Category Archives: Amarone

Visiting the Tommasi Winery

Michele and I recently returned to Lake Garda, one of our favorite places in Northern Italy. We stayed in Bardolino, a picturesque town right on the lake. There are plenty of good hotels, restaurants, and, if you like that sort of thing, theme parks. The area is very lush, with olive trees, palm trees and flowers everywhere. Many wineries are within a short driving distance from the lake and I have visited several in the past. This time, I was determined to visit the Tommasi winery in Valpolicella, which is only a half hour away. This is a very traditional producer of Valpolicella and Amarone and I like their style of wine.

I made an appointment with Annalisa Armani, the PR person and marketing director. She greeted us when we arrived at the winery. Annalisa is very charming, interesting and informative not only about the winery but also about the wines. She began by telling us about the origins of Tommasi.

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“Magnifica”

Tommasi Vintners is a family affair. The estate is run by the 4th generation of the family working together each with his well defined area of responsibility. I mention this because we so often hear of family owned Italian wineries where the family members cannot work together

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Barrels from 1902

The cellar houses many different sized barrels. Annalisa led us down a double row of large barrels standing like an honor guard leading to “Magnifica” the world’s largest oak barrel that contains the equivalent of 44,000 bottles of wine. It was installed in 2010 and is in the Guinness Book of Records. Annalisa also showed us three historical barrels from 1902 when the company was founded, that were made by Giacomo Battista Tommasi.

The winery is situated in Pedemonte in the heart of the Valpolicella Classical Zone about a half hour from Lake Garda. There are 195 hectares of vines on the estate.

90 hectares of vines produce Bardolino, Custoza, Soave and Lugana and 105 hectares produce Amarone Classico, Ripasso Valpolicella, Valpolicella Classico Superiore and Recioto della Valpolicella.

Annalisa explained that the historical classical area of Valpolicella is northeast of Verona and looks like an open hand with four fingers pointing upward. These are the four separate valleys of the region where the warm breezes from Lake Garda meet the colder winds from the Lessini mountains, creating a perfect climate for the cultivation of vines, olives and cherries.

Annalisa led us through a tasting of the wines. This is not the order in which we tasted the wines but I listed them this way to explain the process of producing them more easily.IMG_5505

Amarone Classico 2010. The first vintage to be DOCG is made from 50% Corvina Veronese, 15% Corvinone 30% Rondinella and 5% Oseleta. Molinara grapes are no longer allowed for Amarone but can be used for Valpolicella.

The vines are on hillside terraces; the training system is high-density guyot. The Groletta and Conca d’Oro vineyards are located in the area of classic historical Valpolicella. The grapes are hand harvested.

Annalisa showed us the place where the grapes are dried for the Amarone. It is a very large room, called a fruttaio, with large windows on the sides that are left open when the grapes are drying. Annalisa made a point of saying that the drying of the grapes in the fall and winter is as important as the flowering and the maturing of the grapes during the spring and summer. The colder the weather the better it is for drying the grapes because they become more concentrated and raisin-like. Because the temperature is higher now than it was 10 years ago, they have installed fans and a system for removing the humidity. They do not want Botrytis (noble rot) to form on the grapes. There are some producers that now dry their grapes in warehouses that are temperature controlled with air-conditioning. IMG_5487

The grapes are placed in plastic boxes, which hold 5/6 kg and put on wooden racks to dry where cooling breezes in the autumn and winter until January dry them. This drying period is known as the appassimento. Annalisa said that this is an active period where the grapes lose about 50% of their weight and there is a concentration of the natural sugar.

Dried grapes in the old wooden boxes

Dried grapes in the old wooden boxes

This process gives the wine the key aromas and fruit flavors and raises the alcohol level. Amarone must be at least 14% alcohol. She also said that it takes grapes from 3 of the open plastic boxes to make one bottle of Amarone.

This wine was aged for 6 months in Magnifica and 2-1/2 years in large Slovenian oak barrels of 35HL, and one year in bottle before release.

Annalisa said that 2010 was a difficult vintage but the grapes were exceptional. A slow appassimento lasted until January 10. The grapes lost 40% of their weight and the final result was excellent. This wine will age.

Many producers make Amarone that has too much residual sugar and tastes more like the traditional dessert wine, but this is an Amarone that goes very well with food. It is a complex wine, full bodied, with aromas and flavors of ripe cherries, raisins, plums and a hint of balsamic.

Up until the 1950’s there was no Amarone being produced. The big wine of the area was Recioto della Valpolicella, which is a red dessert wine of 15% or more alcohol. Legend has that Amarone (meaning bitter) was discovered by accident but that is not the case. The producers needed an important dry wine so they decided to change the process a little and produce an Amarone.IMG_5508

Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC “Rafaèl” 2012. From the Rafaèl vineyard in the town of San Pierto in Cariano. The wine is made from 60% Corvina Veronese, 25% Rondinella, and 15% Molinara. Fermentation at controlled temperature in stainless steel tanks with 8 days maceration. The wine is aged in traditional Slovenian oak casks of 65 HL for 15 months. This is a fruity wine with flavors and aromas of ripe cherries and plums and hint of white roses IMG_5509

Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico”Fiorato” DOCG 2010 from grapes from the town of San Pietro in Cariano in Valpolicella Classico. Made from 65% Corvina, 30% Rondinella, and 5% Molinara. This is the traditional dessert wine produced in this region before the creation of Amarone. It is obtained from the fermentation of dried grapes. The grapes are dried for 5 months and then aged in 5hl barrels. This is a concentrated wine rich and fruity with hints of cherries, figs and plums and, for a dessert wine it is very elegant.IMG_5504

Valpolicella Classico Superiore “Ripasso 2012”made from 70% Corvina Veronese, 25% Rondinella, and 5% Corvinone. The harvest takes place in September. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks for about 9 days. After the juice for Amarone has been removed from the tanks, the Valpolicella for the Ripasso undergoes a second fermentation on the ‘live” skins of the grapes remaining in the tank for 12 to 13 days with daily pumping over. The wine is then aged for 15 months in Slovenian oak casks of 65 hl and in bottle for 6 months before release. This is a wine with aromas and flavors of cherries, plums and raisins with a touch of spice and black pepper.

Recently a new law was passed that limits the production of Ripasso. For every bottle of Amarone, a producer can only make two bottles of Ripasso. The producers still have the grapes but can no longer make all the Ripasso that they want. They have now come up with a new wine called appassimento, which will be approved later in the year. IMG_5605

Amarone della Valpolicella Ca’ Florian Riserva 2007 made from 75% Corvina, 12% Corvinone and 20% Rondinella.  A single vineyard wine from the hills of San Pietro in Cariano at 250 meters with a southwest exposure. The training system is pergola Veronese and the average age of the vines is 30 years. Harvest is in the beginning October.

Only the best grape bunches are hand picked and placed in plastic boxes of 5/6 kg and naturally dried in the fruttaio. The grapes remain there until January when they are pressed. Alcoholic fermentation and maceration lasts for 30 days in wooden vats, using only natural yeasts. The Riserva must age for 4 years. The first year is in tonneau oak barrels of 500 liters and then 3 years in large Slovenian oak barrels and another year in bottle before release

This is a complex, full bodied and elegant wine with black fruit aromas and flavors, hint of plum, and blackberries with a touch of balsamic and spice. This wine will age.

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Filed under Amarone, Tommasi, Valpolicella

A Happy Thanksgiving

This year Thanksgiving lunch started at 3:00 PM instead of the usual 4:00 PM. There were six people and six bottles of wine.  Ernie and Louise De Salvo, and Travis Scott and Nicole Serle – owners of Turtledove wine store in Manhattan joined Michele and I.  It was a fun evening with great food, wine, company and a lot of laughing.

We started as always with Champagne.IMG_4389

Champagne Roses Jeanne Blanc de Blancs Brut 2009 100% Pinot Blanc Cédric Bouchard. The champagnes from this producer always impress me. The vineyards are farmed using organic methods and simple guyot pruning. There are 8,000 vines per hectare. Grapes are hand harvested and crushed by foot. Fermentation takes place with indigenous yeast in stainless steel tanks. The wine is unfiltered and unfined and low or no dosage depending on the vintage. I believe they produce only single vintage, single vineyard wines that are fermented and aged in stainless steel with as little interference in the process from the winemaker as little as possible.  The bubbles were very small and the wine had a crisp, fresh taste with bold citrus fruit flavors.  It worked very well with the smoked salmon mousse Michele served as an appetizer.

The first course was a chestnut soup, which was made by Louise, a great cook and bread baker.IMG_4390

With the soup we had the legendary Fiorano Rosso Vino da Tavola 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot Boncompagni Ludovisi Principe di Venosa. I love this wine and it had that great combination of leather and cherry that makes it so wonderful and unique.Turkey

Michele stuffed the turkey with fennel, rice and sausages and there were maple whipped sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts.  Michele made a mostarda of figs and cranberries that I could not stop eating.

We had three wines with the Turkey:IMG_4391

Volnay 1er cru Les Champans 1973 Domaine Joseph Voillot 100% Pinot Noir. There are 23 Acers of vines, harvesting is by hand and there is a selection of bunches both in the vineyard and the cellar. Vinification takes place without the stems and the wine is moved by gravity into barrels. The use of new wood is kept to about 1/3 of the total. This is a great expression of Pinot Noir and one which expresses the terroir and the grape at their best

I like Amarone with Turkey and all of the trimmings.  These were exceptionally good.IMG_4392

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 1997 & Recioto della Valpolicella Amorone Classic Superiore 1983 Bertani. 70 % Corvina Veronese 30% Rondinella-this is the present blend.
Carefully selected grape bunches are hand-harvested in Bertani’s best Valpolicella vineyards in Fumane, Marano and the Novare Valley. Vines are cultivated using the “spalliera” method while pruning is done using the guyot method with 5,000 vines/ha.

Unlike most leading Amarone producers, who buy grapes from outside growers, Bertani’s harvest originates entirely in the firm’s own vineyards. With marly-calcareous soil sheltered by surrounding woodland, these vineyards offer the ideal terroir for Amarone.IMG_4393

Harvest begins in early October and extends over a two-week period. After harvest, ripe, unblemished grapes from the uppermost portions of each cluster those grapes richest in sugar and extracts are painstakingly detached and laid out to dry on cane mats. The mats are stored on raised platforms in airy lofts, sheltered by a roof but otherwise exposed to drying breezes on all sides. By the time they are ready to undergo maceration and fermentation in February, they will have lost up to 60% of their water content (appassimento). A lengthy maceration period ensues, a factor responsible for Amarone’s tremendous body and structure. After a controlled fermentation, the wine is transferred into oak casks for a period of 5-8 years. The 1997 was a big ripe wine and needs more time in the bottle to develop. The 1983 was
dry, full-bodied, and amply structured with hints of cherries, red berries and spice a great wine and was not showing any signs of age.

 Both 1997 and1983 were excellent vintages for Amarone.IMG_4394

Malvasia Maderia Favilla Vieria 1920 Reserva Velha Barbeito 100% Malvasia. We had this with a Stilton cheese that we had purchased in Fortnum & Mason when we were in London a few weeks ago. This was a very elegant Madeira but with enough body to make it a perfect combination with the cheese.IMG_4395

For dessert Michele made an apple tart tartin and prune ice cream made with Agen prunes macerated in Vielle Prune liqueur.  It was the perfect way to end a great evening.

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Filed under Amarone, Bertani, Burgundy, Champagne, Fiorano Rosso, Joseph Voilloy, Madeira, Roses Jeanne

Amarone and Turkey for Thanksgiving

Often I am asked which wine I drink with Thanksgiving dinner when I have turkey and all the trimmings. There are, of course, many different choices that can work very well but if I had to chose one it would be Amarone.
Amarone can be expensive but it has warm aromas and flavors that make it perfect for the colder weather and all the different dishes that accompany the turkey.
Here is one Amarone that I like a lot.  You can see by how it is made why it would work for Thanksgiving.IMG_4278Amarone Della Valpolicella DOC 2007 Tenuta Santa Maria alla Pieve made from 75% Corvina, 10% Rondinella and 15% Corvinone. The training system is the pergoletta and there are 5,600 vines per hectare. The grapes are hand harvested and placed in wooden trays inside rooms with well-circulated air for 4/5 months. In the middle of January after reaching their desired sugar content and losing 25%/30% of their weight, the almost raisin-like grapes are pressed and fermented for 25/30 days at controlled temperatures with daily pumping over.  After a period of decantation and refining in French barriques and Italian oak tonneaux malolactic fermentation takes place.  After 48 months the wine is bottled and remains for 6 months before release. It is a complex and elegant wine with hints of dried cherries, prunes and spice. The finish is very long and there is a lingering aftertaste. $75
 

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Filed under Amarone, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Tenuta Santa Maria Alla Pieve

With A Little Help From My Friends

The Westchester Italian Cultural Center is located in Tuckahoe about a half hour by train from Grand Central. The center preserves, promotes and celebrates the rich heritage of classical and contemporary Italian culture by encouraging an appreciation of the Italian language, arts and letters, history, cuisine and commerce through educational programs, exhibits and events.  Patrizia Calce, the director of events for the center, asked me if I would do a wine and food tasting for members and their guests featuring Wines and Foods of Northern Italy.   IMG_2809 I was more than happy to do so but I explained to Patrizia that I would need a little help from my friends.  The first one I called was Gary Grunner of Grapes on the Go, a wine importing company.  Gary said he would donate the wines of Tenuta Santa Maria in Pieve in the Veneto and would also attend the event to say a few words about the winery.  Gary then asked Douglas Giachino of Vinvino wines if he would supply the wines of Andrea Oberto from La Morra in Piedmont.  Vinvino also distributes the wine of Tenuta Santa Maria della Pieve for Gary and Giachino agreed to help, too.

Last but not least I asked Louis Coluccio of A.L.C. Italian Grocery in Bay Ridge Brooklyn to supply the food.
Louis replied “Just tell me what you need.”  A.L.C. sells both top quality imported Italian food products and prepared foods to take away.  It is the closest I have come to an Italian food shopping experience in the New York area. IMG_2820
With so much cooperation and great wine and food lined up, the tasting at the WICC was a sure success.  Over 40 members and guests attended.

The Wines
Prosecco NV 100% Gela-formerly known as Prosecco, Luccio.  The grapes come from the rolling hills of the Veneto countryside just north of Venice and are harvested by hand. A soft pressing occurs and the juice is placed in stainless steel tanks. Before the primary fermentation process is concluded, the wine is run into a pressurized tank where a secondary fermentation takes place allowing it to become a sparkling wine.IMG_2812Soave “Lepia” 2010 IGT made from 100% Garganega Veronese. Tenuta Santa Maria Della Pieve The soil is clay with calcareous-marly subsoil. The training system is the pergoletta, and there are 3,800 vines per hectare. The grapes are harvested in September at different times of ripening and crushed separately, with cold pre-fermentation skin contact. The grapes are gently pressed and fermented. The wine is blended in January and racked in stainless steel tanks with the thin lees. Then there is a short bottle refinement. The wine has flavors and aromas of pears and peaches with a hint of almonds and nice minerality. I like this Soave because it reflects the indigenous grape and the terroir. $22IMG_2813Gavi “IL Mandorlo”  2011 Tenuta San Pietro 100% Cortese.  The winery is organic and biodynamic. Soil is limestone-clayey with a good mineral content and the vineyard is at 300 meters. The grapes are hand harvested in the middle of September. Soft crushing is followed by fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks using natural yeast from the cellar. This is a well-balanced wine with floral hints, fresh fruit aromas and flavors and good acidity.  $16IMG_2816
Dolcetto d’Alba 2010 Andrea Oberto-La Morra, Piedmont
There are 4,500 plants per hectare, the soil is clayey and calcareous and the exposure is southwest. The training system is Guyot with short trimming. There is manual harvesting of the slightly overripe grapes in 20-kg perforated crates through a careful selection of the bunches. The grapes are transferred into the cellar where they are crushed and destemmed within hours.
A short cryo-maceration and thermo-controlled fermentation takes place at around 30 °C, and soft pumpovers  are frequent. There is a short maceration of the marc, about 100 hours. Racking takes place in stainless steel vats, where the must is thermo-controlled. In the vats the alcoholic fermentation comes to an end and the natural malolactic fermentation takes place. The wine is aged for 8 months in stainless steel vats. $18IMG_2815Langhe Nebbiolo 2010 DOC Andrea Oberto 100% Nebbiolo
There are 4,000 vines per hectare. Vinification is the same as above except that the juice is in contact with the skins for 200 hours. Aging is for six months part in stainless steel and part in wooden casks. $22IMG_2814
Barolo 2008 DOCG 100% Nebbiolo Andrea Oberto Long maceration of the marc about 300 hours and racking in wood casks, where the natural malolactic fermentation takes place
Aging for 24 months in oak casks and 2 months in stainless steel vats and 6months in bottle before release. $45IMG_2818
Valpolicella Ripasso 2009 DOC made from 75% Corvina, !0% Rondinella and 15% Corvinone. Tenuta Santa Maria Della Pieve. The vineyards are located on clay hills with calcareous layers. The training system is the pergoletta, there are 5,600 vines per hectare and the harvest is by hand at the end of September. In the middle of October when the grapes have reached their optimal maturation and sugar level, they are pressed and fermented in temperature controlled stainless tanks for 25/30 days with daily pump over. The wine is later macerated and fermented a second time on the skins and raisins of the grapes used for Amarone, which are still rich in sugar.  This is followed by 24 months of aging in tonneaux and barriques where malolactic fermentation takes place. The wine is then aged for 6 months in bottle before release. $35
Gary said that a new law was passed that limited the production of the Ripasso wines. For every bottle of Amarone produced they are only allowed to produce two bottles of the Ripasso.

IMG_2817Amarone Della Valpolicella DOC 2007 made from 75% Corvina, 10% Rondinella and 15% Corvinone. Tenuta Santa Maria Della Pieve  The training system is the pergoletta and there are 5,600 vines per hectare. The grapes are hand harvested and placed in wooden trays inside rooms with well-circulated air for 4/5 months. In the middle of January after reaching their desired sugar content and losing 25%/30% of their weight, the almost raisin like grapes are pressed and fermented for 25/30 days at controlled temperatures with daily pumping over. After a period of decantation and refining in French barriques and Italian oak tonneaux, malolactic fermentation takes place. After 48 months the wine is bottled and remains for 6 months before release. It is a complex and elegant wine with hints of dried cherries, prunes and spice. The finish is very long and there is a lingering aftertaste. $90

Contact the Vinvino Wine Company- 212-463-7880 to find the retail store near you that sells these wines.

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Filed under A.L.C. Italian Grocery, Amaro, Amarone, Andrea Oberto winery, Barolo, Dolcetto, Grapes on the GO, Italian Red Wine, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Ripasso, Soave, Tenuta San Pietro, Tenuta Santa Maria Alla Pieve, Vinvino Wines, Westchester Italian Cultural Center

From Rome to Williamsburg, Brooklyn


When in Rome last June, Michele and I enjoyed lunch at Pier Luigi, a favorite restaurant for fish.  After our meal, we got into a conversation with Lorenzo Lisi, an owner, who said that he and his partners were going to open a restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which they found similar to the Trastevere neighborhood in Rome.  The new place would be a version of Antica Pesa, one of the oldest restaurants in Rome, known for its classic Roman cooking.

I love the food in all 20 regions of Italy, but as I have often said, if I were a rich man I would live in Rome.  One of the main reasons is the food.

Williamsburg seems like a big trip across the river, but in reality, it took us less than a half hour to get to Antica Pesa from our Manhattan apartment.  When we entered Lorenzo Panella, the general manager, greeted us.  Since it was a cold night, he graciously seated us in front of the fireplace until our other guests arrived

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Fried Calamari

At the table, we ordered the tasting menu.  The highlights included perfectly fried calamari, marinated skate with sauteed escarole, linguine cacio and pepe, schiaffoni all’ amatriciana (a pasta resembling rigatoni, though I would have preferred it with bucatini) and a very tasty lamb crop.IMG_2807We brought our own wines and the corkage fee here is $25 per bottle.  The beverage director, Gabriele Guidoni, is a true sommelier and before long we were having a discussion about Italian wine.

The WinesIMG_2797
Langhe Bianco Nascetta- Anas- Cetta DOC 2010 Elvio Cogno.
Made from the Nascetta grape (autochthonous Novello Bianco). This grape is of Mediterranean origin and might have originated in Sardinia. Cogno first produced the wine in 1994 and there are records of it going back to the 19th Century.  He is one of the few that make it now.  The Nascetta vineyards are at 350 meters and the 4,000 vines per hectare are vertical trellised with Guyot pruning. Harvesting is at the end of September. The wine is vinified in 70% stainless steel and 30% in barriques. It is aged 6 months in stainless steel and 6 months in barriques and is 180 days on the lees. After 3 months of bottle age it is released.
I visited this winery a few years ago and Valter Fissore,  Elvio Cogno’s son-in law and the wine maker, said that it has a mineral character but when it ages, it resembles Riesling! It is a very elegant wine with good fruit, a long finish and great aftertaste.IMG_2803

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 100% DOC 2005, Edoardo Valentini.  The winery is organic and biodynamic. This is a very complex and full bodied wine with a mineral character, hints of citrus fruit and apple, good acidity, great finish and aftertaste and an extra something that is difficult to describe.
The wine is aged in large botti of Slavonia oak for 24 months. I do not like to compare types of wine, but if asked what other type of wine this reminded me of, my answer would be a great white burgundy.
In one of her books, Jancis Robinson says that the grape for this wine is not Trebbiano d’Abruzzo but Bombino Bianco. When this question came up when I was at the winery, Edoardo Valentini said that the grape was a special clone of Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo. Both the importer and Edoardo’s son, Francesco say it is Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo.IMG_2804

Rubesco Rosso di Torgiano DOC 1979 Lungarotti 70% Sangiovese and 30% Canaiolo. The soil is clay and sand of medium depth with limestone subsoil. There are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in September/October. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with 18 days maceration on the skins. It is aged for 12 months in oak casks and lightly filtered before bottling. This is a wine with red fruit aromas and flavors, hints of black cherry and a touch of leather and spice with a very pleasant finish and aftertaste, Note: this was NOT the Vigna Monticchio but the regular Rubesco which made it even more impressive!IMG_2805

Barbaresco Campo Cros Martinenga 1982, 100 % Nebbiolo Tenuta Cisa Aisnari dei Marchesi di Gresey.
In his book the Italy’s Noble Red Wines Wasserman describes the wine as: “Tobacco and cherries on aroma; full of flavor, extremely well balanced; long finish the best Martinegna to date.” This is his note from 1985; I tasted the wine with him a few years later and was very impressed. 30 years later his description still stands and  the wine is at its peak. Wasserman also says that the 1982 was almost perfect and gives the vintage four stars, his highest rating. He gives the wine three stars with a possible four. After drinking it with dinner I give it the extra star, too.IMG_2806

Amarone 1961 Bertani 70% Corvina Veronese, 30% Rondinella-this is the present blend.
Carefully selected grape bunches are hand-harvested in Bertani’s best Valpolicella vineyards in Fumane, Marano and the Novare Valley. Vines are cultivated using the “spalliera” method while pruning is done using the Guyot  method with 5.000 vines/ha.
Unlike most leading Amarone producers, who buy grapes from outside growers, Bertani’s harvest originates entirely in the firm’s own vineyards. With marly-calcareous soil sheltered by surrounding woodland, these vineyards offer the ideal terroir for Amarone.
Harvest begins in early October and extends over a two-week period. After harvest, ripe, unblemished grapes from the uppermost portions of each cluster — those grapes richest in sugar and extracts — are painstakingly detached and laid out to dry on cane mats. The mats are stored on raised platforms in airy lofts, sheltered by a roof but otherwise exposed to drying breezes on all sides. By the time they are ready to undergo maceration and fermentation in February, they will have lost up to 60% of their water content (appassimento). A lengthy maceration period ensues, a factor responsible for Amarone’s tremendous body and structure. After a controlled fermentation, the wine is transferred into oak casks for a period of 5-8 years (the 1961, I believe, spent a longer time in wood) during which it was racked twice annually prior to bottling.
Dry, full-bodied, and amply structured with hints of cherries, red berries and spice.  The wine was showing its age. 1961 was a very good vintage for Amarone.

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Filed under Amarone, Antica Pesa Restaurant. Brooklyn, Bertani, Elvio Cogno, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Lungarotti, Marchesi di Gresey, Mrchesi di resey, Nascetta, Rubesco, Umbria, Valentini, Valter Fissore

Amarone: the Gentle Giant Awakens

Last year I wrote about a tasting I attended called “The Amarone Families and the 2001 Vintage.”  The Amarone Families are a group of 12 wineries, all family-owned, that have joined together to promote Amarone in the international market.  For more on the Amarone Families and Amarone, go to:
http://charlesscicolone.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/amarone-2011-006.jpg
The families’ tasting this year was called “Amarone:  the Gentle Giant Awakens.”  The spokesperson was Sandro Boscaini, owner of the Masi Winery, who I know and respect both as a producer and for his knowledge of Amarone.  Sandro made a few opening remarks about the “Families” and Amarone in general and went on to discuss how Amarone is produced.

Amarone Families

He said that the weather during the drying of the grapes (appassimento) is just as important as the weather during the vintage.  The colder the weather, the better it is for drying the grapes. The grapes used for Amarone are thick skinned and can take a long drying period. This longer winter drying makes the resulting wine more concentrated. Only after the drying period takes place do they know if the juice is good enough to be made into Amarone.  Amarone is only made in the best vintages. Most of the producers try to avoid the formation of botrytis on the skins of the grapes. Of the 12 producers, only Sandro said that 2% of his grapes had Botrytis.  He did say however that he felt a touch of Botrytis might be present in the grapes, especially the Corvina, which may not be detected.
This was a very interesting seminar because it covered vintages between 2007 and 1988.

The Wines
Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico “Vignetto Monte Sant’Urbano D.O.C. 1988 Speri made from 65% Corvina Veronese, 25% Rondinella, 5% Corvinone, 5% Molinara and other indigenous varities. The vines are 19 years old and the vineyards are at 280-350 meters. Manual selection of the best bunches the first week of October. The grapes were dried for 120 days on racks in the fruit drying rooms of the Monte Sant’Urbano estate where there are ideal conditions of temperature, humidity and ventilation. The grapes lost 40% of their initial weight and pressing took place at the end of January 1989. Fermentation took place in large oak barrels. There was no signs of Botrytis. The wine was aged in 50hl Slavonia oak barrels for 4 years, 10% new, and refined in the bottle.  Weather conditions were very good and1988 is considered an excellent vintage. It is a full, complex wine that still has aromas of ripe fruit with hints of cherries, dries figs and a touch of hazelnut. The retail price is $300 and there are about 60 bottles left.Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico “Mazzano” D.O.C. 1990 Masi made from 75% Corvina, 20% Rondinella and 5% Molinara.  About 2% of the Corvina was affected by Botrytis. Average age of the vines is 24 years and the vineyards are at 305/415 meters.  In the beginning of October the best clusters from the hillside vineyards are selected and laid in wooden boxes or on bamboo racks in large rooms in an old farmhouse in the hills until the middle of January. There are large openings and windows to allow the free flow of air that is vital to the drying process.  Sandro Boscaini said that the grapes lose 35/40% of their weight and have enhanced flavor as well as a high concentration of sugar. The grapes were affected by botrytis. He said it was an outstanding vintage for Amarone. This is an elegant wine, balanced with dry fruit aromas of prunes and figs and a touch of leather. $300Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico D.O.C. 1995 Allegrini made from 75% Corvina Veronese, 20% Rondinella and 5% Molinara. The vines are 24 years old and at 250 meters. Hand harvested the second week of October. The ground was dry and there was no rain, so there was no risk of mold of any kind. The grapes were dried naturally on bamboo/straw-lined racks in the drying lofts for 3 months losing about 45% of their original weight.  Pressing took place on January 10.  The wine was fermented and aged in Vosges and Cher oak casks of different sizes for 36 months. Aging in the bottle for 18 months followed blending. This is a highly structured complex and well-balanced wine that will last for a number of years. Not for sale by the winery.Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico D.O.C. 1997 Tommasi made from 50% Corvina, 15% Corvinone, 30% Rondinella and 5% Molinara. The vines are 40 years old and are at 220-260 meters. Selection of the grapes to be dried took place on September 18/October 7. After 5 months of drying with total control of the humidity, pressing took place on February 7.  Fermentation was in stainless steel tanks for 30 days.  Aging was in Slavonian oak barrels of 35hl for 36 months.  This is a concentrated wine, elegant and smooth, with long aging potential. $150 if it was available.

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico ‘Capitel Monte OLMI 2003 D.O.C. Tedeschi Made from 30% Corvina, 30% Corvinone 30% Rondinella, 5% Osteleta and 5% other local grapes. The vines are 30 years old and are at 150/200 meters and the harvest was by hand starting on September 3, 2003. Drying takes place in a fruit drying facility where the temperature is controlled (cold temperature process) as well as the ventilation and humidity The grapes are dried for 90 days and lose about 40% of their weight.  This increases the sugar content and changes the extract and flavor. Pressing of the grapes began on December 1, with a roller /crusher.  The grapes were not destemmed. Fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel with the tanks with periodic pumping over.  Fermentation and maceration lasts for about 45 days. The wine is aged in 25hl four year old Slavonian oak barrels for about two years. The wine was filtered and remained in the bottle for 8 months before release. While 2003 was not expected to be a great vintage Sabrina Tedeschi said that for them it turned out to be an excellent vintage and she expected the wine to have a long life. This is a balanced, complex wine with jammy fruit and hints of chocolate, pepper and a touch of balsamic. The current vintage of this wine is $75

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva “Sergio Zenato”  Zenato 1998 D.O.C. made from 80% Corvina, 10% Rondinella, 5% Sangivese and 5% Molinara. The age of the vines is 20 years and the vineyards are at 300 meters. The grapes are picked by hand and left to dry in the fruttaio (drying room) for 3 to 4 months in small trays with only one layer of grapes, well spaced to allow for good air circulation. The grapes are pressed in December/January.
Fermentation and skin contact is for 15/20 days and then the wine is aged in big Slavonian oak barrels for 48 months. The wine is aged in bottle for one year before release. The wine has aromas of dried ripe fruit with hints of liquorice and spice. The wine is drinking very well now but could last for a number of years.

One of my favorite wines to pair with the turkey and everything that goes with it is Amarone. The Amarone Families” make Amarone at different price points so you could find one for about $40. A wine not as big but with some of the same tastes as Amarone is the Valpolicella Ripasso which is less expensive and would also go well with the turkey

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MICHELE AND I WILL BE DOING A REGULAR FOOD AND WINE SEGMENT ON WNYC-TV CHANNEL 25 STARTING THIS SATURDAY AT 11:00 PM AND REPEATED ON SUNDAY AT 1:00 PM FOR i.ITALY| NY.  THE SHOW DEALS WITH EVERYTHING ITALIAN IN THE NYC AREA

 

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Filed under Allegrini, Amarone, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Masi, Speri, Tedeschi, Tommasi, Zenato

The Legends of Italian Wine

Istituto del Vino di Qualitá /grandi marchi (The Institute of Fine Italian Wines/Premium Brands) is a group of 19 of Italy’s top wine producers that have joined together on marketing activities to improve both the image of Italian wine and to promote the member wineries. The members include Alois Lageder, Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari, Tenute Antinori, Argiolas, Biondi Santi Tenuta Greppo, Ca’ del Bosco, Carpenè Malvolti, Donnafugata, Gaja, Jermann, Lungarotti, Masi, Mastroberardino, Michele Chiarlo, Pio Cesare, Rivera, Tasca d’Almerita, Tenuta San Guido and Umani Ronchi. The President is the Marchese Piero Antinori.
All of the producers are older well-established wineries that are family owned. It is very unusual to get Italians to agree on anything so to have so many producers from different regions cooperate like this is even more unusual.

Their first event in NYC, “The Legends of Italian Wine,” was held at the New York Public Library on Fifth Ave.  17 of the 19 producers were  at the event (only Gaja and Tenuta San Guido were missing) and there were wines from ten of the Italian regions.

As I tasted the wines, I felt that there was a movement away from the over extracted oaky wines of the past few years. Even those producers that make wines of this type spoke about terroir and using less new oak. There were only two wines that were a little too international in style for me, but they were not over the top.

Listed below are six wines, which I felt were particularly interesting:

Pinot Grigio “Porer” Alto Adige DOC 2011 Alois Lageder 100% Pinot Grigio. (Alto Adige) Fermentation and aging on the lees in stainless steel tanks and the wine is matured in stainless steel tanks and large oak casks. Clemens Lageder, representing the winery, said that the vineyard faces east and gets the morning sun. He feels that because of this the resulting wine has a touch of smoke and good acidity. This is an elegant Pinot Grigio with a lot of body.  It is soft and creamy with a long finish and nice aftertaste. $25

IL Falcone Castello Del Monte Riserva DOC 2006 Rivera Made from 70% Nero di Troia and 30% Montepulciano. (Puglia).   The harvest is in the middle of October, with the older vineyard of Nero di Troia sometimes picked the first week of November. Maceration and color extraction are carried out in stainless steel tanks for 12/14 days with frequent pump-overs and delestage.  Sebastiano Decorato, the sales director and a member of the family that owns the winery said that this is done to obtain better extraction and soften the tannins. The wine is aged for 12/14 months in 225-liter French oak barriques of various ages. The wine is filtered but not cold stabilized and released after one year of bottle aging. This is a wine that should get more attention. I have been drinking it for a number of years and it never disappoints. $30

Taurasi “Radici” DOCG 2006 100% Aglianico Mastroberardino SPA. (Campania) Piero Mastroberardino said that the vineyards were on two hills, Mirabella vineyard at 500 meters and the Montemarano vineyard at 550 meters. Because of its position on the hill and its altitude the temperature at the Montemarano vineyard was much colder and the grapes are picked a little later. Harvest in from the end of October into the beginning of November. The vinification is the classic one for red wine, long maceration with skin contact at controlled temperatures. The wine is aged for 24 months in French barriques and Slovenian oak barrels and remains in the bottle for 24 months before release. Piero made a point of telling me that the barriques were second and third passage. This is full, complex wine with hints of black cherry, plum, spice and a touch of leather.

There was a dinner the night of the tasting and I was sat with Piero. He said that a few people said that his wine should be more concentrated. I could not believe this!.  This is a great wine, a unique wine the can last for 40 years or more. I have the 1989 1995,1997 and 1999 vintages of this wine. Piero said, to my relief, that he would not change anything. $65  

RubescoVigna Monticchio” Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG 2006 Cantina Giorgio Lungarotti SRL (Umbria) 70% Sangiovese and 30% Canaiolo. The Monticchio vineyard is the Brufa hill is near the town of Torgiano. Giorgio Lungarotti said that this vineyard is at 300 meters and the soil is mostly clay. He feels that this is a unique vineyard, which gives the wine its unique character. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with 15/20 days of maceration on the skins. Aging is in oak barriques and barrels for about 12 months and following a light filtering it remains in the bottle for four years before it is released. This is an elegant wine with red fruit flavors and aromas with hints of cherry, tobacco and spice. The 2006 is the current vintage.  I have been drinking this wine since 1981 when I first visited the winery in Torgiano and drank the 1973 vintage. The wine was granted its own DOCG in 1990. The Rubesco Riserva is a wine that can age for 30 years. $55

Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Greppo DOCG 2007 Franco Biondi Santi. (Tuscany) 100% Sangiovese Grosso-BBS11 clone. The BBS11 is a very special clone that goes back to the beginning of Brunello.  Bondi Santi is the only producer that has it.  Alcoholic fermentation takes place in concrete vats. The wine is aged for 3 years in Slovenian oak barrels and released into the market after five years from the harvest. This is a legendary wine that can last for over 100 years. They still have the 1888 and 1891 at the winery and they are still in good condition. $150

Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Riserva  “Di Costasera” DOCC 2007 Masi Agricola SPA (Veneto) made from 70% Corvina, 15% Rondinella, 10% Oseleta and 5% Molinara. The hillside vineyards face southwest. At the end of September/beginning of October the best bunches are picked and laid out in on traditional bamboo racks (arele) in special lifts where the natural drying process (appassimento) is controlled by the NASA system. By the middle of September the grapes have lost about 40% of their weight and have a great concentration of sugar. Only the Corvina grape is subject to slight touch of botrytis (noble rot). The Oseleta grape gives greater tannic structure and deeper color to the wine after drying. The grapes are gently pressed after partial destalking and are fermented for 45 days in large Slovenian oak barrels or in stainless steel vats at cellar temperature. The malolactic fermentation takes place in 38/40-hectoliter barrels for 35 days induced by the inoculation of selected yeasts highly resistant to alcohol. The wine is aged in 600 liter Slovenian and Allier oak casks-1/3 new, 1/3-second passage and 1/3 third passage. The wine is aged in bottle for six months before release. This is a big full wine, with aromas of ripe fruit, jam and a hint of balsamic. On the palate it is smooth and rich with a long finish and great aftertaste. $85

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Filed under Alto Adige, Amarone, Biondi Santi, Brunello, IL Falcone, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Lageder, Legends of Italian Wine, Lungarotti, Masi, Mastroberardino, Pinot Grigio, Rivera, Taurasi