Twin Treasures of the Veneto: Soave and Valpolicella
Azienda Agricola Inama
In the 1950s, estate founder Giuseppe Inama began purchasing small vineyards in the heart of the Soave Classico region, using nothing more than his savings. His idea was to assemble only top quality vineyards of old-vine Garganega and fashion from them a wine that would be the best expression of the Soave zone. He gradually acquired thirty hectares and, in addition to Garganega, planted Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. For multiple vintages, the winery’s Soave Classico has received Gamber Rosso’s coveted Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) award. In the 1960s, Giuseppe’s son, Stefano Inama, assumed control and expanded production to include red wines. Stefano settled on the Colli Berici for his project, a hilly area some 15 kilometers east of Soave in the neighboring province of Vicenza. The mineral-rich hills were planted with Carmenere in the middle of the 19th Century by emigrants returning from Aquitaine. Bordeaux was in its heyday, and cuttings of Carmenere, then a popular grape, were brought back to the Colli Berici. Today, Carmenere is considered a local variety in the hot, dry climate of the Colli Berici. Along with Cabernet, Merlot, and the indigenous Raboso Veronese, Inama has embarked on developing the potential of this special place with several red wines from two new properties, which are farmed with organic methods.
Brothers Armando, Tiziano, Massimo, and Paolo Castagnedi grew up in their father’s vineyards in the Valpolicella region. Their father, Antonio Castagnedi, founded the cooperative Colognola ai Colli Cantina and sent his grapes, as did neighboring growers, to the communal winery. In 1989, the brothers bought 30 hectares around Mezzane, and when added to the 20 original ones belonging to their father, increased Tenuta Sant’Antonio vineyards to a total of fifty hectares, which begin at an elevation of 120 meters and climb the hills to an elevation of 320 meters. In 1995, they built their winery on a hill near San Briccio, among their vineyards, and began making producing wine rather than selling grapes to other wineries. Today, Tenuta Sant’Antonio makes Soave, Valpolicella, Amarone, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Their Valpolicella Superiore, La Bandina, and their Amarone Campo dei Gigli have both been honored with Gambero Rosso’s coveted Tre Bicchierri (Three Glasses) award.
Italian Wines of the Month
Inama – 2008 Soave Classico
From the Classico zone, this Soave is 100% Garganega from Monteforte d’Alpone. The wine was aged in stainless steel, not oak barrels, so the flavors are pristinely Garganega, uninfluenced by wood. In the Classico zone, vine yields are strictly controlled so that the fruit produces its finest character with crisp lemon-almond aromas and flavors. The Inama Soave Classico also suggests chamomile, licorice, and iris. Serve chilled with appetizers and entrees of fish and chicken.
Tenuta Sant’Antonio – 2009 Scaia
A blend of 70% Corvina and 30% Rondinella, the Nanfre Valpolicella has a fruity bouquet with cherry and red fruit notes with hints of flowers and spice. Its taste is fruity, fragrant, and pungent with a soft tannin texture. The Scaia Valpolicella was aged for six months in stainless steel tanks instead of oak barrels, so the wine is light and fresh and can be paired with many different foods. Serve with first courses of cold meats, pasta, and risotto, and light main courses of chicken and salmon. You’ll notice that the stopper is glass, the latest and best non-cork cork. Reuse the bottle especially for bulk extra virgin olive oil, which can be easily poured and protected by the dark glass.
Tenuta Sant’Antonio – 2008 Valpolicella Superiore, Monti Garbi
The Monti Garbi is 70% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, and 10% Croatina and Oseleta. The wine is made with the Ripasso method, or “passed over” the Amarone lees and as a result becomes richer than Valpolicella, which is made from the same grapes in the same proportions. Aged for 16 months in new and used French 500-liter barrels, the wine is deep ruby red in color and has an intensely fruity bouquet with hints of cherry, liquorish, tobacco, and cedarwood. Its taste is full and soft but balanced with fine tannins.
Inama – 2007 Carmenere Piu
Piu means “more” in Italian, and the word refers to the addition of Merlot, which is 30% of the blend. Bordeaux varieties, including Carmenere and Merlot were introduced to the area in the 19th Century. Although the winery is best known for its white wines, it is justly proud of its reds, which garner much attention. Aged for 12 months in French oak barriques, this Carmenere is deeply colored with a pronounced nose of black cherry, black pepper, and cocoa. The wine strongly suggests its Bordeaux cou
Inama – 2004 Oratorio di San Lorenzo
One hundred percent Carmenere, the wine is made from fruit grown in the Oratorio di San Lorenzo vineyard in the Colli Berici zone. Produced only in exceptional vintages and in limited quantities, the Oratorio reflects the zone’s mineral-rich soils and hot, dry climate. Aged for 18 months in French oak barrels and in bottle for 12 months, the Oratorio is a powerful wine, inky black, concentrated and viscous on the palate, but balanced with acidity and ripe tannins. Decant and serve at cool room temperature.
Tenuta Sant’Antonio – 2006 Selezione Antonio Castagnedi
Made from traditional Amarone varietals, this Sant’Antonio Amarone is 70% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, 5% Croatina, and 5% Oseleta. With two years ageing in 500-liter French oak barrels, the Amarone Antonio Castagnedi is ruby red in color with aromas of ripe red fruit and spicy notes of liquorish, black pepper, and hints of chocolate. On the palate, the wine is soft, elegant, and well structured with round, sweet tannins. At 14.5% alcohol, the Selezione Antonio Castagnedi can be described as a modern Amarone that will complement foods rather than the heavier classical style, which is Port-like in its richness and more suitable as a “contemplation wine” to be sipped with nuts and dried fruit. Serve at cool room temperature.
Italian Region of the Month
Venezia, a city built into the sea, is like no other, haunted by the princes and poets of its noble past and by centuries of tourists. The cities of Padova, Vicenza, and Verona, originally frontier posts on the Roman trade route between Venezia and Genova, grew into Renaissance splendor and are marvels in their own right. In the 16th century, the region’s great architect Andrea Palladio worked throughout the area and his buildings are everywhere, in the cities and in the countryside. Nature exhibits its own marvels in the region, the spectacular Dolomite Mountains in the north, the rolling Euganean hills in the south, vast Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake, on the eastern border, and to the west, the Adriatic with its beaches and ports.
Today, Veneto is a thriving agricultural center, a lush land of vines, ranking third after Apulia and Sicily in wine volume but the first with classified DOC wines. There are three general areas of premium production: the western province of Verona in the hills between Lake Garda and the town of Soave, the central hills in the provinces of Vincenza, Padova, and Treviso, and the eastern plains of the Piave and Tagliamento river basins along the Adriatic coast northeast of Venezia.
Verona is the leader in classified DOC wines and the site of Vinitaly, the largest wine trade fair in the world. A major part of the DOC wines in the region are Soave, Bardolino, and Valpolicella, a blend of Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara. When young, Valpolicella is a full, fruity red, but when the grapes are partly dried, they are made into Amarone, one of Italy’s most noble wines. Bardolino is made from the same grapes as Valpolicella but is a lighter version. Similar to Soave, Bianco di Custoza is another DOC white as is Lessini Durello, a steely dry wine, usually sparkling.
The central hills produce whites similar to Soave as well as Tocai, the Pinots, Merlot, and Cabernet. Prosecco, a dry to lightly sweet white, is produced in the area as is the renowned Venegazzu, both usually sparkling.
The eastern plains have been dominated by Merlot and Cabernet Franc for decades, but the local red Raboso and white Verduzzo still have admirers. Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon, and Chardonnay are also gaining ground.