Three Reasons Why Veneto Might Be Italy’s Most Underrated Wine Region
… And they all have the last name. It’s rare for me to find all the releases of one winery universally appealing, so don’t let it sound like a shill when I say that all three of these wines by the Bertani winery have a lot to offer–two of them at notable value. And although […]
... And they all have the last name.
It's rare for me to find all the releases of one winery universally appealing, so don't let it sound like a shill when I say that all three of these wines by the Bertani winery have a lot to offer--two of them at notable value. And although I like them all, I'm really just using these wines as a small but prominent example of why the Veneto may be Italy's most under-appreciated region for wines. Not because its wines are overlooked (as with many other smaller DOCGs)--in fact, it's Proseccos and Soaves are some of the highest volume selling Italian wines around the world. But the popularity of these wines (as well as Valpolicella) tends to undermine appreciation for the more attentively made bottlings.
I will admit that I am a sucker for history, and the Bertani brand has it by the shovelful. As Director of Operations Andrea Lonardi tells me, the winery--dating to 1857--still uses a number of classic winemaking practices and vintage label styles, yet the wines are certainly contemporary on the palate.
Bertani Valpolicella Ripasso 2011 is 85% local Corvina Veronese grapes, with 10% Merlot and 5% Rondinella, hand harvested and fermented twice (the "ripasso" process), the second time, passing over Recioto Amarone skins to increase the tannins, flavor and alcohol (13.5%). Deep red in color, the nose promises rich, mature fruits which are delivered on the palate as notes of dark berries, cherries, licorice and wood, with very balanced tannins on the finish. Certainly well priced around $25 retail.
Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2006 is 70% Corvina Veronese, 30% Rondinella, of the most unblemished grapes picked by hand and laid to dry naturally on cane mats in the classic fashion (Andrea makes a point of telling me that this takes 2-3 times longer than the heated drying that most Amarone producers now use), then macerated and fermented for an incredible 50 days... after which the wine is aged in Slavonian oak casks for six years. You read that right. And then, after bottling, they lay it down for another year before release (using the same label style unchanged for some 60 years--and apparently many of their older vintages are still available, oddly enough). Dark purple red color with a strong nose of dried stone fruits opening to a robust mouth of stewed plums and apricots, some dark berries, chocolate and a little anise. The aging naturally emphasizes the tannins, but they are remarkably soft on the finish considering 15% ABV. Retail is $130.
Last but definitely not least is my favorite, Secco-Bertani Original Edition 2009: 80% of three Corvina clones (Rizza, Nera, Corvione) and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Syrah. As Lonardi tells it, this wine was inspired by the discovery of an 1870 vintage bottle in the cellar of a restaurant in Copenhagen, which after decanting was still remarkably lively and quaffable. So the winery researched and decided to recreate this 19th century style blend, even duplicating the label and bottle (well, it's actually the 1930s era label). Grapes are taken from high altitude vineyards, macerated on the skins, slowly fermented and then aged in local cherry and chestnut wood casks for a year, then after bottling, laid down for another six months. The result is a dark ruby colored wine with a complex nose of chocolate, cherry and herbs--then a mouth that is restrained but rich, with sour cherry, berries and some spice, but overall impressively balanced. Kind of astounding to think that wine drinkers were enjoying something this well made 140 years ago (obviously those woods are much easier on wine than oak, and I didn't get a clear explanation of whether the French varietals were always part of the blend). I think the typical SuperTuscan devotee would feel richly rewarded by this wine--and pretty pleased with it's retail of $33. Feel free to keep that a secret.