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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Monday, November 30 2009. 11:45

Bertani Celebrates Silver Anniversary in Delhi

The 50-year old Amarone della Valpolicella 1959 from Verona producer Cav. G.B. Bertani was the star at a vertical tasting and special dinner organized by the importer Berkmann Cellars India at Hotel Aman in Delhi during the visit of the winery Director Gian Matteo Baldi. Subhash Arora reports.

Farhad Bhabha, Gian Matteo Baldi and Kavia Faella

Antica Bodega del Vino is a wine bar, restaurant and enoteca which has an extensive list of around 1700 labels. I had the pleasure of having an exclusive dinner in the basement which has wines valued at over $2m and only one dinner table that seats 10 persons and is available for private and exclusive dinners and is a must-visit for Verona.

Bertani Most Expensive on the Wine List

Studying the exclusive Price List I could not help noticing that the most expensive wine was a Bertani Acinatico 1928 at €7500! So when Farhad Bhabha, the soft-spoken CEO of Berkmann Cellars India, importers of Bertani wines since April this year, invited me to a vertical tasting of 2000, 1998, 1983 and 1977 and an opportunity to meet Gian Matteo Baldi, Director, worldwide marketing, I could not refuse despite strict instructions from my orthopedic doctor to lie flat for 10 days.

The first question I asked Gian Matteo was whether it was still the most expensive wine on the wine list. Confirming it, Baldi who happens to live right on top of the Bodega  said they have only three bottles left of the ‘special first attempt to make wine with dried grapes what later came to be known as Amarone.’ He also said that the Bertani family, the owners since the company was founded by French-exiled Bertani brothers in 1857 (the year India took the first step towards independence through a mutiny against the British Raj) has 8000 bottles of 1928 Acinatico!

He did not tell me about a cache of around 7000 bottles that was found by accident on the Bertani Estate in the mid 80’s, hidden away from the destruction of the second war and in a perfect drinking state. These bottles are now opened by the family at special charity events.

The Aging Soave 

The serving of the long aging Amarone 1998, 1983, 1977 and the young 2000, was preceded by a set of two Soave Classico Superiore 2001 and 1994. It is not common to find a white wine which is 15 years old and yet alive, kicking and tasting delicious but Baldi explained that Bertani has kept up with the initial philosophy of making only the classic style of wines that lasts long in a world where people are encouraged to change new models of car in a year and the expiry date on wine is more a matter of concern.  

Bertani Amarone-many vintages,same label '00,'98,'83,'77,'59

Made from low yielding Garganega grapes with about 10% Chardonnay, Le Lave is a perfect example of how Soave can be a long aging wine when fermented in barriques and aged in bottles. Both the wines were pronounced mineral in character, elegant and complex- the interesting part being that the yellow fruit flavours became more pronounced in the glass, even though the wine had been allowed to breathe in the decanter for 30 minutes before serving. At any rate, despite their crisp acidity, the vanilla flavours due to oak made it not a great aperitif wine but as serious food wine that was perfect with the sea bass.

The ever-lasting Amarone

The first Amarone to come on the stage was the 1998 ($120). It was well structured, complex-very complex, with rich,spicy, floral flavours like roses and red cherries and multi layered bouquet. One could feel the warmth of alcohol in the back layer. A good pairing for the Venetian style Risotto with seafood, cleverly made by the Chef in red wine sauce-otherwise enjoyable equally with the earlier 1994 Soave which had started opening up in the glass by this time.

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 1983 ($220) was drinking perfectly- a very harmonious wine of great personality with meaty and leather bouquet and the fleshy, vibrant flavour  that wrapped the roasted duck and did a tango on the palate. The chocolate, licorice and coffee flavours were seductive. The 1977 ($270) was quite similar and fresh tasting on the palate except that it was slightly sweeter, perhaps reminiscent of slightly sweeter style at that time. The tannins were very soft- a true meditation style wine Amarones are meant to be.

The 2000 vintage ($100) was the youngest wine served with the dessert and though I did not feel comfortable with pairing with the dark chocolate mousse-1977 would have done better because of its sweetness. Nevertheless, it was a great example of the class of Amarone Classico DOC wines from Bertani that can give you pleasure for years on end. Some guests found the wines ‘strong’- no doubt talking implicitly of the inherent higher alcohol level which at around 15% is still lower than the 16-or even 16.5% which is not uncommon in Amarone. This wine is made from air-dried Valpolicella grapes- Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara, becoming like raisins in 3-4 months and yielding a much higher sugar level and potential alcohol.

The Silver Anniversary for ‘59

There was a pleasant surprise when Kavita Faella, the Australian Sommelier at the Aman, who had been orchestrating the evening proceedings, brought out a 1959 ($600) Amarone from the stash. The 50-year old wine was a proof of the timelessness and gave the impression that it could go on and on- a classical example of what Baldi meant when he said that there were wines that were body builders and then there were those that were marathon runners- like this one. The epitomy of wine making as he had said earlier in the evening was this expressive wine which had the balance, harmony and finesse and plenty of charm and the potential to carry on.

This left me wondering how many of the ‘59s adorn Bodega del Vino, owned by my recent friend Severino Barzan whom I met last month at the World Wine Symposium in Villa d’Este in Italy. I wonder if Gian Matteo Baldi who invited me to the winery when I visit Verona next January for Amarone Tastings, will open another ’59  for me to continue with the silver celebration of what is considered one of the kings of Italian wines.

Cav. Subhash Arora


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