Category Archives: Amarone

Amarone Masterclass Hosted by Pierangelo Tommasi

I met Pierangelo Tommasi a few years ago and he told me about how his family’s winery, the Tommasi Family Estates, is a true family affair. They have wineries in several regions of Italy, as well as in other countries. I wrote about our meeting previously: https://charlesscicolone.wordpress.com/2015/04/16/tommasi-la-forza-della-famigila/

Recently, I met Pierangelo again. The occasion was a Master Class on his family’s Amarone.

Pierangelo

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

I have always enjoyed the Tommasi wines and was looking forward to the tasting.

We tasted the Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2012, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2000 and 1995.

All of the grapes for these wines come from the La Groletta and Conca d’Oro Vineyards made from 50% Corvina, 15% Corvinone, 13% Rondinella and 3% Oseleta.

Pierangelo discussed each of the vintages. The harvest for the 2012 began on September 10. The residual sugar is 4.87g/l and the alcohol is 15.48.

He said that this will become a great wine with aging potential and will become more powerful over time.

Molinara is no longer mandated for Amarone but it can be used in the blend if the producer chooses to do so. Tommasi now uses Oseleta (it has intense fruit and spice aromas with good structure) instead of Molinara

2009 Made from 50% Corvina, 20% Corvinone, 25% Rondinella and 5% Molinara. The wine is aged for 3 years in large Slavonian oak barrels. Residual sugar is 8g/l and the alcohol is 15.50

Pierangelo said he liked the 2009 better than the 2008. He feels the 2009 is more complex and more approachable.

2008 made from 50% Corvina, 15% Corvinone, 30% Rondinella and 5% Molinara. The wine is aged for 3 years in large Slavonian oak barrels. Residual sugar 7g/l and alcohol 15.5%. Pierangelo has tasted this wine over the years and said it is a very consistent wine but at this point he is not sure that it will get better with age. He said the in some ways 2008 and 2009 were similar vintages but 2008 had a shorter summer in terms of sunlight not temperature.

2007 made from 50% Corvina 10% Corivnone 30% Rondinella and 10% Molinara. Harvest began on September 10. Residual sugar 7.2g/l and alcohol is 15.5

The wine was aged in large Slavonian oak barrels for 4 years. Pierangelo said that 2007 has not peaked yet and will get better with age.

His suggestion was to buy the 2009 to drink now and also to hold because it will age.

2000 made from 50% Corvina, 15% Corvinone, 30% Rondinella and 5%Molinara. Harvest begins on September 10th. The wine is aged in large Slavonian oak barrels for 3 years. Residual Sugar 7g/l, alcohol 15%

For me this is the wine to buy because it is drinking now but will last for a number of years.

1995 made from 50% Corvina 10% Corvinone 10%, Rondinella 30% and Molinara 10% Harvest began on the 18th of September. The wine was aged is large Slavonian oak barrels for 4 years. Pierangelo said this was a great vintage and the harvest took place under perfect conditions. For me this wine was at it peak but will last for a few more years. I drank it all.

Then we tasted the Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva “Ca’ Florian” Riserva DOCG 2009, 2008, 2007and 2003.

All of the grapes come from the Ca’ Florian vineyard and are all aged for one year in used tonneau (500 liters), 3 years in large Slavonian oak casks and one year in bottle before release.

All of the grapes for the Amarone dry for over 100 days from the harvest. Because the grapes have very thick skins, especially the Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella, they can undergo the long drying process (appassimento).

The Ca’Florian vineyard has always been owned by the Tommasi family and is one of the most historic vineyards. The training system here is the traditional Pergola Veronese.

Pierangelo said that Tommasi makes classic, traditional Amarone. The wines are distinguished by the flavor of cherries. They use traditional large Slavonian oak because they do not release any “flavors” into the wine. Amarone does not need aggressive oak from barriques.

The grapes are picked when they are ripe. He said they do not want late harvest grapes or noble rot and are trying to keep the alcohol under 16%.

There is a larger percentage of Corvina 75% in the Ca’Florin and the Corvinone and Rondinella vary depending on the vintage. All have residual sugar of 4g/l and alcohol of 15.5 for the first 3 wines.

2009 The harvest began on September 12th. Residual sugar 4g/l and alcohol 12.50%.

2008  Harvest began on September 25.

2007 harvest began on September 10.

2003 had 70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella and 5% Molinara The wine is aged in Slavonian oak barrels 35 HL for 30 months and in 6 months on used tonneau

These were more structured wines than the regular Amarone and will need more time. My favorite was the 2007.

Pierangelo pointed out that 2003 was not a good vintage, it was cold with a lot of rain. It will not last much longer but I found it was drinking very nicely now.

For more detailed information on Tommasi Amarone, please go to https://charlesscicolone.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/visiting-the-tommasi-winery/

 

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Anteprima Amarone Tour: Visiting Villa Crine

Another stop on the Anteprima Amarone tour was the Crine winery, which is located in Pedemonte di San Pietro in Cariano, Verona.img_2415

Villa Crine is an entirely family run winery and visiting the winery is like visiting their home. Giovanni Battista Venturini the owner/wine maker, his wife Maria, their children Giuseppe, who recently graduated with a degree in enology and Diletta, a university student, all take part in the running of the winery.

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Giuseppe

Giuseppe, a very personable young man, speaks English well and gave a tour of the winery. He said that he is the fifth generation and they want to preserve the values and techniques from the past but also keep up with any new innovations that would improve the quality of their wines.

He said that all their vineyards were in the Classico zone and showed us the grapes drying on wood mats in a barn that was open on both sides.

Giuseppe then took us through a tasting of the wines.img_2416

Valpolicella Classico “Il Pigaro” made from 60% Corvina Veronese, 30% Rondinella and 10% Molinara. The Pigaro vineyard has alluvial gravel soil. There is a hand selection of grapes at the end of September/beginning of October. The wine is aged for one year in very old barriques and in bottle before release. This is an intense wine with red fruit aromas and flavors and a hint of black cherries.img_2417

Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore grapes same as above. The grapes are picked at the best stage of ripeness and then they are left to dry for 20 to 30 days in late September and October. Destemming and soft pressing in stainless steel tanks occurs during November. In February re-fermentation occurs on the Amarone pomace and the wine gains fragrances and intensity. The wine is aged in oak barrels for two years. Their wine is bottled and remains in the cellars for one year until release. The wine has hints of cherry, spice with a touch of hazelnuts and cacao.img_2413

Giuseppe said even though the Molinara grape does not have to be included in Amarone any more they use it because it adds acidity to the wine. He said they always used this grape, and as the 5th generation involved in the winery he will keep the traditions.

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Drying the grapes

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2011 Made from 60% Corvina, 15% Corvinone, 20% Rondinella and 5% Molinara. Giuseppe said his grandparents and great-grand parents use to place the grapes for drying in the barns at Villa Crine using the “large table mats” which were traditionally used for the cultivation of silk worms. Today the grapes are placed on the mats or in wooden cases in the special drying room, which is controlled on a daily basis in order to check the temperature, humidity and the well being of the grapes.

Destemming and soft pressing takes place during the months of January and February, depending on the vintage, using rubber rollers. Traditional fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks using techniques which go back to 1893.

The wine is aged in large oak barrels of 10 to 30 HL depending upon the vintage for about one year. It then is bottled and remains in the ancient tuffa cellars, which were excavated at the foot of the mountain, until it is released.

Giuseppe said Amarone can be sold 3 years after the harvest.img_2419

Recioto della Valpolicella same as above for grapes. Giuseppe said the grapes used for Recioto are dried longer because they want sweeter grapes. They press the grapes in February when the sugar lever is high. The juice is removed and the fermentation is controlled by keeping a cold temperature. They need a cold temperature so the yeast remains dormant. The wine remains in stainless steel tanks for one year and 6 months in bottle before release.

This is a one of the best examples of Recioto I have ever tasted. It is very intense and complex with hints of violets, prunes, figs, black cherries and notes of hazelnut. The finish goes on and on and the aftertaste is fantastic.img_2418

They also make a wine from 100% Molinara called “Il Pellerossa.” It looks like a rose wine because the grape has low color extracts. It is produced in a very limited quanity.

In the past there were horses on the property.

We also tasted their olive oil which was very good

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Filed under Amarone, Anteprima Amarone, Recioto, Ripasso, Uncategorized, Villa Crine

Dinner with Andrea Sartori in Verona

One night, Tom Maresca, who was on the Anteprima Amarone tour in Verona with me, arranged for us to have dinner with Andrea Sartori, President of Sartori di Verona. We met Andrea on the way to Trattoria I Masenini, a restaurant I have never been to before. There were a number of other producers in the restaurant and I believe it is one of the city’s best. Tom and I know Andrea for a long time and I enjoyed our dinner conversation. We spoke about wine, people that we knew in the wine business, and had a very nice time.

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Andrea Sartori

Here is some background on the Sartori di Verona winery

The history of Andrea’s family’s involvement in wine goes back to 1898. As recently as 2002, they owned only 37 acres of vineyards and they purchased additional grapes from individual growers with long-term contracts.  This was not enough, however, since the average vineyard property in the Veneto is just 4.2 acres. Andrea was able to solve this problem by establishing a joint venture with the 800 member Cantina Colognola di Colli.  The Cantina received a small percentage of shares in Sartori, and in exchange Sartori acquired exclusive access to 5,681 acres of vineyards in the Soave and Valpolicella zone. With more mergers and acquisitions, the newly named Collis Veneto Wine Group now has over 3,000 members making it the third largest in Italy.

Andrea brought two wines to have with dinner.img_2517

I Saltari Valpolicella Superiore DOC 2011 made from 60% Corvina, 10% Rondinella 10% Croatina and 10% Corvinone. The vineyards are in the Mezzane Valley on terraces and it is calcareous alkaline soil. Vinification is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. After racking the wine is transferred to various size barrels for malolactic fermentation. For 12 to 14 months, the wine goes through regular racking and topping up of the barrels until blending. The wine has hints of violets and blackberries with a touch of cherry and leather. Both Andrea and I had the img_2519Faraona alla Mantovana, tortellini filled with guinea fowl, pine nuts and raisins. The wine matched it perfectly.img_2523

Amarone Della Valpoicella Classico “Corte Brà” 2006 DOC. 50% Corvina Veronese, 30% Corvinone, 15% Rondinella and 5% Oselta. The grapes come from the Corte Brà vineyard in the hills north of Verona. The grapes for this wine are carefully selected, placed in small crates and dried in well-ventilated rooms with fans for 3 to 4 months. When optimal dryness is reached, a hand selection of the best grapes takes place and the grapes are fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks for about 30 days. The wine is transferred to traditional tanks for malolactic fermentation. It is then aged in Slavonian oak casks and French tonneaux for about 4 years. It remains in the bottle for another 2 years before release. Franco wants to release the wine when he feels it is ready. This is a classic Amarone that will age.img_2521

Roast pork cook with crisp skin around every slice was a great complement to the wine.

Andrea said that he did not want to make jammy Amarone that tasted like dessert wine and did not go with food. Both of the wines we tasted had a good balance between fruit and acidity. He feels that all of his wines are food wines.

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Visiting Bolla on the Anteprima Amarone Tour

It is only fitting that this was the first winery I visited on the Anteprima Amarone Tour was Bolla since Bolla Soave or Valpolicella may have been the first Italian wine I ever drank back in the 1960’s in NYC.

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Christian Zulian in the Cellar

The Bolla winery is located in San Pietro in Cariano in the center of the Valpolicella area. It was established in 1883 making it one of the oldest wineries in the zone. It has been under different ownership over the years and the current owner is Gruppo Italiano VIni. The exclusive partner for the US market is Banfi Vintners.img_2362

The Director of the Cantina, Christian Zulian, took us on a tour of the cellar. There were barrels of every size from barriques to barrels of more than 40hl and everything in between. Some old barrels went back to 1883.

Christian said that he was from Tuscany, had worked for Antinori, and had been at Bolla only a short time. Being an “outsider” he might have a different approach to the wines.

He took us through a tasting of the wines.img_2366

Valpolicella Cl. Sup. Ripasso DOC 2015 Made from 70% Corvina and Corvinone and 70% Rondinella. Vineyards are in the Valpolicella Classico zone located near the village of Jago. The soil is very stony, clay and limestone. Harvesting is by hand toward the end of September and takes place only when the grapes are perfectly ripe. The lots are vinified separately. The grapes undergo a cold pre-fermentation process for about 5 days, total contact with the skins lasts about 20 days. It is stored cold for about 4 months before undergoing the ripasso process. Christian said this process entails fermenting the wine on Amarone must for about 20 days to increase color, aroma, body, complexity and fruit flavors. The wine is aged for about 9 months in first and second passage barriques and then transferred to larger barrels for about 3 months. The wine remains in the bottle for one month before release. This is a modern style ripasso, clean but full with hints of dark fruit and wild berries. Sugar 8.5 g/l

Christian explained in detail the law concerning the production of Ripasso. In short, because of the process for every bottle of Amarone produced, the winery can produce two bottles of Ripasso. img_2365

Valpolicella Cl. Sup. Ripasso 2014 “Le Poiane” DOC made from 70% Corvine and Corvinone, 30% Rondinella and other local varieties. The vineyards are mainly located in the Jago and Crosara areas of the Negrar locality. The limestone-marly hill soil is surrounded by the typical dry stone walls known as marogne. These calcareous stone walls create terraces.

The grapes are picked when they are perfectly ripe. At the end of February when the Amarone is drawn off the ripasso process takes place. The wine is aged first in barriques and then in large barrels for about 12 to18 months. Then in bottle for another 3 months before it is release. This is a complex wine with hints of dry fruit, spice and black pepper. Sugar 4.5 g/limg_2368

Amarone dellla Valpolicella “Rhetico” Classico DOC 2010, 85% Corvina and 15 % Rondinella. The training system is pergola Veronese on the hills of the valley of Negrar. The soil is Calcareous marl marked by the marogne. The most loosely clustered and ripest grape bunches are hand picked and taken to the drying loft where they remain for about 120 days under optimal conditions of temperature, humidity and ventilation. Christian said the drying process, known as appassimento, increases the sugar content, polyphenolic and aromatic compounds in the grapes. At the end of January, the dried grapes are soft pressed and put into fermentation tanks, where alcoholic fermentation takes place after cold pre-fermentation maceration. This gives the wine more complexity. There is a slow fermentation at a controlled temperature 18 to 20C for about 3 weeks.

The wine is aged in barriques of different origin and toastings for 36 months and another 12 months in bottle before release. This is a wine with intense and complex aromas with hints of ripe red berries and a touch of vanilla and chocolate. Residual sugar 7.5 g/limg_2370

Amarone della Valpolicella “Le Origini” Riserva DOCG 2010 made from 75% Corvina and Corvinone, 25% Rondinella. Training system is the Veronese pergola. The vineyards are located in the high Marano and Negrar valleys. Carefully selected grapes gathered on trays and transported to fruit sheds to dry for about 120 days. The grapes become raisin like and this enriches the sugar concentration of the grapes to 24 to 25 degrees Babo and the polyphenol and aromatic compounds. Pressing at the end of January is followed by pre-fermentation maceration at 5C for about 7 days. Then begins a slow fermentation for 25 days at a controlled temperature, followed by another 5 days of post-fermentation maceration, which gives high glycerin, and this gives smoothness, balance fullness and complexity. Christian said the wine is aged in small oak barrels, partly new and partly used once previously, then 36  months in 4,000 to 7,ooo litter, big oak barrels

 

This is a complex wine with hints of cherries, jam and liquorice with notes of spice and cedar.

Sugar 8.5 g/l and the alcohol is 16.6%.

I have had this wine before on several occasions and always enjoyed it. However, if I understood him correctly Christian said he was going to give the wine more aging in barriques made from American oak!

 

I also tasted:

Soave 2015 This was an excellent example of classic Soave.

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Barrel sample of 2016 Valpolicella

Bardolino 2015 light and fruity and a great food wine, as was the Valpolicella 2016 sample from the barrel.

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2012 This is their entry level Amarone and it was very good.

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Anteprima Amarone Valpolicella Tour

After I made reservations for Naples and Rome, I was invited to the Anteprima Amarone Valpolicella Tour in Verona. It would mean I had only one week between trips! img_2513

I decided to attend anyway. Verona is a fascinating city, the food is very good and then there is the wine. I would be able to taste the wines of Valpolicella, visit the wineries and speak to the producers again at the dinners. When one has the opportunity to visit Italy, one goes.

The Consorzio per la Tutela dei Vini Valpolicella, founded in 1924, sponsored the event. The members include viticulturists, winemakers and bottlers from the Valpolicella wine production zone, a territory that includes 19 municipalities in the Verona area. Over 80% of the producers are members.img_2382

I received a listing of over 80 wineries that I could choose from to visit. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I visited 10 Wineries: Bolla, Bertani, Villa Canestrani, Villa Crine, Vigneti di Ettore, Roccolo Grassi, Massimago, Fidora, Cantina di Soave and Marco Mosconi.

The Valpolicella appellation is located north of Verona. It borders Lake Garda to the west and is protected by the Lessini Mountains to the east and north. It covers the Verona foothills area, which is part of the eastern Alps. The vines are traditionally pergola-trained according to the typical “pergola Veronese system.”

The main grapes are Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella and to a lesser extent Molinara. All of them are strictly indigenous and found only within the Verona province.

At the wineries I tasted Valpolicella, Valpolicella Classico, Valpolicella Superiore, Amarone della Valpoilcella and Recioto della Valpolicella.

On Friday night there was a dinner with all the participating wineries. I could choose the wines that I wanted with dinner and had a chance to speak to the producers at my table.img_2407

On Saturday morning there was a blind tasting of the 2013 Amarone with sommelier service. There were about 80 wines, both barrel samples and those already bottled.   After the tasting, representatives of the participating wineries gathered in another room with their wines and I was able to taste any of the Amarone wines that I missed.

It was a very interesting and informative event and I am glad that I went. For me the highlight was tasting a broad range of Amarone, one of Italy’s great wines.

Next time I will report on the wineries I visited.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Another Dinner with Inspector Montalbano

Andrea Camilleri is the author of a series of mysteries featuring Inspector Montalbano. The stories take place  in southeastern Sicily in a town with a made-up name, but it sounds a lot like Agrigento. This is of special interest to me because my father’s family comes from Naro in the Province of Agrigento.

Wine and food writers Diane Darrow and Tom Maresca are also loyal fans of the Inspector Montalbano books, as well as the made-in-Italy television series on the same subject, which is available here on DVD. Like most Sicilians, the fictional Montalbano spends a lot of time thinking, talking about, and of course, eating food. Especially seafood. While in Italy, Diane and Tom Purchased a cookbook, I Segreti della Tavola di Montalbano, The Secrets of Montalbano’s Table, written by Stefania Campo, and recently they invited Michele and I to a dinner at their home featuring some of the recipes. The last time we were invited for a Montalbano-style dinner, Tom paired the courses with Sicilian wines. This time he did not, but his chosen pairings went very well with the food.IMG_8127

Gruet Blanc de Noirs 100% Pinot Noir. This is a sparkling wine (Méthode Champenoise) from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The wine spends a minimum of 24 months on the lees. It is a fruity wine with a creamy texture, hints of strawberries and slightly toasty. At $ 16 a bottle it is a real bargain.IMG_8126

It was well paired with the Sfincione (Sicilian Focaccia) Mentioned in Camilleri’s book, “Excurison to Tindari.”IMG_8133

Piemonte Grignolino DOC 2013 Castello di Neive made ​​from 100% Grignolino. The exposure is east, southeast and the soil is calcareous marl. The average age of the vines is 25 years and the training system Guyot. Manual harvest in small boxes takes place in mid-September. Fermentation lasts for 8/10 days with automatic replacement. Maceration is for 5 days. The wine is aged 3 months is stainless steel and 3 months in bottle before release. This is a fresh fruity wine, with a little more body than most Grignolino. It has hints of cherry and a touch of spice.IMG_8129

This was served with the polipetti di polpo (octopus croquettes) from “The Smell of the Night.” Tom did not want to serve a white wine with this dish but paired it with the Grignolino which was a good choice.IMG_8136

Barolo DOCG 1998 Bartolo Mascarello 100% Nebbiolo This is traditional, classic Barolo at its best. Even though 1998 was not a great year this is a great wine and it will age very nicely for a number of years. This was served with the agnello alla cacciatora (hunters style lamb) from “The Voice of the Violin.”IMG_8140

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG “Campolongo di Torbe “ 1998 Agricola Masi  made from Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. The Campolongo di Torbe vineyard has southwest exposure and is at 375/400 meters. The soil is deep, red eocenic limestone, with good drainage and stones. Wide terraces are supported by natural stone walls called marogne.IMG_8142

Amarone is made ​​by drying  the grapes. Bunches are dried on bamboo racks in farmhouse lofts in the vineyards, with natural ventilation. By mid-February, the grapes weigh 35-40% less; Corvina is the only variety affected by botrytis (noble rot).  After delicate pressing, the dried grapes are partially destalked, fermented in large Slovenian oak barrels (large barrels), at a very cold temperature until the sugar has completely transformed to alcohol, and Malolactic occurs. Most of the wine is aged in 30 to 40 hl Slovenian barrels; a portion is matured in 600 liter Allier and Slovenian oak casks: new and second, third or fourth passage. The wine remains in bottle for a time before release. This is a full-bodied wine with hints of raisins, cherries, fruits preserved in spirits and spice. It has a very long finish.

We finished the lamb with the Amarone and finished the Amarone with cheese.

For more on the food and recipes, see Diane’s blog

https://dianescookbooks.wordpress.com/2015/07/22/dining-montalbano-style-again/

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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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