A light hearted insight into wine with no agenda other than to sniff out wine stories which capture the imagination… follow The Nose…

27/02/2020

Leopardo’s Verdichhio

Leo Felici

“We have a circle of bio-diversity in the vineyard,’ says Leopardo Felici, “the lake, the vines and the forest. The lake, in the middle of the vineyard, cools the vines when it is hot. The forest harbours insects and birds. These help maintain the health of the vineyard. We respect the land where we work.”

A move to organic farming was among the first changes Leopardo made when he took over the family estate Andrea Felici in the Marche. It was founded by his grandfather, but until 2003 the family grew the grapes to sell, only starting to bottle fifteen vintages ago.

Leopardo’s father wisely sent his son away to gain experience. He went to London to work for Gordon Ramsay, perhaps not surprisingly given that food and wine are inseparable in Italy. “My father said ‘to make wine, you must decide on a style you want to make.’ I didn’t believe in Chardonnay. I wanted to make Verdicchio, but not in the traditional way.”

Quick varietal inhale

Verdicchio – derived from verde or green – is the principal white grape variety of the rolling hills of the Marche, where it has been around for a good 600 years. DNA evidence shows it to be part of the Trebbiano family grown throughout Italy, although ampelographers believe it to be indigenous to the Marche. It’s also related to Greco, from which most Italian white grape varieties descend. In Veneto it goes by the name Trebianno de Soave. Long thought to be its closest cousin, DNA evidence has show it to be identical.

Trebbiano is not a variety famed for its quality. It’s a highly acidic grape with little aromatic intensity and easily over crops to make thin, acidic wines of meagre interest. In its Verdicchio guise it is quite able to churn out 100hl/ha. However… in the right hands, in the right place and given yields are controlled, in common with Chardonnay a rather classier neutral variety, it can be a perfect conduit for the terroir.

It is used to make a variety of styles in the Marche, from sparkling wine to sweet passito wine. High acidity is useful at both ends of the spectrum. At a quality conscious estate, it can reach its finest expression as a dry wine with notes of almonds and lemons, but the style can differ depending upon which, of the two DOC zones, the Verdicchio is grown, as each has somewhat different climates and soils.

The Marche nestles against Umbria and is influenced by the Apennine mountains. Verdichhio di Matelica is found on the Western side. It is a valley boarded by mountains to the East and West and its higher elevation makes it the cooler climate and the dense soils produce more mineral wines. While Verdicchio di Jesi lies on the other side of the hills, on flatter land open to the influence of the Adriatic sea 20km away. The coastal clay soils here are underlaid with limestone, a soil created from the seabed. It’s warmer, but benefits from breezes from the Adriatic. Typically the wines are more fruit-driven, but also have a certain salinity. They have not always had the best reputation. Despite the rather impressive sounding DOC Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi – the wine can be anything but… turning out over-copped, lean wines with mean acidity. Verdicchio di Matelica has a better reputation for quality. However, stay with me.

Leopardo Felici - AFelici_estate_view_DSC_4116_sm

“We are in the highest part of Castelli di Jesi on a hill between Apiro and Cupramontana,” explains Leopardo, “where we have some of the influence of the mountains and the Adriatic.” The vines are planted from 200 to a lofty 500m on the foothill slopes of Mount San Vicino. “We have a strong diurnal here and so we have good acidity. The East coast of Italy is colder, than the West, and everything has good acidity here, including the olive oil. The temperature can drop from 25 centigrade in the day to just 5 degrees at night.” That’ll preserve the acidity.

In the vineyard Leopardo trains the Verdicchio on guyot and in his top vineyard, selects the bunches next to the trunk to make his top wine Cantino della Figura. In the colder seasons he breaks the stems of the bunches further from the trunk to concentrate the vine’s energy. The bunches further from the trunk are used for his ‘estate’ Verdicchio Classico Superiore dei Castelli di Jesu. As already remarked, to achieve some body in the wine and balance the high acidity, yields have to be restricted and this is clearly done here.

Leo Felici vineyard

Verdicchio It is typically aged in oak – traditionally large barrels, but also barriques, however Leopardo dislikes oak influence and chose concrete and steel to hone his style. He makes crisp, pure, well delineated mineral wines. He uses some skin contact “from the skin I get some aromatics.’ The wine is fermented in stainless steel and matured in concrete.

The law dictates that 85% Verdicchio is required for both Verdicchio di Matelica and di Jesi, but in practice this is usually 100%, as it is at Felici.

The first wine, an estate wine, is made and aged in stainless steel, while Il Cantino della Figura comes from older, lower vines planted in the 1950s by his grandfather. It is a single vineyard of 1.5 hectares. This wine has some skin contact and is aged for longer on the lees in concrete.

With an absence of new oak to flatter the fruit, there is no where to hide. And no hiding places is needed. These excellent, straight, fresh saline wines are a pure expression of the soil and the meso climate.

Leopardo Felici - AndreaFelici_1

And now for some wine. The first two are the current vintage

2018 Verdicchio Classico Superiore dei Castelli di Jesu

This is a fresh and breezy expression of the appellation and the grape, which here shows a delicious almond and lemon character. There is a hint of just ripe apricot in the aromatics. It has a good bitter note at the end – a light bite.

2017 Verdicchio ‘Vigna’ Il Cantino della Figura, Reserva dei Castelli di Jesi

Firmer structure and tight core showing richer apricot skin character. The finish is straight, persistent and mineral. I would give it some time in bottle to show its full potential. 2022-30

Older vintages

I tasted the following vintages a couple of years ago now, but have included them to illustrate that Verdicchio, in the right hands from the best terroir has the potential to age.

2015 Verdicchio ‘Vigna’ Il Cantino della Figura, Reserva dei Castelli di Jesi

2015 was a sunny and plentiful vintage. Rather floral. This is slightly rich and lightly rounded with notes of apricot and honeysuckle. It is fresh, but with a textural richness and on the finish minerality is silky.

2013 Verdicchio ‘Vigna’ Il Cantino della Figura, Reserva dei Castelli di Jesi

The 2013 bears some relation to the 2010 vintage. Lightly spicy aroma. Plenty of energy on the palate. Pure fruit, neat edges and fresh acidity. It is crisp and pure with focused mineral at the end.

2012 Verdicchio ‘Vigna’ Il Cantino della Figura, Reserva dei Castelli di Jesi

A mid September harvest like 2004. It was a hot season like 2011, but while 2011 had sufficient rain through the summer, 2012 had drought conditions in August and the vines blocked. Hence at harvest the acidity was still high.
Slightly herbal aroma. It is straight with nicely clipped edges, glassy and slightly grassy on the palate with fresh acidity. The finish is bright and lively with a sappy minerality and a touch of dill frond to the flavour.

2011 Verdicchio ‘Vigna’ Il Cantino della Figura, Reserva dei Castelli di Jesi

This is much riper than 2011 and 2010. Notes of greengage. Lightly generous in the mid palate with softer, but still fresh acidity. Beginning to show more evolved nutty characters. It is a touch warm on the finish maybe.

2010 Verdicchio ‘Vigna’ Il Cantino della Figura, Reserva dei Castelli di Jesi

Delicious evolution on the 2010 with toasted almonds, lemons and violets. There are savoury biscuity and parmesan notes. The balance and intensity is particularly good. The acidity is fresh and there is plenty of depth. It is pure and energetic. The finish is long and salty.

The Nose would happily tuck away some Il Cantino della Figura in her cellar. These are wines that are easily enjoyed young. They make no demand to be cellared… on the contrary. However with 8 or 10 years they take on a different personality, developing complex nuances you might not expect from the fresh minerality of the young wine. So I’d advise… go slow and take your time.

The wines of Andrea Felici illustrate the true potential of this terroir. If you have been deterred by a cheap, thin, tart and insipid Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi, try these wines and have your tastebuds tickled in a good way.

Stockists

Lea and Sandeman
2018 Verdicchio Classico Superiore dei Castelli di Jesu £17.95
2017 Il Cantino della Figura, Verdicchio Classico Superiore dei Castelli di Jesu. £32.95

 

 

Andrea-Felici-Il-Cantico-della-Figura-2011

01/01/2020

Amarone & the strange occurance of buses

As the adage goes, you can wait an age for one bus and two turn up together. So it was with Amarone tastings in December. No doubt timed for the festive season. Having taken a short journey with Famiglia Storche, the English Nose hopped on the second bus which promised a tasting to ‘discover the elegance of Amarone della Valpolicella and its unique Appassimento method.’ 

I noted a few things from this tasting. Firstly in Valpolicella they don’t really speak about terroir, only in the broadest sweep – yes the temperature ranges from an average of 26.1 degrees nearest Lake Garda influenced by the cool air flow from Adige valley… to a slightly warmer average of 28.9 degrees on the Eastern side of the region, which snuggles against Soave and lies about 100 km from Venice. Slope and aspect together with soil composition and depth are secondary to the winemaking technique. This makes sense. The nuances of terroir are naturally going to disappear as the grape is dried.

Terroir should be more apparent in Valpolicella DOC wine, fermented using fresh grapes. Often however this simple, light-bodied red wine style is not one in which you’d be searching for it… but there is the potential for higher quality terroir wine, but I digress as this is about Amarone.

There are eleven (well 13) valleys running down from the mountains and the best vineyards are found between 120 to 600m. Predictably the valley floor is less good. It is over on the west near to Lake Garda where you’ll find the Classico zone. Italy’s largest expanse of water has the moderating effect on the climate here as you might expect. Valpolicella “Classico” is arguably the best region, (classico refers to the oldest zone, the historical heart of an Italian wine producing region with a protected origin) but this is successfully disputed by the excellent quality of some wine from other areas. Dal Forno for example has done much to raise the profile of Illasi.

Something not in dispute is the influence of wind. The breezy climate makes drying the grapes possible. Back in the mists of time, (the Romans made wine here) drying probably came about because these cooler northern parts simply didn’t seem to produce grapes with sufficient stuffing – however shrivelling the fruit concentrates everything – sugar, tannins and tartaric acidity.

Corvina is the undisputed king of grapes in Valpolicella, possibly because it is the variety which lends itself most happily to drying,. The bunches are loose and open. It’s mandatory to use Corvina – from 45-95%. It has a backing group as it is not permitted as a single varietal under DOC and DOCG regulations. (Those who want to make it as such use the IGP). 

The bevy of backing grapes include Corvinone – no relative of the former variety. The blend has to include 45-95% of Corvina or Corvinone or a blend of both. Some use this larger berried variety other don’t, but it’s mandatory to include Rondinella from 5-30%. Rondinella is related to Corivna.

And then there is Molinara, some use a soupçon, but seemingly it’s on the decline. Molinara is derived from the Veronese word for miller, translating as flour mill which refers to the downy coating on the skin. The skin delivers very little in the way of anthocyanin – part of the polyphenolic group which give colour. It’s diminishing popularity may be the diluting effect on the colour of the blend. However it does bring good acidity and spice to the party and many include it for old times sake – as a component of the traditional blend.  

Meanwhile small berried, rather tannic Oceleta is enjoying a bit of a resurgence, albeit in small quantities. All the wine we tried seemed to have a different blend and the rules allow 15% of other local varieties from the Veneto and 10% of other Italian varieties and even a little Cab Sav, Cab Franc and Merlot, although in reality these represent only about 3%.

In addition to the wine itself (and yes we will get to some tastings notes) what gets the Nose’s nose twitching is a traditional region in a state of change. The tradition is deep rooted – wine has been produced with the local varieties using the  appassimento method since at least C6th, but today’s producers are pushing the boundaries of interpretation. 

It’s a region with a very strong identity, finding a host of different expressions. This makes it alive, captivating and exciting.

In the vineyard, I’ve already mentioned that innovative producers are finding pockets of land in the folds of the hills where it is possible to make excellent wine to compete with the classico zone. The traditional pergola Veronese trellising system is being challenged by guyot. While this was introduced a while back (some 100-150 years), today opinions seem divided. It’s cheaper to manage as most of the work can be mechanised, but the bunches can be over exposed to sunburn, something to be considered with the heatwaves of climate change.

Then there is botrytis, which is not considered to be traditional. The de-hydration technique is after all appassimento and in tact grapes with perfect skins are integral, but some argue that botrytis can contribute another dimension. It’s a risky strategy though.. botrytis can quickly turn to grey mould in the humid conditions of a fruttaio.

And in the winery – well of course we have the ‘new’ ripasso style, which was ratified with its own DOC in 2010.

I seems I am not alone in finding the ripasso style engaging. It’s been an unexpected success for the region and sales have eclipsed those of Amarone which accounts for about 25%. Recioto is minuscule – just 0.5%. There are now copy cat ripassos – Puglia is having a go and capturing the slice of the market with a cheaper version. 

Just to recap on the process – the bottom 10-15% of the tank of Amarone or Recioto is kept and a Valpolicella is added or re-passed over this juicy debris, which may restart a fermentation, depending on the sugar levels in the skins. It stays here for a minimum of 3 days, but up to 2 to 3 weeks, being careful with the extraction, for the tannins taken from the wet marc could be quite aggressive..

But (as a winemaker) it does beg the question – are these Amarone missing something by not being pressed? After all it’s just the free-run juice which is taken. I can see that it’s really useful technique to beef up the Valpolicella, but not at the expense of the quality of Amarone. However the answer may in the level of extraction during fermentation of Amarone – a number of things make this quite extractive: length 30-40 days which is a goodly time; high levels of alcohol (a solvent and hence extractive) and technique – one of the wines we tried, which had pretty punchy tannins, had three punch downs a day. Now that’s generous.

The ‘Nose’ would like to delve deeper.. but I will have to wait for the third bus…

And then there is wood. Many still use the traditional large Slavonian oak botti, although few use the cherry and chestnut wood of yesteryear. Many have moved, all or in part, to french oak barriques. Smaller oak will of course promote more rapid maturation, while the larger the volume and older the oak the more slowly it progresses… the law stipulates two years maturation for Amarone DOCG and four years for Amarone Reserva but in the traditional botti – large casks – it might be left longer. In the tasting we were shown a variety of styles.  

A traditional approach to the winemaking and ageing, can produce something quite robust and rustic but also something complex and refined. The last wine in the tasting from Bertani is an example of the latter.  Keep in mind that even an accessible style of Amarone will be better if you wait. Take a good, ripe vintage, such as 2015, you can afford to wait at least 8-10 years before starting to drink them (from 2023/5) and they will continue to evolve for many years after. I have given the earlier date from which you might want to drink these wines. I would not necessarily keep the leaner 2014 vintage. The 2012 is beginning to become interesting, but would benefit from a little longer, while the 2011 is coming into its own. 

This tasting showed a range of styles from the more traditional to the super modern. There is something for everyone, so jump aboard.

(All photographs from the Consorzio Valpolicella)

San Rustico, Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico 2015

Ripe, smooth and generous, but not overly rich. Just nicely balanced. I like the bitter cherry bite on the finish. It’s inviting and accessible. More modern style. Plenty of ageing capacity. It’s still very much in the fruit stage. 17.85 From 2021/22

Fumanelli, Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico 2015

Rich aroma with dark forest fruits and a touch of leather. Showing some aromatic development. A sturdy, dense Amarone with quite a robust tannic structure. This is aged in tonneau (large barrels) for 30 months and is a powerful more traditional style. 17.75 From 2022

Costa Arénte, Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2015

This has liquorish, tarry smoky characters. Firmly tannic and plenty of acidity. It’s punchy. This wine had 3 pigeage a day, so is quite extractive and will need time. 17.5 From 2023

Roccolo Grassi Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2015

This is a very modern style with new oak apparent on the nose and palate. It’s aged for 24 months in 50% new barriques. There is marked ‘sweetness’ not just from the residual sugar, but a sense of sweetness from the alcohol and a richness of texture from the glycerol. It has 17% alcohol. Deep dark chocolatey flavours and chunky smooth tannin with some interesting spicy notes.. dried coriander. It’s an overt, powerful and modern style and needs time to settle. Built for the future. 18  From 2025  

Ilatium Morini Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2014 “Campo Leon”

200m above sea level. includes 10% Croatina. 7 brothers and cousins make this wine. It’s quite a new, 2004 was the first vintage. The fruit was sold to the co-op before this. Inspired by the wines of Romano Dal Forno.  (Although you would not guess this from the 2014 – having tasted their 2016 now, it is much more apparent in that vintage). They use 228-500l barrels and some are American which is unusual. 

Herbal aromas and flavours. Quite leafy on the palate and fresh. The tannins are svelte. It’s a lighter vintage, but very nicely done. You do not have to wait, I would start drinking this now.. 16.5

Cantine Giacomo Montresor, Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2013 ‘Capitel della Crosara”

This is showing some evolution and has a savoury, nicely bitter character. Forest floor, mossy and stable notes. It’s ‘lighter’ with modest intensity in the mid palate.  You could drink this quite happily now as it shows some complexity of age, but without the intensity to develop much further. 16.5

Cristiana Bettili Wines , Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2012

This lady winemaker works organically and her wines have four years ageing. There was quite a lot of VA and it was very herbaceous. I am not sure this was the best bottle. I would like to give it the benefit of doubt. I would need to try her wine again.

Sartori di Verona Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG classico 2012 ‘Corte Brà’

Includes 15% Rondinella and 5% Osceleta. Richly intense and luscious. Very good density. I love the quite dusty, burly tannins. There is quite a lot of glycerol. Sweet, long finish. Not too modern. It’s accessible. Very sound. You could drink now, but plenty of ageing potential and I would wait. 17.75.

*Azienda Agricola Trabucchi,  Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2011

Around 200m above sea level and from Illasi area most famous for Dal Forno. 36 months in new French oak. Coffee and dark chocolate with a hint of caramel. It is smooth, rounded and succulent. Lovely texture..velvety on the finish. Bitter notes too – good balance for the effect is bitter sweet. The is a touch of VA, but in an appetising way. A complex layered wine. It’s at the beginning of it ‘interesting’ drinking window. It’s showing the complexity of age. 18.25

*Zanoni Pietro Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2011

This is a field blend which includes Osceleta. It feels more modern upfront, but this fades as the palate develops…it is  intense, quite tart with some spicy aromatics, touch of oregano. The tannins are smooth. I like the energy and sapidity at the end. You could drink this now or age it further. 18.25 

*Le Guaite de Noemi, Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2010

Cold pre-ferment maceration and fermented using cultured yeast. Aged in new barriques. this is a high location 450-500m above sea level. Limestone and volcanic soils. 

This is both rich and fresh. It’s a modern style with quite a lot of oak. Maybe it is the high location, but it has quite a herbal, flavour profile. The tannins are smooth. An elegant, high toned and energetic wine. (I have since tasted more wines from this producer and I am increasingly impressed). 17.75-18

*Bertani, Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico 2009

Old school winery with a great reputation. Traditional winemaking. 120 days drying – so well above the statutory. It has 6 to 7 years ageing in old Slavonian oak. Complex bouquet of leather, toast. It’s slightly oxidative in an appealing way. A layered, very aromatic palate with tabasco and slightly earthy. There is an edge of austerity. Fine texture and long finish. among my favourite of the tasting, but 2009 is also a great vintage. 18.5. Drinking now, but plenty of ageing potential. 

05/12/2019

Bitter Sweet

Drying fruit for Amarone at Speri

On a bright chilly winter’s day I was invited to taste Amarone. The tasting marked the 10 year anniversary of the Famiglie Storiche, 13 historical families who came together in 2009 to present the best of Amarone DOCG; to uphold tradition while pushing the boundaries. That sort of thing. 

Before I delve into the tasting notes, here’s a quick Amarone briefing: Amarone is a member of the Valpolicella family. You’ll be familiar with the quaffable light bodied and lightish alcohol Valpolicella from the eponymous DOC in the North of Italy not so far from Verona. This is made from native grapes Corvina Veronese and/or Corvinone, Rondinella and often a small percentage of Molinara and maybe a little Oseleta. Valpolicella is the bread and butter of the region. 

At the other end of the sweetness spectrum there is Recioto DOCG. It’s made from the same grape combo but is a super selection, hand picked of course as the bunches are harvested in tact. These are first dried in well ventilated spaces – traditionally attics or lofts, but these days less romantically in purpose built buildings.

These concentrated grapes are fermented until the yeast gives up leaving plenty of residual sugar in the finished wine. This sweet stuff is aged for goodly time. Result  – a truly scrumptious pudding wine. 

In the dim and distant past some tenacious yeasts continued the ferment and almost finished the job,. There was just a slug of residual sugar (2019 regulations limit this to 15 g/l in a 15% wine). This style was dubbed Amarone, derived from the word bitter – an appealing bitterness. The Italians are adept at attractively bitter tastes in food and wine. 

The last family member is Ripasso de Valpolicella which received its own DOC in 2009. To make the Ripasso style, Valpolicalla is added or re-passed over the skins of the pressed Amarone fruit. The sugar activates a bit more fermentation. Valpolicella with turbo boost. A little more body, richness, sweetness, alcohol and complexity. This style is super versatile, love it, but I digress as this blog is about Amarone. 

So what should you expect from a decent Amarone DOCG. Quite a lot of alcohol for sure – 15% maybe more, a rich texture, tannins aplenty, a full body and bitter cherry notes. I like those with bitter chocolate on the finish to offset the residual sugar. Traditionally Amarone was pretty robust with  burly tannin, but modern interpretations are more fruit driven with softer tannins and greater approachability in youth. Many producers are now ageing their Amarone in French barriques together with the more traditional large Slovenian oak fudres. 

Fudres at Musella

Sergio Zenato (beside his vines in the photo below) explains that the Famiglie Storiche are all family domaines of at least second generation and each owns a patch of the best terroir in the region. Whatever that means. A quick shifty on the internet also mentions that they must produce a certain volume and export to several markets. Many of them declare on their label the number of bottles produced, as a mark of exclusiveness The bottle count seemed high to someone specialising in Côte d’Or Burgundy where quantities are much smaller. However the group go above and beyond legal obligations for drying grapes. This permits producers to gather their dried grapes and start fermenting on the 1st December, while the Famiglie Storiche wait at least 100 days for maximum shrivel.  

I tasted one Amarone, sometimes several, from each producer of the group and found three stand out wineries… which were more than good or good value or appealing.  

However to kick off,  Zenato make a benchmark modern style Amarone.  

Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico 2015 

Smooth, juicy and accessible with plenty of dark fruit richness and sturdy, but soft tannins. 17.75 (RRP £50 Eurowines Ltd)

Musella

I found their wines particularly elegant and energetic and it was no surprise to discover they follow biodynamics. There was a notable sensitivity in the handing of their fruit. The delicacy and purity would be be easily missed in such a tasting. I tried all their wine. 

Musella, Valpolicella DOC Superiore 2017

Vibrant cherry, light tannins and finished with a nice dry sapidity (£20) 

Musella Valpolicella Ripasso DOC Superiore 2016 has the extra level of richness and sweetness (£21) 

Musella Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG 2012

This had wonderful intensity of fruit and vibrancy (£38 for 375ml bottle). 

However this is a blog about Amarone… I really must stay on track! 

Musella, Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Riserva 2012

A refined Amarone, pure with silky tannins, elegance, freshness and energy. A long and intense finish.18.25/20 or 94/100 (£50 approx)

Emilio Pasqua di Bisceglie is assisted by his daughter Maddalena (seen below) and nephew Enrico Raber. I spoke with Maddalena. Clearly they are working in tune with their vineyards and with their environment. Their vineyards are on three west facing slopes of clay and tufa are in the most southern part of the region so early picking is essential to achieve this elegance.

Maddalena

Speri

A seventh generation estate, which dates back to the early 1800s. Three generations are now involved.

Tasting their Amarone it stood for a graphite-like minerality on the palate. Amarone tastes sweet (of course) and the best are balanced with fresh acidity, but this tasted more savoury. I liked this savoury bitterness and the tannins were finely grained.

Speri

Speri Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico Vigneto Monte Sant’Urbano 2015 

Svelte with a dark mineral core and graphic pencil shaving on the finish. Rich, intense, but with cool grip. Good savoury finish. 18.25/20 or 94/100 (RRP £53)

I also liked their Valpolicella DOC Superiore Vigneto Monte Sant’Urbano 2016 RRP £22. 

These wines take their name from the Monte Sant’Urbano single vineyard. It is clear they are looking for finesse rather than power. 

Tommasi

Founded in 1902 this now has an enviable 205 hectares with 105 in the more exclusive area of  Valpolicalle Classico. At the top end Tommasi focus on individual vineyards. The current Tommasi incumbent explained how humidity control is paramount in the drying  process. He describes their process as “fairly natural” in a loft – if it is breezy the windows are opened, but if the weather is damp or foggy they close the window and put on the humidifier.  

This is an estate with a high and merited reputation for Amarone. I tried three – here goes.

Tommasi Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico 2015  

Very accessible, fruity modern take on Amarone. A rather nice introduction to whet the appetite for something more …. 17.85/20 or 92/100 (£40)

Tommasi Ca’ Florian Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG Classico Riserva 2011

Now this is more like it. Direct, straight, well defined, powerful and channelled. Serous stuff. 18.5/20 or 95/100 (£80)

Tommasi De Buris Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico Riserva 2008

Intense and precise with a wonderfully persistent and elegant finish…very discreet and intense. 18.75/20 or 96/100  £250

I will also mention another small winery I liked…

Belgali

A small family run winery founded at the end of the war by grandpapa Giordano. Just 12 hectares of high altitude vineyard. Adriana Giordina highlights the importance of the stems drying quickly in a few days. This reduces the possibility of any botrytis forming as there is then a seal at the end of the stalk where it meets the berry.

Begali Ca’Bianca Amarone della Valpolicella DOGC Classico 2013 

I like this for its classic bitterness, plenty of cherry fruit with notes of dry coriander seed on the finish. Perhaps not the most elegant of tannins, but very attractive none the less. (Sun and Stone approx £50). 

They also make a really rather appealing Valpolicella with soft tannins. It’s bright and fresh  with almond marzipan notes..delish and just £15) 

Contacts/stockists

Musella. Available in the UK from Armit Wines. Musella.it

Speri. Looking for an importer to the UK. speri.com

Tommasi. Maison Marques et Domaines. www.tommasiwine.it 

Zenato. Eurowines Ltd. zenato.it

Begali – Sun and Stone and The Italians in Chiswick. Begaliwine.it


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