of sugar.

I Campi Lessini Brut (Corte Allodola)

Straw colour, light mousse. Green apples and bread crust with citric notes. Slender, fruity, evident but integrated acidity, and a slightly bitter aftertaste.

Price: Low

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Vicenza province II: Siemàn

Coming from Tenuta l’Armonia, crossing the A4 motorway I arrive in the small settlement of Villaga after three quarter of an hour. We are now in the Colli Berici area. Siemàn has nine hectares, but only four is planted with vines, since it’s important to maintain the biodiversity of animals and plants. We went to the top of the hill, where we got a magnificent view of the slopes with the naturally ventilated vineyards and we could see as far as the Apennines. The ground is limestone, some clay, and where the tai rosso (aka tokai rosso, aka grenache) is one of the most prominent grapes.

Siemàn means “six hands” in the local dialect. I am welcomed by four of them, Daniele and Marco Filippini, who share the duties in wine. Siemàn also makes beer, from grapes! – and it’s the third brother Andrea who takes care of that part.

Daniele (left) and Marco Filippini

The owl in the logo must be explained by Italian terms: Owl is gufo in Italian, and gufare means to be lucky. -We all have other professional backgrounds, explains Daniele and Marco. So the people said, you can’t succeed. So the owl has become a symbol for being a bearer of luck, and so far it seems that it was a lucky choice of logo.

Vini di Sieman - Sieman's wines

The brothers have a low-intervention attitude, and there is meticulous cleaning at all stages. They don’t use pesticides or any chemicals in the vineyards. The grapes are almost exclusively autochthonous. In the cellar, fermentations takes place spontaneously with native yeasts, and nothing is added (except for a small quantity of sulphites, when necessary). The wines are kept in barrels, concrete and steel, according to what the consider best to express grape variety and land.

There is a high proportion of limestone in the vineyards, compared to the volcanic of the north side of the main road. There are two illnesses in the vineyards that need to be watched, oïdium and downy mildew. Oïdium is treated with sulphur. When it smells of mushroom you cut it off and throw it away. Mildew is normally treated with copper (mixed with water and sprayed onto the leaves). When the leaf looks as if it has oil on it, this part is burnt off. It is important to say though, that the amounts of both copper and sulphur are kept much lower than the legal maximum. This because they use fungus as a natural treatment to minimize addition of copper.

The first harvest was in 2013 (without label). –Angiolino Maule helped us in the beginning, say the brothers. (Read about his estate and wines here and in the article about Gambellara.) 2014, a very rainy year, was the first vintage on sale. The plantings are young also, only 4-6 years old. But all the wines have something to them. They are luscious, tasty and with a mineral character. And they will only get better in the coming vintages. -We are improving every year, says Daniele. And it’s easy to believe.

Camaleonte 2017 is a pét nat with second fermentation in bottle, from the grape varieties tai rosso, garganega and incrocio manzoni, the two latter (the white grapes) with two days skin-contact. The colour is deep yellow; on the nose some bread and citrus notes. an easy-drinking wine. In 2017 there were hailstorms that caused a 30% loss of grapes, says Daniele.

For the white and red wines, half is fermented in concrete, half in wood, then put together in stainless steel before bottling. Occhio al Bianco 2017, a still wine from that vintage -grapes garganega, tai bianco, and in some vintages incrocio manzoni- had shorter skin-contact and was subsequently lighter yellow, and also somewhat cloudy; white flowers and herbs on the nose; tasty with a salty mineral character in the finish. not very different was the 2016 version of the same wine: tai bianco and garganega, golden colour; white flowers like chamomile, and a slight touch of peel after 3 days of skin-contact. Mosca Bianca 2016, from 90% garganega and 10% moscato, stayed 2 days with skins. It’s yellow golden, aromatic with flowers (the small amount of moscato shines through), and a round body.  The 2017 had only 1 day skin-contact, and another difference was the grape composition, 50/50 garganega/moscato. This one had some peel character, but only a little. For me it was still more aromatic, in the moscato way. This wine come from a rented vineyard in Colli Euganei (to the east, in the Padova province), and has volcanic soil. It has 5,5-6 g/L acidity, like all the wines. All wines also come with less than 15 mg total SO2 (the current selection between 2-14).

Occhio al Rosso is their only red wine, from tai rosso. The 2017 was the lightest of the lot (bright ruby), and maybe not as expressive; as the others; nice and juicy with some fresh cherry fruit though. 2016 was a hot summer. This wine was the darkest of the three; red fruits, cherry, blackberry; and fruit all the way. In the 2015 no sulphur was added, and I think there was some brett in the aftertaste. To me it doesn’t matter at these low levels. Furthermore, it was very fruitdriven, with red berries in the front. The colour was light cherry, and the appearance clear too.

Both beers are in a sour ale style. Le Bucce is spontaneously fermented with yeasts of grapes (tai rosso, red grapes). The other is the Incocio, from the white grape incrocio manzoni. The grapes are the main reason for the difference in colour.

 
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Vicenza province I: Tenuta l’Armonia

Veneto has so much to offer. It’s enough to mention Valpolicella (with its ripasso and amarone), Soave, and we have now learned about Gambellara – each of these with their own sweet recioto. Then there is of course Prosecco, that the Veneto region must share with neighbouring Friuli.

Remembering that Gambellara is also Vicenza, now we shall talk about three more wineries located across the province. To try and keep it inside the blog format we will divide it into three parts. And we start with, freely after Tennessee Williams: An Estate called Harmony.

Andrea Pendin’s Tenuta l’Armonia is found in the small settlement of Bernuffi, municipality of Montecchio Maggiore. That means if you can find it after the narrow, long and winding roads. Arriving there you can experience the perfect harmony, and see for yourself the co-exsistence of people, land, chicken, turkies, and all the small creatures found in the vineyards.

It’s Lorenzo Fiorin who meets me. He’s working in export, but also a little bit of everything else, as it is useful to have an overview over the whole situation.

The estate has 10 hectares of vineyards planted with both indigenous and international varieties. It’s quite new, from 2008, but some vines are more than 60 years old. The vines are planted in the slopes and on top of a hill, in various exposures. Around 40.000 bottles are made per year, from own and rented plots (7 more hectares).

 

Lorenzo shows the pergola system

The soil here is volcanic with some schist and chalk. There is an amphitheater with white soil (chalk), shells and other fossils. Towards Verona in the west there is volcanic soil, and also tufa towards the south of Verona.

Both indigenous and international varieties are used. We walk past a planting done three years ago; merlot, syrah, cabernet franc etc. -The varieties are not the most important, says Lorenzo. -It’s the terroir, and also see how the grapes react together with it.

-A grape we really believe in is durella, especially for its acidity, but also for its history. It is really one of the traditional grapes here in Vicenza.

 

One has already understood that the cultivation is organic and biodynamic, so it’s about maintaining and stimulating biodiversity. Mint grows naturally in the vineyard, oat too. Green manure (based on plants and flowers) is employed.

The idea of harmony, the balance in nature, is also a message that winemaker David Xodo has preached from the very beginning. -In the long run we don’t need to work as much as with “chemical agriculture”, because the biodiversity we have created is holding itself up, says Lorenzo. -Furthermore, Veneto is a cool place, always windy. It’s then easier to work the vineyards organically. A light breeze is also welcome walking around the estate on a hot summer day like this.

Andrea Pendin

Andrea is a trained chef, so the chickens and the turkeys in his Garden of Eden shouldn’t feel too safe… He has also a stove with a pizza oven that can do magical things. There had been a party, with a lot of leftovers, and some other wines that had been opened up to 13 days before. so we had a lot to sample.

Bruno, Andrea’s father who started it all

Basically there are two different lines. “Pop” consists of high quality “easy” natural wines at a good price. “Cru” is a premium line from native varieties in clay and limestone. Here are some very brief notes.

Frizzi 2015 is a pét nat, or col fòndo sur lie at 12%. it’s a simple, easy, un-oaked, appley, not very structured, lightly bubbly wine. Pinot noir had a bad year, so pinot bianco and chardonnay were used together with the usual durella, the acidic grape that made Vicenza special in the past.

Frizzi 2017: Here was pinot noir fully ripe, so there is 60% and the rest durella. No maceration, no filtration. The only problem with our bottle was that there were no bubbles, as the re-fermentation had apparently not started yet. Another bottle of the same wine as better: Light salmon red, a touch sweeter; strawberry, apple, and a crisp acidity.

Pop is a series with more volcanic soil than the Cru, and doesn’t ripe that much.

Bianco “Pop” comes from a relatively high altitude vineyard at 500 meters. 2017 is light yellow with appley aroma and fresh acidity. The 2016 I find a little more ripe. This has some incrocio manzoni (or: manzoni bianco), a cross between riesling and madeleine royal. We also tried the 2012: Lightly browning, orange peel (from longer maturation on skins), ginger notes (from a proportion of garganega). For that vintage some carbonic maceration was used. -Acidity is what binds them together, Lorenzo points out. And rightly so.

Perla 2016. This is a “Cru”, which means smaller area, lower yield, older garganega plants (60-80 years). This is a varietal garganega, both early harvest and late harvest (with some botrytis), then blended. Andrea is a good friend of Sébastien Riffault of Loire, and it was Sébastien who gave him the inspiration for different harvest times. The wine shows a complex aroma of mature apples, nuts, flowers, apricot, towards honey; medium full on the palate, and a salty, mineral aftertaste. The acidity is there, but it’snot pungent.

Bolla 2013. This is their traditional method sparkler. The 2013 has 75% durella, pinot nero, got a light maceration and stayed 14 months on the lees. This gave a pink blush, some yeast and also some oxidative notes, like yellow or mature apples.

What followed now was like a “Capriccio Italiano”, a joyous ride over creeks and hills, with wines in a seemingly random order. Love it! On came a fresh and inspiring, waxy, appley, and a little smoky vespaiolo 2017. A teroldego-CS-garganega with light pink colour, flowers, pyrazine (sauvignon-like), with super fruit all the way. Brio 2017, in the Pop line and predominantly from cabernet franc, is a luscious, peppery carbonic maceration wine, made in cement tank. There was a fruity, partly carbonic maceration Barbera in both 2017 and 16 editions, the latter a bit more structured than the former.

And what about this!

G-Ray is from something called the “Lab” line, where Andrea works with another Andrea, namely Marchetti, among other activities founder of the Vinessum fair. This wine is from pinot grigio on volcanic soil, it has been in contact with skins 8 days, no sulphites and no filtration. As you can see: Turbid light red or rosé; aromas of strawberry, apple; quite good concentration actually, and not that simple as you maybe might think.

Lastly there was the Gioia of the Cru line. 2016 is from cabernet franc, hand-destemmed, no sulphites added, and no filtration. Pure, loads of red fruits, some pepper, and a promising tannin structure. 2012 (the first vintage of the wine), made from 100% carmenère, stayed in big oak tonneaux for 8 months: Some cigar box and pencil/carbon notes (graphite soil), with red fruits, and a good structure.

Epilogue:

Lorenzo tells that they are a sort of incubator that helps young vignerons from Vicenza area to develop their own projects. These are: MaterVi (Alberto Rigon), Yeasteria (Jacopo and Esmeralda) and Do-line (Nicola Rigo). Small production (less than 10.000 bottles) and sharing the same philosophy (no interventions in wine-making and respect for the living environment) are requirements to participate.

I think ‘s an honorable act supporting others in the same area and tradition, without seeing them as competitors. In the long run this will help the whole province, or region.

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Wine of the Week

Zýmē’s Recioto Amandorlato

Celestino Gaspari had worked with Valpolicella master Guiseppe Quintarelli, and married one of his daughters, before he set up his Zýmē winery in San Pietro in Cariano, in the heart of Valpolicella Classico. Celestino had also helped several others with various projects (among them Bertani, Santa Maria alla Pieve and Musella)  – and several wineries were born under his guidance (like Monte dall’Ora, also in San Pietro).

Zýmē was the name of his consultance agency, and became the name of his own winery, when he in 2003 started with 7 ha. on rent. Now there are 30 ha., where ecosustainability and respect for the rhythms of nature are vital aspects. Zýmē, from Greek, means “yeast.” For Celestino this has a symbolic meaning as a continuous striving towards transformation. The logo represents a leaf, formed as a pentagon, which is a symbol of the five basic elements needed to make wine; soil, grapes, sun, water and man.

There were many good wines to chose from; Oseleta (a 100% varietal), Kairos (from 15 grapes, 4 white and 11 red), From Black to White (from a natural genetic mutation of Rondinella) and an Amarone Classico della Valpolicella on the dry, almost elegant side.

Still I chose the Recioto Amandorlato, a wine dedicated to the memory of Giuseppe “Bepi” Quintarelli, his father-in-law, who passed away in 2012. The wine was first presented at this year’s VinItaly.

Celestino describes Recioto Amandorlato as a synthesis between traditional recioto and amarone. One could say a recioto with the lowest possible sugar residue.

Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG Classico 2011 Amandorlato “to my teacher …” (produced in 1,500 bottles of 0,5 l) is a blend of corvina and corvinone (60%), rondinella (30%), molinara (5%) and croatina (5%). After drying, the grapes were vinified in cement, then matured for 20 days in Slavonian oak barrels of between 350 and 500 l. In May 2017 it was bottled.

In the concrete tanks the temperature is natural, the yeast too, and there is very little movement of the must. The tumultuous fermentation stops due to the effect of sulfur, alcohol and residual sugar. Now the product is divided. Sugar tends to precipitate, so the first part removed is the one richest in sugar, the Recioto. The second part, in contact with the brandy, with less sugar, more organic substance and more extracted, becomes Amandorlato. (Then there is also Amarone Riserva.)

Recioto della Valpolicella Classico Amandorlato “al mio maestro…” 2011 (Zýmē)

Dark cherry colour. Ripe fruit (cherry, plum, blueberry), peppery spiciness, bitter almonds and a sweet component like ​​cocoa. Quite glyceric, with soft tannins, sweet (but not too sweet), and with a lingering finish.

Price: Medium

Food: Ripe cheeses, red meat, game

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Gambellara: Maule and the two Davides

Gambellara is a small village at the foot of Monti Lessini in the western corner of the Vicenza province. To the west it borders Soave (Verona). It has a DOC for the whole area, a “classico” designation for wines with lower yields and higher alcohol, and a DOCG Recioto di Gambellara. The DOC is comprised of 4 municipalities, most important are Gambellara and Montebello.

When the prosecco boom took off, many of the grapes in the flatlands were replaced with the glera grape (formerly called prosecco). One of the results is that the general quality of Gambellara wine is extremely high, and as much as 60% of the grapes are grown in the hillsides.

Gambellara village

In one day I visited three of the best, in or around Gambellara village, and maximum 5 minutes drive from each others.

Angiolino Maule – La Biancara

The most important of these is La Biancara, run by Angiolino Maule, who has been in the avant-garde of local and national natural wine movement and inspired many younger vintners. He founded the VinNatur organization in 2000 and leads the Villa Favorita natural wine fair held in Vicenza. The objective is to establish contact between collegues, to be able to support and learn from each others.  They are currently looking at the possibility of replacing copper and sulfur, widely used in organic farming, with plants and extracts that help vines build up resistance. Maule is now also studying the possibility to certify natural wines.

Most of Maule’s wines though, come under the IgT Veneto designation, as Angiolino can be said to have a general mistrust in the Consorzio, and the wines are not regarded “typical” by the them either.

It’s Francesco Maule, one of Angiolino’s sons, who meets me on this warm summer morning. First we take a stroll through the vineyards and the estate, to get an overview. The soil of Gambellara is volcanic, with just a little limestone in the heights. This is easy to see from here.

Maule has approximately 12 hectares own vineyards on south facing slopes in these hills, about 150m to 250m above sea level. They are managed in a strictly organically way. They use naturally produced plant compost and control fungal diseases with herbal teas and other natural products. Contrary to tradition, here the predominant binding technique is the Guyot, but also some pergola.

Guyot up-binding

Here around the winery there are 5,5 ha. garganega grapes, many of them used in the Sassaia wine. Higher up, as the name implies, the grapes for the Pico are grown. There is also some trebbiano and durella, and merlot and others for the reds.

-At La Biancara we use modern technology, as we want to have control, at least “enough” control. To oxygenate we add air to the must. Fermentation starts by ifself, because of the hot weather. We may use the pied de cuve technique, 2 or 3 different ones, to see which one is best. It’s important to have a fresh pied de cuve.[A short note: Pied de cuve is a technique that is often used for white wines. Some grapes are collected a week or so before the grapes are ready to be harvested. A small amount of this “stock” is then used to “kick-start” the fermentation, and helps to avoid any possibility of early oxidation.]

-After some years of “strange things” (high volatile, extreme skin-contact), some 10 years ago we decided to do some adjustments in the cellar, says Francesco. -We were lucky, as my father knew Josko Gravner (top Friuli producer with long experience in orange wines). He had also been making extremes wines, and then changed slightly. We also got some help from a retired enologist from Zonin (the region’s big player, just down the road).

-Normally we don’t add sulfites, only in the cheapest wines, that can have quite high volatile acidity.

We tasted a few wines together. And Francesco has nothing to hide, a sympathetic approach, as we start with their pét nat:

Garg’n’go 2017: In 2017 we have problems with re-fermentation, so here are practically no bubbles. That’s the way it is with pét nat (natural pétillance/bubbles), when there is no nat pét, there is just one way to fix it: we have to wait. The colour is quite dark, with flavours of yellow apples, yeast, and good acidity from the durella grape (20%). We can imagine how it will be in good condition. -We have no tradition for bubbles, says Francesco. -My father never thought about it, but I love it, and it’s easy to sell. Francesco fetches another bottle, that has a little more bubbles. OK, so there is hope.

Over to the still wines, the first one all garganega: Sassaia 2016, as we said from the vineyard close to the house. 70% were directly pressed, the rest skin-macerated for 2-3 days, then barrelfermented. Because we don’t use SO2 tannin and polyphenol from the skin-contact help the wine to stay healthy and live longer. It shows a light golden colour; mature apples, white flowers, ginger (from garganega) and some toast on the nose; it’s quite full and very tasty.

The relatively high altitude Pico has for me been a favourite, if I were to pick only one wine. Selected grapes from three relatively high vineyards, Pico 2016 was 50% directly pressed, an equal part had 2-3 days skin-contact. In fact there was also a tiny amount (one barrel, maybe 2%) that had extended skin-contact for 2 1/2 months. -’16 was a good harvest, and it rained at the right moments. The wine showed dark, almost amber; with mature apples, white pepper, ginger, a touch of honey; rich and glyceric in the mouth, with an integrated acidity and an extreme length.

Rosso Masieri 2017 is a young and luscious, fruity and herb-scented red wine from merlot, tokai rosso (grenache) and cabernet sauvignon. See link #1 at the bottom of this post for more.

Passito Monte Sorio 2015 is a recioto style, IgT (though they have a DOCG Recioto too). The garganega was harvested before the other grapes. They were all hung in vertical nets, for 4-5 months to dry. Then there was one week skin-maceration, and fermentation for 2-3 months. More normal is 14% and 150 grams residual sugar, but in this vintage the alcohol is 16% and sugar 76 grams. Some sulfites are added, simply because the wine gets cloudy after 2-3 years because of some protein bindings. Amber colour; on the nose: nuts, some raisin, iodene, lightly oxidezed style; on the palate: long and with a good acidity.

Let’s close this chapter with a recommendation from Francesco Maule: Recioto and parmesan cheese: a fantastic combination! (Parmesan, or parmiggiano, is “almost local”, as Parma is only  one and a half hours from Verona.)

 

Davide Vignato

Climbing downhill to the center of the village we find both our next wine people, the two Davides. Vignato is not an uncommon name in Gambellara, and in the short street I ring the doorbell at two other Vignato’s houses before the right one stands before me.

Davide is third generation vigneron, so he’s born and raised in the village. But he is the first to have organic wines certified as DOC Gambellara. He has 14 hectares of vineyards that are characterized by these mineral soils. He works them organically, with techniques like green manure. Grape varieties are mainly garganega, but also durella, glera, chardonnay and merlot.

 

In the ancient amphitheater of Monte San Marco

He takes me to the biggest of the two amphitheaters formed by the ancient volcanoes. It’s the one in Gambellara, close to his home, the other is in the aforementioned Montebello to the east.

-I want to make organic wine, but I also want clean wine, for me this is important, Davide says. He also believes that the volcanic soil gives a salty, mineral character to the wines. Both these opinions can be backed by the tasting.

Balaltic dark rocks of volcanic origin

Primo Incontro 2016, IgT Veneto: The “first meeting” is a garganega frizzante (light pressure), where the second fermention is catalyzed by some of the dried grapes. The yeasts remain in the bottle, so the “sur lie” technique is employed, with batonnage once a week. -The final bottling was done after 15 months, no SO2, so I prefer to do malo-lactic fermentation, says Davide.

The wine shows a light yellow colour, slightly cloudy; aromas of apples, white flowers and citrus; there is a balanced acidity, a slightly salty, simple, good summer drink.

Cuvée dei Vignato 2013: A spumante metodo classico (high pressure) from 90% durella, and the rest chardonnay, with 40 months on the lees.

Somewhat lighter; green apples, citrus, bread crust; more evident, pungent acidity, long and mineral aftertaste.

Then follow two still whites, both 100% garganega.

El Gian 2016, Gambellara Classico, a tribute to his father Gian Domenico: This wine is from 25 year old vines in the hills. As usual: Natural yeast and only a small quantity SO2. It stayed on the lees in steel tanks for 5 months before bottling.

Light straw colour; green apples, white flowrs, citrus, clean (no tropics); quite mellow in the mouth, but the acidity shines through, and typical for the garganega grape it has a nice bitterness towards the end.

Col Moenia 2016 , Gambellara Classico: This is from 40 years old vines, and the grape selection is stricter. No de-stemming. It stays on the lees for 7 months, and batonnage is carried out once in a while.

Light straw, clear; yellow apple, ginger; full on the palate, more concentration than the previous wine, and more integrated acidity (the harvest was 20 days later), slightly bitter aftertaste.

A general observation can be added here: Garganega has a long cycle, and late picking is normal. Durella is approximately one month earlier, around mid-september.

Regarding the wine styles, at this point it should also be clear that  Vignato’s wines are clean, the fruit is a bit more acid and the apple notes are greener. La Biancara is more turbid, obviously unfiltered, plays with oxidation, and the fruit is more yellow and mature.

1950 Merlot 2016, IgT Veneto: -1950 was the year when my father planted the merlot vineyard for this wine, because he realized that he was tired of drinking only white gambellara, says Davide. The pressing is light, and the wine matures in steel tank with occational batonnage.

The colour is ruby with some violet; with aroma of red fruits and some herbs; medium body, soft tannins, quite easy drinking really.

The “picai” technique is still used, bunches hung from the roof to dry

Cal d’Oro 2009: This is a passito wine with mahogany (or dark amber) colour; iodine notes, umami, dried fruits and dates; some tannins, medium sweet (120-30 g), a bit raisiny, and also salt in the finish.

Ca’ Ronchi 2007, Passito Rosso: Dark red, a little browning; red berries and forestfruits (morelloes, blackberries), nuts; quite slender, good tannin structure, medium sweet (same as the former), wonderfully balanced by acidity.

Davide Vignato

 

Davide Spillare

After a sandwich and a coffee in the bar on Gambellara’s central square, I climb the labyrinths of the neighbourhood where Davide Spillare has his house and winery, and several of the vineyards are there too. I meet Davide together with Lanfranco Fossà, who helps him with various tasks in the office.

Davide and Lanfranco

A little background: Davide Spillare (his last name should have a stress on the first syllable) was born in 1987.  He went to agronomy school, then worked 4 years for Angiolino Maule, to learn and to gain experience. In 2007 he started on his own. He is third generation. Antonio, his grandfather, worked in real estate, and made wine in the weekends.  Mariano, his father, worked with machines and repair, he made more wine than his father, but he only sold it to the cooperative.

So Davide’s project is in a way still young. He owns 4 hectares of vineyards, and has 6 on rent (the latter will come into production from the 2019 vintage). In fact 50% of Davide’s production is today sold to Japan. The wines are also found in a handful more countries. I tasted them in London’s 40 Maltby Street wine bar.

The annual production is now 20.000 bottles, and will increase to 30.000. Not very much. From Davide’s house there is a nice view over the village, and you can easily see the big Zonin winery.

Davide has 5 labels, mostly garganega, except for some durella for sparkling (up to 70 years old), and also some merlot for the red. He employs biodynamic viticulture, and there is almost no technology in the cellar. The old vines are bound up in the pergola system, but for the newer plantings he uses Guyot.

In the plains, at around 200 meters above sea level, there are clayey soils. The rest is mostly volcanic.

In general we could say that after Vignato’s clean and clear wines we are now, not surprisingly maybe, back towards the style of Maule’s La Biancara. In a way the wines are elegant, with their crisp acidity. But they clearly take place in the natural wine category, without added sulfur, and no filtration or fining, so they also come with a rich mouthfeel and loads of taste.

Here are some short notes from the tasting.

L1 (named after Lumber 1, the lowest rib in the back, that Davide once broke in a tractor accident): It’s made from 90% garganega, and 10% durella (only for acidity). The second fermentation was in the bottle. -We don’t use yeast, but the moist from the sweet wine. (It rings a bell now from both visits earlier that day.)

The colour is yellow; aromas of yellow apples, light bread; very good acidity

Bianco Crestan 2016: 100% garganega, from the flat area (with less mineral soil).

Straw yellow, aromas of green apples, citrus (lime); quite glyceric, mellow, a nice and simple wine for everyday drinking.

Bianco Rugoli 2016 (12,5%): From the 80 old vineyard that gives name to the next wine, the bushes trained in pergola. Spontaneous fermentation, like all his wines, here in used oak barrels. The first bottle is bretty. Davide says it’s from the cork. When the water isn’t changed often enough this can happen. The water should be changed for every 100.000 corks.

The nose is more complex than the previous, but maintaining a good acidity and a strong minerality.

Straw yellow; more mature apples, wax, aromatic herbs; smooth yet fresh, fruit all the way (4-5 g/L acidity), slightly bitter aftertaste.

Vecchie Vigne 2016: It had 100% skin-contact for 5 days, then fermented in barrel 7-8 days. 13,5% alcohol.

Golden; more mature apples on the nose, together with pear, honey and nuts (it was a very late harvest); concentrated on the palate, a warmer, richer style, with a salty mineral aftertaste. This wine is still young though, and will open more.

Rosso Giaroni 2016: Merlot at 13,5%.

Dark cherry, me green pepper, red fruits; fruity, bit tannic.

#3 – Gambellara: Maule and the two Davides

 

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Wine of the Week

Value Valpolicella

This is a very good value Valpolicella. The winery is established in an aristocratic villa from the 16th century, and has a beautiful agriturismo on the estate. The estate totals 400 hectares, including three vineyards on three different hills, with differences in soil composition and orientation.

This wine comes from the Monte del Drago hill, with a total vineyard area of 8 hectares. There are also some young (white) garganega and pinot bianco plantings, but the vines that gives the fruit to the Drago wine is mainly corvina planted in the 1990’s. The exposition is west, and the soil is tuff with white clay.  

The grapes are organically cultivated, and biodynamic techniques are also employed. Corvina makes up the highest proportion of the blend (60%), the rest corvinone, and 5% each of rondinella and, maybe a surprise: barbera. Winemaker Maddalena Pasqua let it rest for 12 months in French oak, which is barely noticeable.

 

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Drago Valpolicella Superiore 2015 (Musella)

Quite dark red, blueish hint. Aroma of dark and red berries (cherry), some herbs. Young, lucious, tasty and with a fresh acidity.

Price: Low

Food: Light meat, pasta, salads, antipasti

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Articles

The Real Wine fair I: A lovely bubbly start

The Real Wine fair is a two days event with focus on naturally made wine, where many of the leading producers in the genre come from all corners of the world to gather in London, this year at the Tobacco Dock in the eastern part of the city. The activities are not restricted to these two days either, as the arrangers (most importantly importer/distributor Les Caves de Pyrène) have collaborators all over the UK with their own arrangements in the weeks and even months leading up to the fair itself.

This is a very nice place to be, with so many nice people (both producers and visitors) contributing to the atmosphere. And about the wines, I say ‘natural wines’ for short. But there are so many different interpretations of the theme, and add to this the variations in terroirs, grapes and producer personalities, so there are not two identical wines here.

There were maybe not that many sparkling wines on show, but it struck me that here were some of the leading producers of naturally made sparklers in many categories. So here are a few.

Let’s begin in Champagne. Pierre Gerbais is located in the Côte des Bars area in southern Champagne, and has been certified since 1996. Their vineyard consists mainly of the dark marl called kimmeridge. They use the most traditional grapes of the region, but they are also noted for making the first 100% pinot blanc called L’Originale.

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Aurélien Gerbais

From the fresh Cuvée Réserve (24 months on lees) I tasted my way through the five champagnes they had on offer. Among the more special treats were the aforementioned L’Originale (officially NV, but from 2011 grapes): 100% pinot blanc, mostly from a vineyard planted in 1904, in white clay soils: A concentrated wine with aromas of yellow apples, some toast, salty minerals and it’s drying off. L’Osmose Extra Brut (also white clay, also from the 2011 harvest) made from chardonnay: Light colour, quite complex, with apple, some nuts, a nice acidity, and a dry aftertaste. In contrast, L’Audace (2011) is from pinot noir and from darker soil. Here is no dosage, no sulphur added. It’s darker yellow than the others, apples, strawberry, toast, and a mineral finish.

Finally the Grains de Celles Extra Brut, made from 50% pinot noir and the rest chardonnay and pinot blanc and with 36 months ageing on lees, is the most complex of lot. More toasted, aged notes, but some freshness too, yellow apples, mineral, with a slightly sweet fruit balanced by its concentration.

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Ton Mata

Antoni “Ton” Mata Casanovas now leads Recaredo together with his cousins Josep, Carles and Jordi. If there is one emblematic cava producer it is this one, second to no sparkling wine producer from anywhere. They practise dry farming with biodynamic principles, and only work their own vineyards high up in the Alt Penedès.

I have visited them in Sant Sadurní (Catalunya) and tasted through the whole range. Here most cavas were represented. All their wines have a great concentration of flavours, from low yields and prolonged ageing on lees. They don’t have any dosage, and all of them long exceeds the ageing requirements for a gran reserva. They have more focus on the xarel.lo grape than most cava producers. This is the grape that shines most brightly of the cava grapes given a few years of ageing.

Terrers Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2010 has slightly more macabeu than xarel.lo: Aroma of mature apples and a touch of apricot and peach, some balsamic notes and some toast too, and a fresh appearance in spite of the ageing. The Finca Serral del Vell Brut de Brut 2007 is made from approximately even shares of xarel.lo and macabeu. The colour is light, it’s complex, with fresh pineapples aromas along with some toast, some balsamic, and a surprising freshness after 8 years on the lees; the aftertaste shows a stony minerality. According to Ton this is because of the calcareous soil on top of the hill. Further down the same road is the Reserva Particular 2005 (also a gran reserva despite the name), that can be considered one of the purest expressions of Mediterranean sparkling terroir wine (even if Recaredo themselves makes another fantastic cava only in some years), with a xarel.lo 55%/ macabeu 45% blend: Dark straw colour, some lime, smoke, concentrated, rich, and remarkably fresh for its age (almost 10 years on yeast). Worth noting is also that their Brut Intens Rosat 2012 (garnacha/monastrell, a little pinot noir) har all the charms of a sparkling rosé, but is also clearly in the family of aged Recaredo wines.

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Then there is Franciacorta, in the hills near Brescia in the Italian region of Lombardia. The only producer presented here was 1701, the first certified biodynamic producer in the area. They never use any dosage and sulphur only when absolutely necessary.

As an ouverture there is the low-pressure (3 atmospheres) Sullerba, that is outside the appellation. It’s a light and lovely, yeasty and appley, super easy-to-drink wine. Made from chardonnay in steel and amphora with 12 months on its lees. Their Rosé is lovely, from the 2012 vintage (these wines are also officially NV), fresh with raspberry notes, and a good balance between the fruit and the aged qualities. The Satèn from the 2013 vintage is a chardonnay with 30 months on lees; fresh, not too complicated, but delicious drinking. Maybe the most “serious” (among these wines, all of them obviously serious) is the Vintage 2011 Dosaggio Zero, a 90% chardonnay, the rest pinot noir (pinot nero in Italian), 42 months on the lees, 20% in barrels. Here is a perfect balance between ageing and fruit character, with some toast, mature apples, and a balsamic touch. Long curve. 1701 was a nice surprise and a producer that I didn’t know before.

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Rhona Cullinane and Federico Stefieni

Talking about fun: Prosecco is often marketed as such, but alas, like for many others the vast majority doesn’t give me much of that. But luckily Casa Belfi was in the house!

Casa Belfi (or: Albino Armani) works according to biodynamic principles and there is no fining or filtering involved, nor any addition of SO2. 6 months on lees is typical. I have tried all the wines before, and they are truly joyful wines to drink. I think especially the normal Colfòndo Frizzante 2015 has a good value, with its expressive, pure fruit. It’s yellow/orange, cloudy with a super and fresh apple and citrus peel aroma, notes of bread, and a dry finish. The Colfòndo Anfora 2015 is darker after 7 days of skin contact and 4 months in clay. It’s still fruity, with mature apples, a spicy touch and a citric aftertaste. Talking about fun, the red Raboso Frizzante 2015, from the grape variety by that name, has all the playful expressiveness you can ask for. Red with a dark rim; red berries, earthy notes, and lovely fruit all the way.

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Nicola Zuliani

Casa Coste Piane was also there. This is an estate that dispose of many old vines, some pre-phylloxera, and like Casa Belfi the second fermentation takes place in the bottle, dégorgement is not carried out, so some cloudiness is inevitable. At this point it has not the same expressive qualities as its neighbour, but has more subtle citrus and minerality, and it’s definitely promising.

A couple of days before the fair I visited Will Davenport in his winery in Rotherfield, East Sussex (a short article will follow).

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Will Davenport

Davenport Vineyards, or Limney Farm, is the biggest organic producer in the UK. The winery is small and modest, but it’s fully equipped to make both still and sparkling wines. Therefore they give services to other producers in the area. I love their still white Horsmonden White, but as this piece is about sparkling wines we shall take a brief stop at the Davenport Pet Nat (you know that wine that everybody makes nowadays that can do it, a welcome trend, in my opinion), aged 3 months before disgorging: Light in colour, very aromatic, mature apples, some citrus. Then there is the Limney Auxerrois Sparkling 2014, from a vineyard near the farm, 18 months on lees: Rich yeasty character, stony minerality, and a fresh and delicate touch too. And lastly the Limney Sparkling Rosé 2014: salmon pink, some autolysis character on the nose, plenty of fruit, raspberries and a citric touch.

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Lisa Harvey and Ian Hardwick, volunteers for the Forty Hall project

I was about to say that Forty Hall Vineyard makes the wines with the shortest travel, from Enfield, North London. It’s not quite true that it’s the one with shortest travel, because it has travelled down to Davenport’s winery in East Sussex, and back again, because Forty Hall is among the producers that get some help from Will Davenport.

Forty Hall is a 4 hectar organic vineyard, the first commercial producer in London since the middle ages, led by volunteers as a non-profit organization to support the community.

The London Sparkling Brut 2014 was delicious, beautifully balanced with lightly yeasty character, rounded fruit (mature apples and a touch of citrus) and just enough acidity to match.

Apart from this there were some occational bubbles from producers that aren’t primarily makers of such, both fully and half sparkling wines from Loire, from Italy, and from elsewhere in the world.

 

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Wine of the Week

A Bardolino chiaretto

Fresh, appealing rosé wine that costs “no money”. Made from corvina (80%) and molinara, and made in the stainless steel low temperature fermentation tradition.

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Bardolino Chiaretto Organic 2014 (Villabella)

Light salmon pink. Discrete notes of red fruits, apricots, and lime. Dry, yet with a smooth texture, quite full on the palate.

Price: Low

Food: White fish, delicate shellfish, salads

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