Road Trip Italy 2013 (3) | VENETO: MASI AGRICOLA & GIUSEPPE QUINTARELLI - October 5th, 2013
posted on 07/11/2013

We continue our Italian Odyssey from Friuli moving west to the neighboring Veneto. Veneto has a population of about 5 million people; its capital is stunning Venice, the floating city of water, masks, bridges, canals and Antonio Vivaldi! Other famous cities of Veneto are Padova (Galileo taught here), Verona (Shakespeare imagined Romeo and Juliet here) and Treviso (home of Benetton, Sisley, Stefanel, Diadora, Prosecco and Tiramisu)!


As we had visited Venice before, we decided to resist her charms and visit other major cities of Veneto instead. So after a night at beautiful Padova, we arrived at Verona from where we explored DOC Valpolicella and Amarone!


VENETO AND WINE


Veneto is truly important for Italian wine. Over 90,000 hectares of vineyards and an annual production of 8.5 million hectoliters make Veneto the largest producing region of DOC wines in the country. Moreover in Veneto are produced the world famous sparkling wine ‘DOC Prosecco’, the excellent ‘DOC Soave’ whites and ‘red’ appellations ‘DOC Bardolino’ and ‘DOC Valpolicella’. Within DOC Valpolicella the mythical Amarone is also produced... The significance of this region for wine is also demonstrated by the fact that Conegliano, one of the major schools of oenology in the country, is based here and also Vinitaly international wine exhibition is held in Verona every spring.

 

 

Off to Valpolicella!!  

Vines are often trained high, in pergolas

 

 

Pergolas again...   Here is my hero... the brave Focus

 

As I am interested in wine in many respects, I preferred we visited two producers of different sizes; one big winery and one smaller. We started our day with the big one: the world renowned Company Masi in the town of Gargagnago di Valpolicella, about 15 kilometers southwest of Verona!


The weather is how I like it this time of the year: dull, wet and cloudy! Off we go!


MASI AGRICOLA

 

 

Just arrived at Masi!   At the winery's courtyard...

 

As in Friuli, here we also encountered winemaking innovations and oddities. What’s different in viticulture is the vines are often trained high in pergolas. Also, the grapes are different: there are three local red varieties dominating the region: Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. Oenological-wise, the Appassimento technique enables producers to produce three additional styles: Ripasso, Amarone and Reciotto. So let’s take a closer look at the Appassimento method that makes all the difference!


APPASSIMENTO


After harvest the producers reserve a part of the production to be dried. Grapes are traditionally laid on straw mats indoors –unlike Greece where they are sun-dried outdoors. Another difference is in Greece it is more common drying grapes to make sweet wines, while here they dry grapes to also make dry wines.

 

 

Right outside the tasting room!

  The famous Appasimento method: Grapes are allowed to dry, traditionally on straw mats (photo by the producer)

 

The most common wine is the regular 'DOC Valpolicella'. Classic red vinification results to a beautiful and round wine with cherry aromas. Another variant is 'DOC Valpolicella Ripasso'. In a regular Valpolicella wine they add an amount of dried grapes to be re-fermented together with the base wine. This will add a dried (raisin-like) layer of flavors to the cherry base of the wine. A third variation is that of the mythical 'DOCG Amarone della Valpolicella', which is made entirely from dried grapes. The grapes ferment completely giving a dry, rich, full-bodied wine with bitter and roasted aromas (the most characteristic of them is coffee) and high alcohol. Finally, 'DOCG Recioto della Valpolicella' is a sweet wine entirely produced from dried grapes which do not ferment completely, leaving residual sugar and a lovely sweet flavor to the wines.

We summarize: DOC Valpolicella includes the following four types of wines:

 

  color sweetness dried grapes varieties
DOC Valpolicella red dry No Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara
DOC Valpolicella Ripasso red dry Some Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara
DOCG Amarone della Valpolicella red dry Yes – the whole quantity Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara
DOCG Recioto della Valpolicella red sweet Yes – the whole quantity Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara

 

In case you are not yet sick of terminology, I add some more terms: Classico, Valpantena, Superiore, Riserva and Spumante. I won’t explain more, look it up at Jancis!


SEREGO ALIGHIERI


Masi Company also owns Serego Alighieri Estate (or is it just a commercial alliance?). They say the estate was bought in 1353 by Pietro Alighieri, the son of the poet Dante, author of 'The Divine Comedy'. Pietro had followed his exiled father in Verona and stayed here after the famous Italian poet’s death. Twenty generations have passed since then and the ritual of winemaking and wine-drinking is continuously transferred from generation to generation.


We entered Masi and Serego Aligheri tasting room an early Saturday morning of October. The room was quite lively, as Italian and other wine enthusiasts came here to sample both estates’ wines and learn more about Valpolicella.


We ask for a tasting flight of six wines and kick off:

 

 

The famous 'Costasera' series  

Here is our flight!

 

  • Masi Campofiorin 2009 – with the Ripasso method. Nice smoky nose, with hints of ham and a high acidity –ageworthy.
  • Masi Brolo Campofiorin 'Oro' 2009 - 'Oro' is the equivalent of French term 'Clos' and refers to a walled single vineyard. The wine was closed in the beginning. After a while it opened up and revealed a smoked character, black fruits, leather and a more rounded acidity.
  • Masi Riserva Costasera 2007 Amarone Classico - Three years aging in large oak barrels of 30-90 hl. Still young, with a nose reminiscent of black and red fruits, full-body, high alcohol (15.5 %) and a long aftertaste. Very good; I just expected the roasted aromas to be a bit more intense.
  • Masi Mazzano Amarone Classico 2006 - Black fruits, coffee, currant and leather. A powerful palate with high acidity, high alcohol (16%), full body and a great aftertaste. 14,200 bottles annually and a retail price of over 80 euros a bottle
  • Serego Alighieri Casal Dei Ronchi 2009 - Reciotto della Valpolicella Classico- Moderately sweet, with a shy nose. Mouth full of cherries: sour, black and wild cherry aromas and a beautifully bitter finish.
  • Masi Reciotto della Valpolicella Classico 2008 – Again I cannot find my notes for this one!

 

 

Sipping and taking notes!

 

 

The two most popular red grapes of Veneto: Corvina and Rondinella  

Serego Alighieri wooden barriques (cherry wood!)

 

 

At Masi wine shop one can find several goodies...   Graceful living, don't you think?...

 

The girls who served us were very attentive, knew their job well and eagerly explained us all wines differences and particularities. In the meanwhile we got to meet some Germans and we chatted about fine wine, Italy and Greece. Nice. Very nice indeed!


Let's now move on to the second winery of the day...

 

GIUSEPPE QUINTARELLI


Fourteen kilometers away, on the top of a hill near a small village called Negrar is an extraordinary producer that many wine lovers around the world wish they had the chance we had: to visit the family cellar and taste six of their wines, some of the most rare, cult and expensive wines of Veneto and Italy in general with Guiseppe Quintarelli’s son-in-law as a host! But let's take it from the beginning...

 

 

We have just arrived at the house-winery of the Quintarelli family!   Into the clouds!

 

We go uphill enjoying the beautiful countryside of Veneto and finally arrive at the Quintarelli family winery, found by Guiseppe Quintarelli. Mr. Guiseppe passed away 1.5 years ago at the age of 84, leaving a living legend behind him. His three children Fransesco, Lorenzo and Fiorenza along with her husband Giampaolo continue the family business that Guiseppe started. It was the later who focused in quality and to one to build an international cult following for their wines.


When we arrived we met Mr. Giampaolo, a very warm and friendly man. We started our tour looking at the view from the balcony. Around the house/winery there are three hectares of vineyards, out of a total of about 10 hectares. Looking at the vines, we discussed about training the vines in pergolas. 'Pergola Veronese', as Mr. Giampaolo said. The cultivation of these vineyards results to the production of 50,000 to 60,000 bottles annually.

 

 

Seniore Giampaolo was a great host   Portraits of Mr. Guiseppe Quintarelli and his wife

 

In the courtyard has arrived a truck with grapes in small crates - the smallest I have ever seen. Grapes are ideally protected into them, they do no break, they are not squeezed. By entering the winery, we saw the oak barrels of the estate. All barrels are of Slovenian oak, while only a small minority is French. Their capacity is 10,000 liters each; Valpolicella is matured in them for 6 years and Amarone for 8 years. Some barrels are carved and feature a black man. Perhaps this is explained by the following: The nearest village is called Negrar, plus in the area there is a lesser known grape variety called Negrara. Also we were told there were many black people in the area before.


We were also impressed by the wine labels, they are fantastic! Back in the day all labels used to be handwritten! Of course nowadays only the original is a manuscript and the rest of them are reprinted. There is also a dossier filing all previous labels; we had a look. Even labels have a genuine character here!

 

 

The family coat of arms: a cross and two peacocks   Amarone 70's

 

 

Amarone 2000 ready to be released   The -just bottled- Valpolicella 2005

 

 

Inside the lovely underground cellar

 

We had the flight of our lives!

 

Mr. Giampaolo comes with the first two bottles, which we experienced there, sitting on a barrel. Sometime later their wonderful, wooden, wine tasting cellar was vacant, so we carried on tasting there. These are my notes of the wines we had the chance to try:

 

  • Bianco Secco 2012 (blend of Garganega, Trebbiano, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Saorin) - very elegant white wine with aromas of green apple, citrus fruits and white almond notes. On the palate there is a lovely feeling of freshness and a refreshing acidity.
  • Primofiore 2009 (blend of 50% Corvina and Corvinone and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc) - extremely charming red wine from grapes that have been dried for one month. The wine was matured for two years in 7,000 liter barrels.
  • Valpolicella Classico 2004 (Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara) – Here we go… Incredible complexity with aromas reminiscent of coffee, mushroom, wet leaves and soil. Fresh and dried grapes (dried for two months) were used in a 50-50% proportion. This blend is re-fermented with the addition of grape skins from Amarone production!
  • Rosso del Bepi IGT 2002 (55% Corvina & Corvinone, 30% Rondinella, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, Croatina, Sangiovese) – We were introduced to it as "the little Amarone”. Eight years in barrel gave wonderful rancio aromas! Resins, coffee, roasted hazelnuts and red fruits!
  • Amarone Classico 2003 (Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara) – Sorry guys, I gave up taking notes with this one. I preferred to deal with my glass and what was inside... The only thing I remember is it blew our minds! Sorry!
  • Reccioto della Valpolicella 2001 (Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara) – An incredible bouquet and also a great balance. The alcohol (15.5%) perfectly connected all elements of the wine. A true elixir!

 

 

We got to taste 6 unforgettable wines   Amarone Classico Selectione 2000 and Amarone Classico Riserva 2003

 

 

Yes, I know, we were lucky!

 

Truth is the wines we have just tasted are among the finest ones of the world; truly unforgettable with a real character. On the top of this, this experience took place in the family cellar with a great host, Mr. Giampaolo, so it was not just unique; it was magical!


Feeling so content from such an experience and wanting to not ruin it, we decided to avoid visiting other wineries. We went to Verona instead for window shopping, strolling around the old town and dining in a lovely Italian restaurant! So instead of goodbye, I share with you some of our pictures at beautiful Verona. Next post will be about Piemonte, the Nebbiolo and white truffle paradise!

 

 

Downtown Verona  

Romeo and Juliet inspire even the confectioners

 

 

A slightly piquant pizza with all good toppings!

 

Delicious gnocchi with gorgonzolla sauce and grinded charcuterie. 

 

 

Into the well-known Arena in Verona!  

This is a city to relax...

 

 

Tech rehearsal into the Arena!

 

Photos: Stavroula Mariamou

 

Gregory Kontos, DipWSET


Wine writer and taster, sommelier graduate and WSET Diploma holder, with an appreciation for food, traveling, music, friends and bon vivant things in general. Founder of Aegean Wine Selections, a Company focused in Greek wine exports. He is married to Stavroula Mariamou and they have a son. 

 

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