The Many Faces of Venetian Grapes
Father Massimino with children Daniele, Mirco, and Giuseppina own 110 hectares in the Pedemonte area of deepest Valpolicella in the Veneto region. The land runs over hills at an average height of 812 feet above sea level. The family makes wine only from its own vineyards, which are planted to the classic grape varieties of the region, Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, and Molinara. The “Gambero Rosso” wine guide describes their winemaking as follows: “The scrupulous care taken over every stage of winemaking, and respect for nature’s rhythms, are supported by an ongoing search for the best possible balance of tradition and innovation.” Their flagship wine is the single vineyard Campo Masua Amarone, which has won “Gambero Rosso’s” highest Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) award.
Located in Negrar, the heart of Valpolicella, the Accordini estate is just four hectares, planted to the classic varieties of the region, Corvina, Rondinella, and Corvinone. The Accordini family has recently purchased six additional hectares in the hills of Fumane and has planted new vineyards. Stefano and Giuseppina Accordini, together with sons Tiziano and Daniele and their wives and children work together at the winery. Stefano is the winemaker; Daniele manages the vineyards; and Tiziano directs marketing. The estate is known especially for its Amarone, which has received “Gambero Rosso’s” coveted Tre Bicchieri award.
Making wine at the family estate since 1984, Matilde Poggi cultivates 30 hectares of organically farmed vineyards, planted with the traditional vines of the Veneto, the reds Corvina and Rondinella and the white Garganega. The estate is located in the Bardolino growing area between the base of Lake Garda and the hills where Valpolicella is grown not far from Verona. Wine guide Gambero Rosso writes, “She travels on a personal journey that has never compromised with the market.” By that, Gambero Rosso probably means that Matilde Poggi has refused to make the blockbuster dark and concentrated red wines that have been popular for the last 15 years. Instead she crafts the lighter style red Bardolino, made from the same grapes as Valpolicella but completely different because the soils are very different in the Bardolino appellation. She says that she wants to make wine “that you can drink, not discuss or think about, just drink.”
Visiting the Filippi estate is the equivalent of entering into a green oasis, the vineyards surrounded by forests. Organically farmed, the vineyards are some of the highest in Soave at an elevation of 400 meters and are planted to Garganega, the traditional grape in the Soave appellation. The family makes mostly Soave, including a Recioto di Soave, which is a Late Harvest dessert wine, the dry Soave Classico, a Soave Superiore, and two single vineyard Soave wines, the Vigne della Bra and the Monteseron. In newer vineyards on the Masua hill at 300 meters, they have planted the classic grape varieties for Amarone.
Italian Wines of the Month
Le Fraghe – 2011 Bardolino
A blend of 65% Corvina and 35% Rondinella, Le Fraghe Bardolino tastes of cherries, blueberries, and herbs, with hints of orange peel, cinnamon and black pepper. Not unlike Pinot Noir, the body of the wine is velvety with balancing acidity and very drinkable. If the measure of a good wine is that you wish the bottle had another glass left in it, this lighter red wine is perfect. It pairs with a range of dishes such as roasted pork, grilled chicken, and poached salmon, or with dinner salads with sea food or poultry.
Le Fraghe – 2011 Garganega Camporengo
Garganega is the principal grape variety in the Soave appellation, located east of Verona and less than an hour from the Le Fraghe estate in Bardolino, where the grapes were harvested from the Camporengo vineyard. This fresh, attractive white wine is fermented and aged entirely in stainless steel and bottled early in the year following harvest. An unusual aspect of the winemaking is that the must is slightly concentrated, when necessary, by freezing some of the grapes before pressing. Aroma and flavor are of apple, almond and herbs, with a hint of white peach. Serve chilled.
Venturini – 2008 Valpolicella Classico – Superiore, Semonte Alto
From estate vineyards, the fruit for the Semonte Alto Valpolicella Classico Superiore is 70% Corvina Veronese, 20% Rondinella, and 10% Molinara. The Semonte Alto vineyard or “high hill” produces rich, concentrated fruit with intense and distinctive aromas, so the wine is a great candidate for the Ripasso process, which further intensifies flavors and aromas. The wine is refermented with the lees of the grapes used to make Amarone, so color, intensity, and body intensify. The wine is then aged for 12 months in Slovenian oak barrels and for another six months in bottle before release from the winery. Particularly well suited to Mediterranean food, the wine pairs especially with pasta and braised or grilled meats. Uncork for an hour before serving or decant to a carafe.
Accordini – 2009 Valpolicella Classico – Superiore, Acinatico
A blend of 60% Corvina Veronese, 15% Corvinone, 20% Rondinella, and 5% Molinara, this Accordini Valpolicella Classico Superiore was refermented with the lees of the grapes used to make Amarone and then aged for 12 months in French oak barrels and six months in bottle before release from the winery. Corvina is the most important grape in the blend and contributes deep color and intense flavor. Rondinella offers aromatics and sweet fruit and is resistant to disease, insects, and drought, while Molinara ripens late but brings bright acidity to the blend. The Accordini 2009 Valpolicella Classico Superiore shows scents of spices and vanilla and is warm and full-bodied on the palate. Serve at cool room temperature and uncork an hour before serving or decant into a carafe.
Filippi – 2009 Soave Colli Scagliete, Vigne della Bra
Made entirely from Garganega grapes, the classic variety of Soave, the wine is made from vines that are approximately 60 years-old and grow at an elevation of 380 meters. The wine shows mineral scents with hints of flowers and herbs while the taste is fresh but rich. Serve chilled as an aperitif or paired with fish, shellfish, and poultry dishes.
Venturini – 2008 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico
Like the Valpolicella Classico Superior in the Winemaker Series, this Venturini Amarone is 70% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, and 10% Molinara. But instead of fermenting the grapes after harvest, as was done with the Valpolicella Classico Superior, the best grapes from the harvest are selected and then placed on trays where they partially dry through the winter in breezy barn lofts, losing as much as 40% of their weight and increasing their concentration. Then in the early spring when temperatures begin to warm, the fruit is fermented and transferred to oak barrels where it ages for 36 months and for an additional 10 months in bottle before release. The result is an extremely intense wine, a “meditation wine” as the Italians call their best. This Venturini Amarone is packed with rich, deep fruit flavors, and plumy, sweet aromas. Decant into a carafe an hour before serving. At 16% alcohol, this is a meditation wine, and unless you’re serving it with wild game or some other strongly flavored red meat such as lamb, consider serving it as a last course with aged cheeses and nuts.
Accordini – 2008 Amarone Classico della Valpolicella, Acinatico
From the estate’s Acinatico vineyard, the wine is 75% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, and 5% Molinara. The grapes for Amarone wines are treated as described in the Venturini Amarone paragraph above. Aged for 25 months in Slovenian oak barrels, the Accordini Amarone remains in bottle for another six months before release from the winery. Decant into a carafe an hour before serving. The wine complements grilled or roasted game or other flavorful meats, but another way to enjoy this rich wine would be after a summer evening begins to cool. Serve with a final cheese course, including aged Gorgonzola, at the end of the meal, followed by a light dessert, such as a fresh fruit platter. A meditation wine as the Italians call it, Amarone can also be served apart from a meal as an accompaniment to good conversation.