Category Archives: Veneto

On Amarone, Bardolino, Valpolicella & Colli Euganei

Master Class on the red wines of the Veneto conducted by Kerin O’Keef

Kerin O’Keefe

As with the Master Class on white wines that I wrote about last week,    Kerin felt that these reds were examples of the diversity of wines made by the member wineries of Vignaioli Veneti and in the Veneto in general. The wines were divided into two flights.

1st Fligh

La Fraghe Bardolino 2016 made from Corvina and Rondinella vinified separately. Maceration lasts for 7 to 8 days and coincides with the fermentation period. The cap is managed daily, with a délestage in the morning and a pump over in the evening. Malolactic fermentation usually occurs in the following month. The wine is aged in stainless steel tanks for 3 months.

Brigaldara Valpolicella Superiore “Case Vecie” 2015 made from 40% Corvina, 40% Corvinone, 20% Rondinella. The must is left in contact with the grapes during the whole fermentation process. Pumping over is carried out twice a day and délestage is carried out half way through the fermentation process. The wine is aged in 25HL Slavonian oak for 1 year.
In response to a question about Rondinella, Kerin said that one of the reasons it is used in the blend is because it is resistant to mold.

La Fontanina Valpolicella Valpantena Ripasso Superiore DOC 2015 made from 60% Corvina and 40% Rondinella. Parts of the grapes harvested are immediately pressed while some are placed in wooden boxes for a light drying period of 15 to 20 days. Key lots of grapes are vinified separately for fermentation: partially in stainless steel tanks while the semi-dried grapes go into wooden barrels. The wine is aged for 10 to 12 months in tank and 5 to 6 months in bottle before release.

Ottella Valpolicella Ripasso “Ripa Della Volta” 2014 made from 70% Corvina, 20% Corvinone, and 10% Oseleta, Spigamonte, Corvina and Turchetta. Fermentation in temperature controlled steel vats and the “wine” is passed over the Amarone marc for about 10 days. The wine is aged in 25 HL Slavonian oak barrels and French barriques for about 2 years. Michele Montresor, President of Vignaioli Veneti, owns this winery. 

Monte del Fra Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG “ Lena di Mezzo” 2013 made from 80% Corvina and 20% Rondinella. The grapes are picked just after they start to dry on the vine. The grapes are then dried for 90 to 120/130 days until the sugar in the grapes reaches at least 28% to 30%. Gentle crushing and destemming of the grapes, depending on the vintage, between the end of January and late February. Fermentation is in small, temperature-controlled truncated cone-shaped stainless steel vats and is started by indigenous yeasts. The fermentation is a slow one, with long maceration on the skins.

Pergola Trentina

Kerin pointed out that most producers kept the old training system, the pergola (pergola Trentina, pergola Veronese and Pergoletta, which protect the grapes from getting too much sun and has a high yield) and for new plantings used the guyot training system. A few producers still use the pergola system for all their vines. Using both systems protect the final product if the weather is too cool or too hot.

2nd Flight
Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2013 made from 45% Corvina Veronese 45% Corvinone, 5% Riondinella and 5% Oseleta. Grapes are hand harvested in September. The grapes are naturally dried for 3 to 4 months in the drying facility. The grapes lose 40% to 50% of their original weight. Destemming and soft pressing takes place in January and fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks at 46 to 72 degrees F. Fermentation lasts for 25 days with periodic pumping over. The wine is aged in oak for 18 months, and then blended together for 7 months.

Nicolis Amarone della Valpolicella DOC Classico 2011 made from 65% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, 5% Molinara and 10% Croatina. The grapes are placed in special dry, well-aired rooms, to dry naturally, then the semi-dried grapes are softly pressed. Due to the low temperature, the fermentation process is long and slow. Maceration takes over a month. The wine is then aged in medium sized Slavonian oak casks, where it continues to ferment and where it remains for about 30 months. At least 8 months in bottle before release. Kerin said that 2011 was a very hot vintage but this wine is very well balanced.

Kerin pointed out that even though Molinara is longer mandatory in the blend it is still used by some producers.

Secondo Marco Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2011 made from 45% Corvina, 45% Corvinone and 10% Rondinella. The training method is Pergoletta. There is a long natural drying process for around 120 days and the weight loss is 50%. Prolonged pre-and post-fermentation maceration, indigenous yeast, malolactic fermentation and fining in concrete vats. Then long aging in wood and long maturation in bottle before release.

These last two wines were a pleasant surprise for the journalists and many of them said that they reminded them of old style Bordeaux.

Le Volpe Colli Euganei Rosso 24 Mesi DOC “Le Volpe” 2011 made from 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc. After traditional fermentation, the wine is aged in French oak barrels and casks.
Vignalta Colli Euganei Rosso DOC “Gemola” 2011 made from 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc. There is 20 days of fermentation and maceration in stainless steel tanks. Pumping over 4 times a day at a controlled temperature of 27/28 degrees C. The wine is aged in new French oak barrels for at least 12 months.

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Filed under Allegrini, Amarone, Colli Euganei Rosso, Valpolicella, Valpolicella Ripasso, Veneto, Vignaioli Veneti

Valpolicella: Microclimate Differences and Lake Garda

After speaking about Valpolicella and differences related to altitude (see, Alberto Brunelli, the oenologist for the  Consorzio Valpolicella, turned to  the subject of  microclimate variations and the influence of Lake Garda. He divided the second group of wines accordingly.

The distance of vineyards from Garda Lake: the further  they are, the maximum summer temperatures are higher and can influence the vines and their expression in wine in many ways. From west (near the lake) to east (far from it), we have this trend:img_1775

 Distance from the lake, along with the vineyards’ sun exposition and altitude influence every single valley’s and vineyard’s temperature.  The daily temperature range affects the polyphenolic and anthocyanin potential in a vintage, as well as the body, the color and the aging of the wine.lake-garder

The Winesimg_1739

Gerardo Cesari Valpolicella DOC Classico 2015 made from 75% Corvina and 25% Rondinella. Harvest is from September 20th to October 15. Traditional fermentation with maceration for 10 days and then malolactic fermentation takes place. The wine remains in stainless steel for at least 4 months and then in bottle for a short time before release. The wine is fresh and fruity with aromas of wild berries.img_1740

Scriani Valpolicella DOC Classico 2015 made from Corvina 60%, Corvinone 20%, 10% Rondinella, 7% Molinara and 3% Oseleta from the La Costa and Ronchiel vineyards in the heart of the Valpolicella Classico zone. The land ranged in altitude between 250 and 400 meters. The soil is composed of a mixture of clay, limestone and basaltic tufa. Harvest is by hand in early October. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with 12 days of maceration on the grape skins at a controlled temperature. The wine in fragrant and fruity with hints of red berries and a touch of sage.img_1741

Santa Sofia Valpolicella DOC 2014 Made from 70% Corvina and Corvinone with 30% Rondinella from vineyards with calcareous soils located in the municipality of San Pietro in Cariano. Maturation is in stainless steel and the wine remains in the bottle for another 3 months before release. The wine has hints of cherries, raspberries with a touch of spice and good acidity.img_1742

San Cassiano Valpolicella DOC 2014 made from 70% Corvina, 15% Molinara and 15% Rondinella. The training system is pergola and there are 3,300 vines per hectare. The grapes are left on the vine to dry for a week. Fermentation is in stainless steel vats, without the addition of yeast. The wine is aged in stainless steel vats for 12 months. They include 15% Molinara, a varietal abandoned by many producers, but they feel it gives the wine a salty taste with spicy notes. The wine has hits of red fruit and cherries.img_1743

Fattori Valpolicella DOC 2015 “Col de la Bastia” Made from 65% Corvina, 15% Corvinone, 10% Rondinella and 10% other varieties. 12 hectares located in Bastia, exactly on the valley between the Val d’Alpone and the Val d’lllai. The shaley clay-subalkaline land is formed in a broad plateau with slight slopes, produced by the alteration of limestone formations. The altitude is 450 meters. There are 5200 vines per hectare and the vines are between 20 to 35 years old. Harvest is by hand the last two weeks of September. Fermentation and maturation is in stainless steel and wooden barrels. The wine had fruity aromas and flavors with hints of cherries and other red fruits.

Next time vintages differences: The 2014 and 2015 and conclusions.




Filed under Cesari Valpolicella, Fattori Valpolicella, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Lake Garda, San Cassiano Valpolicella, Santa Sofia Valpolicella, Scriani Valpolicella, Uncategorized, Valpolicella, Veneto

First Look at a New Import!

Tasting wines from a producer that I do not know is always very interesting.  Two brothers own the winery and it bears their name:  Società Agricola Marco & Nicolass Barollo.


Marco Barollo

Located in the Veneto near the town of Treviso, it was purchased by the brothers in 2001. There are 45 hectares of vines and they produce 300,000 bottles annually. These wines will not be imported in the U.S until January, so this is a first review of a new winery that has joined the Grapes on the Go fine wine portfolio for 2014.

I was invited to a tasting and lunch at SD 26 in NYC by Gary Grunner, president of Grapes on the Go.  Representing the winery was Marco Barollo, an owner and the export manager.

The WinesIMG_4269

Prosecco Brut DOC Treviso NV 100% Glera. The soil is medium-grained, limestone and clay, the training is by the sylvoz system (horizontal shoot from which fruit branches curve downward) and there are 2,700 vines per hectare. Harvesting of the grapes takes place the last week in September. The Charmat method is used, consisting of a natural fermentation in bulb-tanks for 90 days. Aging is 3 to 4 months. Marco said that the Charmat method produces smaller longer-lasting bubbles. The wine is kept at a low temperature and they only use as much as they need so the Prosecco is always fresh and is bottled all year round.

Marco said that it could have been labeled Extra Dry because the residual sugar falls exactly between the two classifications (12 grams). This is an elegant Prosecco, with small bubbles, citrus aromas and flavors, hints of apple and white peach and good acidity. The bottle is wrapped in yellow cellophane, which makes for a sophisticated presentation.  $16IMG_4267

Pinot Bianco 2012 IGT Venezie 100% Pinot Bianco. The training system is spurred cordon and there are 3,000 vines per hectare. Harvesting of the grapes is by hand in early September. Soft pressing of the grapes is followed by a settling, traditional fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. There is daily batonnage. Marco said that the wine remains on the lees for 6 months and 6 more months in bottle before release. Wines made in Italy from the Pinot Bianco grape have not gotten the attention they deserve in this country. They are excellent white wines and are very reasonably priced. This one is crisp and dry with citrus fruit aromas and flavors, a hint of apple, a floral characteristic and very good acidity that makes it an excellent wine with food.   $16IMG_4268

Frater 2012 Doc Piave 100% Merlot The training is low-spurred cordon with 3,570 vines per hectare. Temperature controlled fermentation and maceration lasts for 12 days. Daily pumpovers, devatting and malolactic fermentation take place. The wine is aged for 3 months in bottle before release. Marco said that this wine showed the true character of Merlot from the Veneto. This is a medium bodied soft and velvety wine that has the aromas of the grape that it is made from. There is good fruit with hints of cherry, currants and a touch of blueberry. I was very impressed with this wine and it just kept on getting better and better in the glass.  $16IMG_4266

Frank IGT Veneto 2010 100% Cabernet Franc. The training system is spurred cordon and there are 5,100 vines per hectare. Harvest is by hand at the end of September. Temperature controlled fermentation and maceration, followed by devatting and malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged in Allier barriques 50% new and 50% one year old and 6 months in bottle before release. Marco pointed out that the wine did not have any of those ‘green’ flavors and aromas often found in Cabernet Franc from Italy. The wine has hints of vanilla, raspberry and cassis with a touch of pepper, it is international in style but not over the top.  $18

I believe that all of these wines are an excellent value for the money!

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Filed under Italian Red Wine, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Prosecco, Societa Agricola Marco&Nicolass Barollo, Veneto

Franco Bernabei and the Wines of Sartori di Verona

Franco Bernabei is one of Italy’s top enologists.  Recently, he was in New York to speak about the wines of Sartori di Verona at SD26, one of my favorite Italian restaurants.  I have always admired Franco’s work and his honesty. Many years ago I asked him a question about the wines of Piedmont and his answer was “I do not know because I do not consult for any wineries there.”

Andrea Sartori, President, Sartori di Verona, introduced his wines and told us the history of his families’ involvement in wine dating back to 1898.  He said that in 2002 they owned only 37 acres of vineyards.  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.   Mr. Sartori 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.

Franco Bernabei

As all of this was happening Mr. Sartori recruited Franco Bernabei as the consulting enologist.  That was almost ten years ago. Franco lives in Tuscany but was born in the Veneto.  He has a small consulting company which he runs with his sons. Andrea pointed out that Franco is a hands on consultant and is more than willing to share information.

The Wines

Bianco Veronese “Ferdi” 2009 IGT made from100% Garganega. There is a careful selection of handpicked grapes from different vineyards that are partially dried in small boxes for 30- 40 days (appassimento) in order to reduce water and concentrate sugar content and color. Franco said that there is 3 grams of sugar per litter in the wine but this was balanced by the acidity. There is a light cold soaking. The pressing of the grapes is followed by a short skin maceration at a low temperature.

Part of the must is fermented in 500-liter oak tonneaux but the oak is not new. The remainder is aged in stainless steel. The wine is then left to mature on its lees for 6/7 months. Franco said that this adds mouth feel and intensity. The wine is aged in bottle for at least 3 months before release. The wine has subtle floral notes with hints of pears and apricots and good acidity.  $14

On the subject of new oak, Franco said that it was too aggressive and masks the flavor of the grape. He feels you must taste the skins of the grape in the wine, like chewing on the grape, and the acidity and tannins must be there. When you drink a wine there should a sense of place, where the wine comes from, the climate, the soil and the grape.

Rosso Veronese “Regolo” 2007 IGT. 100% Corvina. There is a careful selection of grapes from the vineyards in the hilly area of Valpolicella north of Verona. A gentle pressing of the grapes is followed by skin maceration at low temperatures between 15/18 days. In February following the harvest the wine goes through the ripasso process, resting on the lees of Amarone. Franco said that only a small percentage of the wine undergoes the rispasso process and added that none of the grapes are dried; he did not want to make a “baby” Amarone. After malolactic fermentation the wine is aged for 18/24months in barriques and medium to large oak casks and remains in the bottle for a minimum 6 months before release. This is a wine with red berry aromas and flavors, good structure, hints of cherry and good acidity.  The wine is named for Regolo, patriarch of the Sartori family and cofounder of the company. $19

Again Franco made the point that the barriques used are all second and third passage. He also repeated that the wine must taste like the skins of the grapes, a point that he stressed a number of times. If the wood is new you will also lose the minerality in the wine. The bottom line to all of this is that if there is too much wood all the wine begins to taste the same.

Franco said that 2007 was a great vintage in the Verona area.

Amarone Della Valpolicella 2008 DOC, made from 50% Corvina Veronese, 30% Corvinone, 15% Rondinella and 5% Cabernet. Franco said that this is the only wine that has an international grape. The 5% of Cabernet Sauvignon is reduced to 2 or 3% after the drying takes place. The grapes are dried on racks for 100 days to concentrate their sugar content.  Franco said that they do not dry their grapes in temperature-controlled warehouses but just use fans because of the humidity. There is great attention to detail and the grapes are checked every day to see that they are in perfect condition. After the drying the grapes are cold soaked to regenerate the skins like a sponge. Traditional pressing and fermentation are followed by a minimum of 3 years of aging in Slavonian oak. Franco does not want the Amarone to go over 15% alcohol. The wine has aromas and flavors of dried fruits raisins, cherry with a hint of spice in the finish. $40

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 momths. 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 $52

Franco also said that he did not want to make jammy Amorone that tasted like dessert wine and did not go with food. All of the red wines had a good balance between fruit and acidity. He feels that all of these wines are food wines. This wine was the perfect match for the Amarone braised beef cheeks with caramelized onion & polenta taragna that we enjoyed for lunch.

Amarone Della Valpolicella “Corte Brà” 1995 $NA. This wine was made before Franco Bernabei became the consulting enologist. The wine was still drinking but was showing too much age for an Amarone that was less than 20 years old.


Filed under Amarone, Franco Bernabei, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Sartori di Verona, Veneto