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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Thursday, February 11 2010. 13:52

Producers of Amarone in Valpolicella

The small region of Valpolicella has over 160 producers focusing on Amarone della Valpolicella and Recioto while making the easy drinking pizza wine. Subhash Arora takes you through a kaleidoscopic journey of wineries of different style, size and quality of wine made in the wine region he visited last week.

1.  Castellani Michele & Figli
Estd. 1945

Located in the small village of Valgatara in Marano, the winery was founded by her grand father Michele Castellani in 1945. Mara Castellani looks after the exports for the medium sized company which has the philosophy of ‘not always wood, wood but use it only to help the wine mature better,’ she explains.  The 40 hA estate makes 300,000 bottles, 90% of which is exported to the US, Canada and North Europe.

Using Slovenic and American barrels with some French oak for aging, the bottles are rested at least for 6 months- a common practice in this winery which is serious about its Amarone and Recioto and keeps them stored till it gets the orders when the appropriate labels are pasted.

Vertical Tasting of Amarone 2003-06: The Cinque Stelle Amarone 2003 was a powerful wine with 15.5% alcohol, with ripe tannins and rich flavours and very long after-taste. Fruit is supreme and the wood is subtle. Also tasted were Amarone 2004 which was more elegant. The 2005 was smoother, more seductive with a great balance. The 2006 which we had already tried in the Tasting at the Veronafiere the previous day, was very perfumed, but still young.

We also tasted the regular Valpolicella Superiore (Ripasso) which had the full flavours and persistent taste on the palate- a definitely great value wine though the Amarones seemed a bit too pricy. Mara feels their Valpolicella Classico wines are good for 2 years, Ripasso for 2-3 years while the Amarone would age for 10-15 years. Open the bottle of Amarone for a couple of hours before serving and enjoy the wine change its character in the glass, she advises.

2.  Terre di Leone
Estd. 2004

This small boutique winery owned by  Federico Pellizzari in the municipality of  Marano di Valpolicella is a small winery producing a very small quantity, yet the owner is extremely passionate about the vineyard tending and the wine making. In conjunction with his winemaker Roberto Vassanelli he is perhaps the first vintner in the area to have devised a technologically advanced drying system which controls the quality of grapes till they are ready for fermentation. His quest for perfection has taken him to do the research where he claims the grey colour is the best for laying down the grapes, as the UV rays used to check the grape quality are best for this colour. He maintains the drying grapes at a constant 10° C at 50% humidity.

Federico inherited only 1 hA of vines but started to buy in conjunction with partner Chiara Turati 12-13 years ago and now has 5 hAs with another 5hAs he has leased- all of them South or South-east facing for better sun. He has planted vines with a very high density of 6500 per hA. At 160 days he seems to be drying the grapes for Amarone longer than most other producers-he plans to remove them from his drying room near the end of March. During the drying process, his machines can tell him how much they have dried out, allowing him a better control.

With 2005 as the first vintage for Amarone, this new winery based on modern technology is expected to go far in the long run. Interestingly, this producer is very fussy about the use of wood for oak aging.

3.  F.lli Tedeschi
Estd. 1630
This old winery in Pedemonte in the valley of San Pietro in Cariano is a very highly respected winery with records showing its family connection with vine growing since 1630. Starting with 15 hA in the Classico region, it has increased its property to 48 hA with 26 hA being in the new vineyards.

The brother -sister team of Ricardo and Sabrina Tedeschi  make a very fresh Valpolicella for drinking in 1-2 years, with great emphasis on expressing their terroir. Fermentation is carried out at lower but constant temperatures for longer periods. This is an otherwise traditional winery with techniques passed from grandfather to father and innovations added sparingly when found necessary.

Interestingly, no de-stemming is carried out for grapes for Amarone.

Their Valpolicella ’09 bottled 10 days before we swirled and sipped it, was a very fresh daily qyaffable wine without much structure or after-taste but  with an excellent taste of roses and violets. Their Ripasso had the raisin texture, and was a light to medium body with a long and impressive after taste and a relatively low alcohol content of 13.5%. The grapes for their Amarone give more sugar content and this sweetness is noticeable in the final product.

Valpolicella Fabriseria 2006 is their top Valpolicella selection made by using different techniques resulting in low yield grapes. Towards the run up to harvest they stop irrigation, making it spicy. This wine had more concentration and is an excellent quality product for the price.

The winery makes very age-worthy Amarones, with 1964 being the oldest wine still alive in their library. The internationally established and respected brand makes a lucrative option for the worthy wine importers in India.  

4.  San Rustico
Estd. 1870
Another smaller winery with a long history and tradition of winemaking from the Campagnola family, it is owned and run by the portly Marco and his Enrico whose great grandfather owned the prestigious ‘Gaso’ estate which is owned by his uncle and till recently used to be the source of quality grapes for their Amarone. They own 10 hAs of vines. Surprisingly, Marco claims that in this area his East facing vineyards are best positioned as the soil is yellow, calcarious and not rich-which can be a problem for nutrition.

Traditionally, the Verona Pergola trellis system prevails in Valpolicella. Marco tried Guyot but realized it was not good for the soil for Corvina grapes and went back to the pergola system. ‘We experience a lot of grape ‘burning’ with the sun directly on the vines,’ says Marco. 'The biggest problem we faced was that of colour'. He also informs us that Molinara is not a great grape for colour.

Valpolicella 2007 and 2008 were both characteristic of the region but the Amarone black label 2005 was really complex, long and serious wine although the Ripasso Gaso did not impress as much- it was reminiscent of the basic Valpolicella rather than the Amarone, the producer is surely capable of. Marco suggested opening the bottle an hour before serving-perhaps that might have helped. The Gaso Amarone 2003 was full flavoured, big, powerful and rich with the characteristic 16% alcohol but well rounded wine.

The Recioto Classico 2008 and Recioto 2007 Gaso were a good way to round off the visit.

5.  Cantina di Negrar

Enter the Cantina di Negrar and you cannot help exclaiming that you have arrived at a rich winery and that it must be a co-operative. The name of the winery is misleading-with the ‘Cantina Sociale’ missing in the title. But having visited the winery a couple of years ago, I knew it was the co-operative of 220 growers producing 6.5 m to 8m bottles , a relative small size when several co-ops of more than 1000 members are a common sight in Italy. Cantina Sociale della Valpolicella S.C.A. seems to be undergoing an image makeover-it helps that it is located in the heart of the comune of Negrar with the vineyards being in the Valpolicella Classico region.

The co-op was started by 7 members and was located initially at the well-known producer Bertani’s Villa Novare winery. It claims to have made the first bottle of Amarone in 1938, a year before it was generally recognised as such-but certainly the winery records show they were the first to export an Amarone, 50 years ago to Denmark. Of course, the confusion between Amarone and Recioto went on till about 1970- a few years after the Amarone della Valpolicella DOC was in place.

The 550 hA owned by the members gives the company an added advantage of producing several styles of Amarone based on the different qualities, the best for the vineyards being only used for Amarone. The growers are managed by agronomists. The co-op carries out the research the results are distributed to members who have to follow the rules-like directives on when to prune or harvest. Weekly bulletins are posted on the company website. The members are paid according to the quality of the grapes graded into 4 categories- A,B,C and C1 based on factors like the height of vineyard, yield, agronomists observations.

The winery also makes cru wines –from single vineyards like La Casetta Valpolicella. It was also the first co-operative to have been awarded  the highest rating of Three Glasses by  Gambero Rosso for its Recioto 2001. Aware of the fact that the co-ops had a reputation of lower quality wines, it brought out a special range Domini Veneti for restaurants only.

With the diverse and consistent quality and quantity available because of modernization and better controls, the producer can be a very good resource for Indian importers. Daniele Accordini, the winemaker and general manager is one of the revered enologists of Valpolicella.

6.  F.lli Farina
Estd. 1973

Profit making from the sale of premium products like Amarone and the reinvestment into modernization of the building and equipment may not be the preserve of only the co-ops as one discovers visiting this boutique winery run by 10 employees working under the owner, Claudio Farina, the third generation of the Farina family that has been dealing with wines since the early 1900s.

The family has been making wine for 40 years with 10hA it owns and another 35 hA under its belt from other growers. Although the focus is on the traditional reds, it also bottles  light whites like Custoza,, Lugana and Soave  fermented in the designated zones (this is part of the confusing appellation system where appellation wines can be produced somewhere else and bottled at another other location- including Amarone which has become DOCG from 2010 but with the stipulation that it must be produced and bottled in the designated zone) to complet the reange only, says Claudio.

The ordinary Valpolicella 2009 and Ripasso 2005 excelled in the tasting of almost a dozen wines including Amarone Montefante 1998, ’01, ’03, ’04 and also a couple of Reserves. Although most tasters found 1998 as superb, I voted for 2003 to be the most delicious for me, even though from the hot vintage. I might prefer 2001 with food though as quite a balanced and spicy wine. It would be difficult to locate these earlier editions as everything post 2004 has all been sold out from most producers. According to Claudio 2004 for which he has used different wood, will evolve better than 2001 and 2003.

7.   Accordini Stefano
Estd. 1900

This next door neighbour of Farina is considered one of the prestigious wineries run by Tiziano Accordini and helped by Daniele Accordini of the Cantina Negrar fame. They own a 9hA in the Classico area, making a very perfumed, clean, simple, spicy  but pleasing (‘piacevole’ is the Italian word that defines its total personality in one word). The Ripasso 2007 with 14%, tasted more like Amarone-drinking very well and though a bit too pricy- worth every extra cent.

The popularity of the wine is clear from the fact that 2005 Amarone is already sold out. Earlier a couple of days at the ante-prima Amarone 2006 at the Veronafiere tasting, the wine with 2 years of aging in wood had impressed with its full body, rich flavours though the alcohol despite fully integrated, was the usual Amarone-high at 16%.

The Accordini brothers use running hot water for 10 days to start fermentation. Amarone is fermented for 30-40 days at 20-22 °C while Recioto needs 10 days only. Ripasso is made by keeping the Valpolicella in contact with the Amarone skins for around one  week or less.

Although the grapes used in Valpolicella are basically Corvina, Corvinone,   Rondinella and decreasing quantity of Mollinara, from this year international grapes are also allowed in lieu of Molinara. Each producer has his own style in terms of temperature, duration for fermentation, use of wood and steel for fermentation as well as maturation, making it virtually never-ending style of the reds-especially Ripasso and Amarone. Valpolicella is a nice, simple, fruity wine and is fairly priced-though Ripasso offers a better value despite the higher prices.

Amarone is becoming a victim of its popularity resulting over supply. One is reminded of the Shiraz in Barossa in the recent times. It would be advisable to use self constraint through the Consortium to keep the balance between the suppluy and demand-oversupply can only result in lower prices-something consumers may love but the producers who complain of higher costs of production would suffer.

Subhash Arora

Also View



Fratelli Vogadori Says:

Hi, i would like only to write about Fratelli Vogadori. FRATELLI VOGADORI is a family of the Valpolicella Classica where three brothers, Alberto Gaetano and Emanuele, work together in the winery. The Vogadori brothers produce the classical wines of this area as Valpolicella Classico, Recioto della Valpolicella Classico , Amarone della Valpolicella Classico and Ripasso. In addition there are Passito Bianco, Bianco dei Leoni and Raffaello wines. Valpolicella Classica lies in the north east of Verona city, it is the area where wine production is more rooted and it is formed by five villages: Negrar, S.Pietro Incariano, Marano, Fumane and Sant'Ambrogio of Valpolicella. Winelovers can always visit the winery and tastes its wines!!!

Posted @ August 10, 2011 15:50


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