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Delhi Wine Club
Wine Feature : Day out with Sabrina Tedeschi of Tedeschi in Valpolicella

Posted: Monday, 09 December 2013 18:19

Wine Feature : Day out with Sabrina Tedeschi of Tedeschi in Valpolicella

Dec 09: Tedeschi family has been growing grapes in Valpolicella since the 17th century and making wine since 1918 at the Tedeschi family vineyards, and is recognised as a premium Valpolicella producer, writes Subhash Arora who recently visited their newest acquisition of an estate and the winery where he tasted a few of the top quality Valpolicella variants as well as Amarone and learnt in detail the philosophy of one of the top wine making families in the area

Click For Large ViewAt a recent party at a friend’s house I was given charge of the wine service as usual. Barbaresco, Barolo and a Second Growth Bordeaux were flowing freely in the red category as it was a celebratory dinner. The guests were very affluent and of mixed age group - both chronologically and in terms of experience with wine drinking. Since Valpolicella was also available in the cellar, I made it a point to offer this lighter wine to youngsters and novices. Not surprisingly, they loved the Valpolicella, but didn’t care for the heavier, stronger and more powerful full-bodied wines that we were enjoying.

Coincidentally, I was planning to visit Verona after attending a wine conference at Villa d’Este a few days later. So I decided to spend a day visiting a fine quality Valpolicella producer and I requested my friend Michele Shah who had arranged a visit to several producers in Valpolicella several years ago, if she could recommend a family-owned passionate producer with whom I could spend a day, interacting and tasting their wines. I was glad when she suggested a visit to Tedeschi vineyards and winery with Maria Sabrina Tedeschi who would be willing to show me around for a day and share their winemaking philosophy.

I had met Sabrina at a winery visit several years ago and subsequently had brief encounters with her in Vinitaly and the Amarone Anteprima held in January-February every year in Verona and a few other tastings. But the fine quality Amarone producers left the Association in February 2010 and formed ‘Famiglie dell ‘Amarone d’Arte’ (Amarone Families), a break-away group of 12 Amarone producing families as a protest against the unchecked depreciating quality standards of Amarone as it had become more and more popular. They formed their own group - ‘Amarone Families,’ which consisted of Allegrini, Begali, Brigaldara, Masi, Musella, Nicolis, Speri, Tedeschi, Tenuta Sant’Antonio, Tommasi, Venturini and Zenato - for the promotion of Amarone and discontinued participating in the annual Amarone Anteprima event organised by the Consorzio. Of course, Tedeschi is still a part of the Consorzio.

These producers felt that Amarone was now threatened with  over-production, without regard for the area most suitable for the production of Amarone. Using the minimum production standards set out in the DOC appellation regulations, the quality has fallen and with pressure and influence of large scale distribution channels that include co-operatives, there has been a squeeze in prices, forcing producers to further sacrifice quality.

Tenuta Maternigo

Click For Large ViewSabrina Tedeschi picked me up from my hotel at Piazza Bra, the center of Verona, and we drove straight to Mizzane, 20 kms East of Verona to visit the new 84 hA estate Tenuta Maternigo vineyards, they purchased a few years ago. This was in addition to the 45 hA of land the family already owns in Valpolicella with 41 hA on the hillside.

‘We are basically in the Classico region. It is true that Maternigo is not a Classico region,’ says Sabrina, adding, ‘but we analysed the soil, region, micro climate before buying this estate and knew it would be  a big challenge. My father was least enthusiastic to buy the property as it was too big for our horizon. Besides land and planting costs, we have to pay to the European Union €15,000-20,000 per hA for planting rights. But after we purchased it, he used to come here every day. We still visit 2-3 times a week and everyday during the harvest. We made investment in making vines, buying the right equipment and installing drip irrigation. But now the value has appreciated a lot. Today in Valpolicella, vineyards cost around €500,000 per hA,’ says Sabrina, who is not very comfortable in talking about the costs, while showing  me a small drying facility and telling me that they dry the grapes for one month even for  Valpolicella, giving it concentration and fresh flavours and a more complex wine than one finds in the market.

Top Award for Maternigo Valpolicella DOC Superiore 2011

The Tedeschis have other reasons to be happy now. Besides the property adding to the image of the winery (it’s like a business card, says Sabrina), wine quality has come out to be superb. The Maternigo Valpolicella DOC Superiore 2011- the maiden release of this Cru made from an almost equal proportion of the typical grapes of Valpolicella - 40% Corvina, 30% Corvinone and 30% Rondinella - won  3 Bicchieri (3 glasses)- the highest rating by the popular wine guide Gambero Rosso recently.

Barely 45 minutes drive from the winery in Valpolicella, this estate is worth a visit to appreciate the beauty of a fairly virgin territory. The landscape is full of rolling hills with gentle slopes and is picture post card perfect. As we enter the Valley of Mizzane, we see the Lessini Mountains that protect Valpolicella from the winds, giving it a mild climate. Sabrina explains that being on the hilly slopes, the drainage is also better.

No wonder the family plans to make a resort or a small complex for its clients and visitors in a few years when it is financially viable. 

Tasting at Antica Bottega

Click For Large ViewI had the pleasure of tasting and drinking this delicious wine and sharing with Sabrina at lunch at the Antica Bottega del Vino in Verona after our visit to the Maternigo Estate. The wine bar, restaurant and wine cellar rolled into one, has been a landmark of Verona for decades with one of the best wine collections in Italy. Due to some financial problems between the previous partners, it was closed down for 3 months until purchased by the ‘Amarone Families,’ initially as a partnership and later as an outright purchase. In effect, the Tedeschi family owns 1/12th share in the landmark Bottega of Verona with over 1800 labels and with an inventory of over a million euros at cost.

Maternigo 2011 Valpolicella is a delicious, serious ‘fun wine’ with perfect harmony and balance that can be enjoyed on its own or with foods ranging from pastas to the main course. With soft, silky tannins in the back layer, the wine is complex and well deserves the accolade from Gambero Rosso. In my book, the wine was really SWAAD (really rocking wine) and I could not resist stretching the lunch till we killed the whole bottle. We left after I made a mental note to come back to the Bottega on my next visit to Verona and order this wine with food.

History and background

Click For Large ViewThe Tedeschi family has been in the grape growing business for many generations, since 1630, as Sabrina explains, saying they have the relevant documents. “My grandfather had a wine bar called Osteria. He also used to make and sell wine in the Veronese region. My father started bottling wine and also exporting it. He is 80 years old but still actively involved with the winery and has a lot of energy. We have got passion for wines from him.’ Indeed, I wasn’t surprised when during my visit to the winery later in the afternoon for a tasting, I saw him engrossed at the bottling station, trying to help the bottler with some problem.

Sabrina joined the wine business in 2000 but grew up playing around with her siblings in and out of the winery. ‘One of my teachers when I was studying later told me I was born in a fermenter. We used to run around the fermenters; we even did our home work in the winery. The same spirit carries on with the 7 cousins today. When we travel, they like to know what happened about the business; it’s a good way to give them passion and enthusiasm.'

Wine Exports

Tedeschi produces 40,000 cases of wine out of which 85% are exported. Canada is the biggest importer, says Sabrina whose brother Riccardo was presently on a visit to Canada where he was meeting clients in Quebec, Ontario and Halifax. A graduate of enology in Conegliano and with a summer course at UC Davies, he looks after the winemaking and exports in the western hemisphere while Sabrina looks after the Asian markets-both sharing the travels. Her elder sister Antonietta handles the finances of the family winery and looks after the sales in the domestic market and ‘she is doing a great job considering the economy in Italy is still tough,’ says Sabrina.

Tedeschi wines are exported to 30 countries with Canada and US being more important. Asian markets include Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea and Nepal through their Thai importer. Interestingly, last time they shipped to them 600 bottles. Asian markets are still small except in Thailand and Japan, she admits. Philippines also imports through their importer in UK which is one of the oldest markets.

Click For Large ViewSabrina is quite fascinated by India. Though she or her family has never visited India, she believes that there would be enough discerning palates who would love their Valpolicella, Ripasso and Amarone and she is keen to work in this market.

Amarone and Ripasso

Amarone is one of the most typical premium wines of Italy. Made from dried grapes, thus the concentration of sugar level and slow fermentation, gives a rich wine with higher alcohol levels usually ranging from 16% and above. The wine was first made in 1936 though the commercial labeling commenced only in 1950. ‘My father made Amarone first in 1964 at Monte Olmi Vineyards stretching 2.5 hA in Pedemonte in the heart of Valpolicella.’

They have 3 different Crus and it was a surprise to learn that the top-ended La Fabriseria Amarone produced in the exceptional years from select grapes sells for around $180 and as high as $250. But it is truly a wine of elegance, style and a bit of an attitude with a long shelf life and aging potential. Sabrina told me they had started producing this wine in 1983 but only in the best years. It has been produced only in ’83,‘88, ‘95, ‘97,’98,’03, and 07-of which only 3000 bottles were made.

Though Tedeschi makes a regular, affordable Amarone DOC and the premium Monte Olmi DOC Classico, Sabrina agrees that Ripasso is more serious for producers because of higher volumes and lower prices. Made by passing wine over the fermented must of Amarone that still has some fermentable sugar left in them, the process makes the Valpolicella much more complex and it tastes like a softer version of Amarone.

Click For Large ViewUsually known as Baby Amarone, it is available at a fraction of the price of Amarone and can be drunk young with a lot more finesse and elegance than the ordinary Valpolicella. Though the producers do not like to compare it with Amarone, Sabrina admits that they sell much more of it and that for a market like India where the taxes are high and people may not store the wine for 5-10 years like Amarone needs, this might be a perfect choice to get the best of both worlds. It also has a lower alcohol levels at around 14.5%, though naturally higher than the 12-12.5% in Valpolicella.

Sabrina Tedeschi, who is one of the two Vice Presidents of the ‘Famiglie de Amarone dell’ Arte’ defends the decision of the ‘Amarone Families’ to withdraw from the annual Ante Prima event in Verona. 'We are asking the Consorzio to restrict the Amarone production on the hillside rather than in the flats. But it is difficult since everybody wants to produce Amarone. Our Amarone is also not ready to showcase when the Anteprima event is organised in January. For instance, when 2011 is ready by law, we are out with Amarone 2009, Monte Olmi 2008 and Le Fabriseria 2007!

Tasting at the Winery

After a brief stop at Pedemonte where I saw Monte Olmi where Amarone grapes are dried, we sat down for a Tasting of:

Lucchine Valpolicella Classico 2012
Capitel Nicaló-2011 Valpolicella Superiore Apassimento
Corasco IGT 2010 
Ripasso Capitel 2011 San Rocco
Maternigo Valpolicella DOC-2011
Val di Fabriseria 2010- Valpolicella Classico Superiore
Amarone- DOC 2009
Monte Olmi Amarone- 2008
Amarone La Fabriseria- 2007

While tasting, I realized that the wines were of high standards, with great balance and fruitiness. Maternigo and the two Amarone-Monte Olmi and Fabriseria were outstanding. I would have to settle for the Ripasso for India, though Maternigo would also do well. Due to high taxes and the top quality of these wines, Lucchine and Amarone could perhaps be still affordable wines after Click For Large Viewadding duties and taxes. It would take a lot to build up the brand for Fabriseria but the others would be very good wines for the discerning clients of 5-star hotels.

I am sure the youngsters at the party where I served them an ordinary Valpolicella would become permanent converts if they were to be served the Maternigo Valpolicella and my wine aficionado friends would have been delighted to find Monte Olmi Amarone along with the Barolo and Barbaresco on the table that evening. And if I had my way, I would have taken them through the Ripasso Capitel 2011 San Rocco. This might have been the all around winner.

The high quality Tedeschi wines deserve to be on the wine lists of the hotels in India with discerning F & B personnel and the clients. The same discerning category would love to buy in retail a couple of labels on the retail shelves of better quality retail shops that have knowledgeable sales staff.

For details visit their website or write to

Subhash Arora

Tags: Tedeschi, Valpolicella, Maria Sabrina Tedeschi, Famiglie dell ‘Amarone d’Arte’, Verona, Maternigo, SWAAD


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