A trip in Durello wine producing area

Among Verona wines, Durello is the most neglected one. It is not easy living when your “elder brothers” are wines like Amarone, Soave or Lugana, and even Bardolino and Bianco di Custoza are, each for different reason, better known products.

The name Durello comes from the name of the grape varietal Durella, a difficult word to translate that means something like “little hard one”. The name refers not only to the thick, hard skin of the grape, but also to the acidic, sharp palate of the wine made with Durella grapes, that in some cases makes it almost hard to drink. Definitely not an easy wine.

The Durello DOC wine producing area is shared by two provinces: Verona and Vicenza. On the west side it borders with Soave DOC wine producing area. On the east side it shares part of its territory with Gambellara DOC wine producing area.

Durello cecchin vineyard
Mr Cecchin shows the members of the Italian Sommelier association (AIS) his vineyard in Durello wine producing area.

This time, together with the Italian Sommelier Association (AIS) we visited two wineries that in the past 30 years worked hard, investing time, energy and money, introducing the best vine growing and wine making techniques, focusing on quality, to change the perception and prejudice around Durello wine.

First winery is Casa Cecchin, in Montebello, Vicenza province. The winery is located on the hills north-west of Vicenza from where it is possible to enjoy a breathtaking view above the valley.

Mr Cecchin, an austere engineer, decided to follow his passion for wine together with his daughter and founded the winery in 1978. The nice building is surrounded by a beautiful garden with blossoming lavender and by the 6 hectares (15 acres) of vineyards.

We start from the vineyard where Mr Checchin shows us the very peculiar soil of Durello wine producing areas. The hill stands on a layer of volcanic stone, mainly basalt, few kilometers thick, and spalls of dark, greish, red rock are mixed everywhere in the soil of the vineyard. Of course the soil has a very important role in the brisk mineral savoury of Durello wine.

Durella vine has an incredible power and thanks to the regular rains of this first six months of 2012, the vineyard looks like a “jungle”. Growing system is the “pergola”. A guyot training system would compress to much the vitality of the vine. Mr Cecchin, in order to balance the overgrowth, increased the number of vines per hectar and when needed, intervenes with green harvest. Grapes, with green little berries are already formed while in the neighboring Soave, Garganega vine has just started blooming. Another proof of the vitality of Durella.

In the cellar Mr Cecchin doughter welcome us. She explains how wine making techniques have changed through the years. Nowadays, in order to reduce the tannic component in the wine, bunches are squeezed with a soft pressing and there is no skin contact at all during fermentation. Must is cooled and fermented in order to preserve the perfumes.

tasting durello cecchin
Tasting at Cecchin winery.

We try 4 different wines: Durello 2011, 2010, 2007 and Durello Superiore 2009.

Durello definitely lives up to its reputation, and proves its sharp acidity, especially perceivable in the youngest vintages. The 2007 starts to get rounder, with well mixed perfumes and hints of dry herbs. It is amazing how a 5 years white wine still appears quite young. A wine that you could almost forget in the cellar.

durello second fermentation
A bottle of Durello during the second fermentation in bottle for the production of the sparkling version. Mr Cecchin shows us the yeasts that makes the wine torpid.

Mr Cecchin takes us in the underground cellar, where we find 30.000 bottles lined up in the dark for the re-fermentation of the classic method. Here they rest a minimum of 30 months, sometimes even 40, in contact with selected yeasts. Once in a while bottles are shaked in order to keep yeasts in contact with the wine and enhance the typical aromas of sparkling wines made with this method. For the remouage, Mr Cecchin patented a particular system. An hexagonal cage with which it is possible to turn and shake more than a hundred bottles at once. The movement is absolutely identical to the one done by hand on the more traditional poupitre and the result is also the same: a perfectly clear wine with all the dead yeasts at the bottom of the collar of the bottle.

remouage rack
The special rack invented by Mr Cecchin for the remouage of many bottles in one time.

We go back to the tasting room and try the sparkling wine. And now we understand why the Durello consortium is focusing so much on the production of the sparkling version. Durello with its strong acidity is a perfect base wine for the re-fermentation in bottle that gives it more roundness and smoothness especially if done for a prolonged time.

Fongaro

We leave Casa Cecchin winery and with a small drive we are back in Verona province for the visit to our second destination of today. Fongaro winery.

Matteo Fongaro, the young owner of the winery welcome us in the parking area covered by black gravel made of the typical volcanic stone of Durello wine producing area. He is following the footsteps of his grandfather, 93 years old, still working in the cellar and often “exploited”, as he often complains, by nephews who use his “image” in events and tastings.

Matteo Fongaro, with his energy and passion decided to bet everything on the traditional method (méthode champenoise) for the production of sparkling wines from Durella grape. It is a general trend in the Durello wine producing area, so much that the it has been created a specific appellation, Lessini Durello DOC, that will identify a spumante wine made with Durella grape, without the need to specify that is a sparkling wine. Matteo Fongaro understood very well how the “wild” character of Durella grape can only be “tamed” with a long secondary fermentation in bottle, for some of their labels, up to 36 months and even longer.

sparkling duello bottling machine
The machine used for the final bottling of the sparkling Durello. Bottle necks go into the holes and are freezed with liquid nitrogen so that yeasts can be easily removed.

We visit the bottling room, where all the last steps of the classic method occur: sboccatura (disgorgement), dosaggio (re-filling), corking, cleaning and labelling. We are then taken to the underground ageing cellar, where tens of thousands of bottles are resting in the dark piled up into big dark “walls”. Here riddling (remuage) is done by hand on the classic pupitre (riddling rack).

durello fongaro cellar
The cellar at Fongaro winery where Durello ferment for the second time in bottle.

We end our visit with a tasting. This time we have a very unique chance to taste the base wine that will become Durello Metodo Classico 2011 in a couple of years. The wine is not as acidic as one would expect and it shows already a beautiful structure and character.

We then try the Fongaro Viola (purple), one of their best seller. In the selection of yeasts they decided for varietals that do not cover the characteristics of the wines and in fact there aren’t those distinct bread-crust, butter, etc that you very often find in other sparkling wines made with classic method. The wine is well balanced.

We then try a Fongaro riserva: 100% Durella grapes, 24 months of re-fermentation in bottle.

Third wine is an “experiment” with a re-fermentation of more that 40 months. An extremely elegant and supple wine Dosaggio Zero (pas dosé).

durello food pairing
Pairing Durello with food.

When the wine is drunk alone, the brisk acidity of Durella grape is still perceivable, when the paired with the right food it is perfectly balanced. Matteo Fongaro prepared for us a nice platter of Soppressa Veneta (fat salami with garlic, typical of Vicenza province) and lard with bread. Bubbles and acidity perfectly “clean” the mouth after each bite. The only problem is that in this way you never get tired of eating and drinking…

Durello is still a wine to be discovered and understood and the beautiful landscape of its producing areas, close to beautiful artistic, historical and natural attractions can become an intriguing destinations for those wine connoisseurs who are already familiar with main Italian wines and their wine producing regions and want to experience something new still out of the beaten path. Is like a tourist coming for the first time in Italy. He cannot miss Venice, Florence, Rome. But if he comes for a second time he might be curious to see some out of the beaten path city such as Verona, Bologna, etc. For those who are already familiar with main Italian sparkling wine such as Franciacorta and Trento, Durello, and of course its territory, can be an intriguing alternative.

Amarone Tours can organize wine tours in Durello wine producing area, with visit vineyards, cellar and tasting sessions in wineries. It will be also a chance to deepen the knowledge of local cuisine and enjoy the artistic and historical heritage of the area that offers castles, museums, gorgeous Renaissance villas.

For further information send us a mail at: info@amaronetours.it
or call +39 389 983 5269.

Anteprima Amarone 2008

The inside of Gran Guardia palace where Anteprima Amarone takes place.
The inside of Gran Guardia palace where Anteprima Amarone takes place.

Every year, around January, Verona hosts Anteprima Amarone. It literally means Amarone Preview and is a two days event in which Valpolicella producers present to wine journalists, wine bloggers, sommeliers and other wine experts and lovers, their Amarone of the latest vintage that can be released on the market in the current year.
According to Amarone DOCG wine making regulations, the wine should age in barrels for at least 24 months after the year of harvest. Including the time required for fermentation, sedimentation and bottle resting (around 6 months) this means that in 2012, the youngest Amarone that will be possible to find on the market will be the 2008.

Some producers already have the Amarone properly bottled and ready to be sent to restaurants and wine shops, but others, especially those who are following a traditional wine making, usually present an Amarone that will be ready in 2 or 3 years and that at the moment is still ageing in barrels. In every case, the Amarones tasted at Anteprima will be young and often immature and unbalanced, sometimes with some harshness and still biting tannins or with different components not well combined together. This is the reason why Anteprima Amarone is addressed to wine connoisseurs or at least to people who know this type of wine very well. People attending Anteprima Amarone are required to make the effort to imagine how the wine they are tasting will evolve through the years, if it has a good potential to become a great Amarone in the next future. Someone attending this event with the usual wine tasting approach, thinking that he will try a lot of very enjoyable wines, in many cases could be disappointed by wines that are often not ready to be released.

The buffet with a rich selection of cheese.
The buffet with a rich selection of cheese.

This year, Anteprima Amarone was on January 28th and 29th, with the first day open to wine journalists only. The event was held at Gran Guardia, a beautiful 17th Century palace built for the military academy of Verona. The building is in the very center of Verona, in piazza Bra, the square where the Arena, Verona Roman amphitheater is. A good chance for many to visit Verona beautiful old town after the tasting sessions. On the second floor of the building there was an art exhibition about Verona 18th century painting. People attending the event also had the chance to visit this very interesting exhibition.

Producers who presented their 2008 vintages were 58, both from the Valpolicella Classica (historical Valpolicella) area, with producers from the territories of Sant’Ambrogio, Fumane, Marano, San Pietro in Cariano, Negrar, and from the extended producing area in the eastern valleys of Verona Province: Valpantena, Val d’Illasi, etc.

Next to the tasting area there was a buffet service were it was possible to pair Amarone with some of the greates local products: Soppressa Veneta (garlic salami), prosciuttos of all kinds, cheese like Monte Veronese, Cimbro, Parmesan and other delicacies. This year there was also a dessert corner prepared by the pastry shop of Verona most renown chef: Perbellini (2 Michelin stars).

The event was opened by Emilio Pedron, president of Valpolicella Consortium who expressed his sorrow for the passing of Giuseppe Quintarelli, probably the most renown and prized Amarone maker, on January 15th.

He then stressed how Amarone is being appreciated more and more both on Italian and international market. In the past ten years the production went from 5 million to 12 million bottle per year and the revenue from 160 million euros to 300 million.

The challenge is to keep up to the present quality standards and to fight counterfeiting. Due to Amarone great success, many wineries, not only in other Italian wine producing areas but also abroad, are now copying the appassimento, Amarone unique grape drying process. It is important Pedron said, to properly inform consumers so that they can make aware choices.

Anteprima Amarone is a must for all Amarone lovers and connoisseurs that will have the chance to deepen their knowledge of this incredible wine, finding in one single place wines from so many different producers, from the big world wide famous labels, to small family run wineries, each one with its own wine making style and secrets.

Even if you can attend Anteprima Amarone only upon invitation, Amarone Tours can provide entrance tickets and organize educational and appreciation tours for those who want to have a guide to take there around the exhibition, selecting the most representative wineries and planning the tastings. For further information and details on Anteprima Amarone or on other wine tours in Valpolicella and other Verona wine producing areas please contact: info@amaronetours.it

Earthquake in Valpolicella

The damaged pinnacle on Sant'Amabrogio church.
The damaged pinnacle on Sant’Amabrogio church.

There has been an earthquake yesterday in Verona province. The epicenter was right in Valpolicella Classica wine producing region, between Negrar and San Pietro in Cariano villages. Magnitude was 4.3 on the Richter scale and shakes were clearly perceivable in Verona too. The earthquake was at 1.00 a.m. and many woke up and run outside their houses.

A lot of fright but virtually no damages a part from one of the four pinnacles that decorates the parish church of Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella that fell down.

The church is dedicated to St. Ambrogio that also gives the name to the village on the Western border of Valpolicella Classica, all surrounded by vineyards. Luckily none of the stainless steel tanks where Amarone 2011 is resting, rolled over. None a single bottle either was damaged.

Dried grapes at Bertani

amarone-bertani-racks-2
The last few bunches of dried grapes are taken from the racks

Again, the warm and dry Autumn accelerated the drying period for grapes that had been selected for the production of Amarone.
(Further detailes on Amarone production here>>)

Valpolicella Consortium, the authority that regulates the production of Amarone and other DOC and DOCG wines in the area, authorized wineries to squeeze dried grapes starting from November 15th, long before the 4 months that are usually the minimum requirement. Grapes had already lost more than 40% of their water content and sugars were highly concentrated.

Nevertheless, few wineries preferred to leave grapes on racks even longer. By doing this they can obtain even more concentrated wines and have more aromatic substances in the berries. A recent study by Verona university highlighted how the drying of Corvina, the most important grape varietal in the blend of Valpolicella wines, it is not just a simple dehydration, but triggers bio-chemical activities that enriches the aromatic complexity of resulting wines.

Among these wineries was Bertani, one of the oldest and most traditional cellars in Valpolicella. The last few bunches of Amarone grapes were collected from the drying racks made of river reeds only few days ago.

Empty drying rack.
Empty drying rack.

By now they have been squeezed and the must is now slowly fermenting in stainless fermentation vets.
Due to the exceptionally good weather conditions, Amarone 2011 vintage will be one of the best in recent years. First bottles will be released on the market in 2014 even if, those wineries following traditional method like Bertani, will start selling their wines in 6-7 years.

Every time of the year is good for a wine tour in Valpolicella. In every season you will have the chance to experience a different activity and a different step in the production of Amarone and other Valpolicella wine. Do not hesitate to contact us for further information on Valpolicella tours from Verona or other cities in northern Italy.

2011 Amarone grapes ready

Boxes full of dried grapes for Amrone waiting to be squeezed.
Boxes full of dried grapes for Amrone waiting to be squeezed.

Due to the early harvest caused by the exceptionally hot Summer 2011, and to the also exceptionally warm and dry October, after only two months of drying, Amarone and Recioto grapes are now ready to be squeezed and fermented.

Of course this is not a decision that a winery can take on its own. According to the strict DOCG regulations, it is the Valpolicella Consortium that sets the minimum requirements for any step in the process of Amarone wine making. And this happens also for those parameters that are subject to variations such as harvest, drying, etc. A wine maker then can decide to dry grapes longer, but not shorter.

For 2011 vintage, the Valpolicella Consortium allowed to squeeze grapes for Amarone from November 15th.

Amarone Le Ragose 1986

 

amarone-ragose
Amarone Le Ragose

Found an Amarone “lost” in the cellar and decided to open it. It was made by Le Ragose winery, a small, family run winery on the border between Valpolicella Classica and the extended Valpolicella wine producing area. Vineyards are located on the nice hills on the northern side of Verona with a stunning view over the city.

Found an Amarone “lost” in the cellar and decided to open it. It was made by Le Ragose winery, a small, family run winery on the border between Valpolicella Classica and the extended Valpolicella wine producing area. Vineyards are located on the nice hills on the northern side of Verona with a stunning view over the city.

Amarone it is really and incredibly long ageing wine. In spite of being a 25 years old it was still excellent. The color was maybe a bit lighter than an amarone made today is (many producers have excluded the light colored Molinara grape), with orange highlights and tended to get cloudy fast. These old wines are quite delicate and need to be drunk quickly after opening.

14% of alchol. Amarones made today usually are more alcoholic, and is a general trend in Italian wines also due to climatic changes in the past twenty years that influence sugar content in grapes.

Many Amarones from the ’80s tend to be a bit oaky. Barrique was introduced in those years in Valpolicella and, especially at the beginning, many wine makers overused it. Le Ragose at that time sticked to the old, big, un-toasted casks and the result is definitely a more elegant wine.

The palate is extremely round, with tastes of dried prunes, cherries in alchol, licorice, chocolate, leather, very complex but soft. Tannins are still present but very velvety.

Pizzoccheri
Pizzoccheri

It was paired with pizzoccheri, a typical dish of Valtellina, a mountain region in the northern side of Lombardia region, just above lake Como. It is made with buckweat pasta shaped like broad noodles mixed with cabbage, potatoes, butter browned with garlic and sage, a lot of cheese (the tasty and fatty Casera in the original recipe), grated parmigiano, black pepper.

Even if it is well known that Amarone is a long ageing wine it always surprises how good an Amarone can be after such a long time. In spite of being a 25 years old wine it was still excellent. The color was maybe a bit lighter than a young Amarone (many producers nowadays are not using any longer the light colored Molinara grape), with orange highlights and tended to get cloudy fast. These old wines are quite delicate and need to be drunk quickly after opening.

14% of alcohol. Amarones made today usually are more alcoholic, and is a general trend in Italian wines also due to climatic changes in the past twenty years that increased sugar content in grapes.

Many Amarones from the ’80s tend to be a bit oaky. Barrique was introduced in those years in Valpolicella and, especially at the beginning, many wine makers overused it. Le Ragose at that time were still using old, big, untoasted casks and the result is definitely a more elegant wine.

The palate is extremely round, with tastes of dried prunes, cherries in alchol, licorice, coffee, leather, a very complex but soft set of aromas. Tannins are still present but very velvety.

It was paired with pizzoccheri, a typical dish of Valtellina, a mountain region in the northern side of Lombardia, just above lake Como. It is made with buckweat pasta shaped like broad noodles mixed with cabbage, potatoes, browned butter with garlic and sage, a lot of cheese (the tasty and fatty Casera in the original recipe), grated parmigiano, black pepper.

Definetely a quite structured dish that paired perfectly with this important Amarone that maybe lacked a bit of acidity to counter balance the richness of the abundant cheese and butter.

Interestingly, Valtellina, the region where this recipe comes from, produces the only other dry red wine made with dried grapes like the Amarone. It is called Sfursat della Valtellina.

Le Ragose winery can be visited with Amarone Tours organized wine tasting tours in Valpolicella. Do not hesitate to contact us for any further information and detail.

Soave volcanic wines in the States

 

Vulcania wines logo
Vulcania wines logo

Vinitaly is the famous wine fair held every year in Verona. Vinitaly as an “ambassador” of Italian wines also organizes international events in some of the most important foreign markets such as India, U.S., Russia, Germany, Sweden, China, Japan and Korea in order to promote cooperation and communication between Italian wineries and key players in the wine business.

 

This Autumn Vinitaly U.S. at the Metropolitan Pavillon in New York, with the seminar “Volcanic Italy, an exploration of the explosive white wines of Soave and Etna“, promoted those Italian wines produced with grapes grown on volcanic soils. During the event were compared wines from Etna (Sicily), Campi Flegrei (Naples), and Soave. It was the first time that the concept of volcanic wine in the selection and appreciation of a bottle was presented to a foreign audience.

It is the Soave Producer Consortium that few years ago created “Vulcania“, the international forum of white wines produced on volcanic soils that includes: Etna, Campi Flegrei, Lessini Durello, Gambellara and of course Soave wines.

Amarone Tours organizes private escorted wine tasting tours in Soave area. For further information or to book one of our wine tours do not hesitate to contact us.

Two Amarones among the best wines in the world

Allegrini Amarone
Allegrini Amarone

Two Amarone wines will represent Veneto wines in the U.S.:

Amarone Allegrini and Mazzano Amarone 2003 by Masi winery, got both more than 90 points from the experts of Wine Spectator‘s at the Critic’s Choice Grand Tasting part of the New York Wine Experience event.

In the competition participated 250 producer selected among the best in the world.

Italian wineries were 41, half of which from Tuscany, 6 from the north eastern wine producing regions.

Amarone Tours regularly organizes escorted wine tasting tours in Valpolicella at Allegrini and Masi-Serego Alighieri wineries.

Amarone in Jazz

Amarone in jazz.
Amarone in jazz.

In Italy it is often said that Amarone is a Meditation Wine. Rather than pairing it with food, the best way to appreciate a great Amarone is probably at the end of a meal, slowly sipping it while talking to friends, listening to some good music, or just meditating.

That is why it is not a surprise how Jazz and Amarone is a perfect pairing. Amarone in Jazz Festival is a way to taste the greatest wine of Valpolicella while listening to great Jazz music.

The 2011 Amarone in Jazz, from October 24th until November 1st, will be the 4th edition of this festival that is becoming increasingly popular.

Concerts are held in theaters, restaurants, hotels, wine bars around Valpolicella, Verona and the surrounding areas. During the events it will be possible to taste Amarones of different vintages and producers pairing them with the music.

This year will participate the festival famous international artists: Paolo Fresu, Uri Caine, Martin Taylor, Misha Tsiganof, Myron Walden, Darren Barrett, Yakushi Nakamura, John Davis, Massimo Coppola, X-Press Trio, Diego Amador, Jorge Pardo Mocambo Quintet, Jim Mullen, Raphael Wressing, Lucas Knofler.