The Wine Drinker

This is the Dead Letter Office of my wine writing. These stories ended up not fitting on our company's Facebook page (Piedmont Wine Imports) or website,, for reasons that I think are clear once you scroll through a few posts. Less professional musings, impressions that ultimately never got past the rough prototype stage. Um... enjoy!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Valpantena and the small villages north of Verona possess a charm that can get lost in the shadow of the Alto Adige's striking, often stark beauty. Low mountains topped by ruined castles and still-inhabited centuries old palazzos, verdant farmland, terraces of vines rising lazily from the valley floor. The area is modern (roads, factories, supermarkets, etc.), densely populated, yet the balance is not upset, Valpantena has not tipped into anonymity (is this Cary or Apex? Oh!, we’re in Knightdale. Sorry, cheap shots at Raleighsprawl are far too easy and are a low form of enjoyment, like laughing at and feeling superior to the contestants on reality TV shows. I feel guilty, but it's my blog, and nobody’s perfect, so I’m leaving my cheap shot de jour in). While tasting at the Tezza winery in Valpantena and touring the vineyards with brothers Vannio, Flavio and Federico Tezza, who are slowly converting from traditional pergola vine-training to the more quality-oriented Guyot training system (at least three times the plant density, lower yield), I was filled with anticipation- Vannio really gets it. Mike and Jim (his U.S. importers) say he’s consistently been taking steps in the right direction since they started doing business with the Tezzas, including the important step (to this Italophile) of abandoning purely French varietal bottlings in favor of regional grapes. During my visit he mentioned that starting with the 2005 vintage his aim is to highlight the distinct character of his two great vineyard sites (one on each side of the Valpantena valley) and accentuate the indigenous varietal character of his Valpolicella by no longer drying the grapes for that bottling a la Dal Forno or Quintarelli. It takes a man with a real sense of purpose to chart his own path, away from the revered names of his home region (revered is maybe not emphatic enough, Romano Dal Forno and Giuseppe Quinterelli are gods in there native Veneto, and their wines are made even more mythic by a paucity of sightings thoughout most of the western world beyond Verona’s walls).

Vannio is going to take his own path to success. The barrel sample of his 2005 Valpolicella had a freshness and a delicious red-fruit quality that made it the most enjoyable (and upon its release probably the most food-versatile) wine sample of my trip so far. The only stumbling block: it’s slated to appear on our store’s shelves in 2008, a date so inconceivably far into the distance that I don’t know if I can stand the wait! Maybe I'll just swipe this barrel once Vannio's back is turned. . . .My notes, "Really pure black cherry and raspberry aromas. Hint of vanilla, hint of sweet chocolate. This makes me think that fresh Corvina grapes must taste great. Quite tannic, but no more than many Cali. Cabs. Has been in barrique for two months, will age there for two more years. Really interesting exotic fruit flavors".

His 2003 recioto was an eye-opener as well. Tezza claims it's the best he's ever made, and it certainly ranks as one of the top reciotos I've ever tasted. My notes, "13.5%abv, maybe $27 retail. Dried from September – April. Valpantena has a constant breeze from the mountains through the valley. One kilogram of grapes makes 187ml of recioto. This smells like ripe strawberries. Very amplified aroma, great big & smooth mouthfeel, no awkwardness at all. Some old balsamic on the nose but very fresh on the palate. Corvina, Rondinella, Croatina. Fermentation stops naturally b/c the yeast are destroyed by the quantity of sugar and alcohol. 15% sugar. This wine spends two years in barrique."

Some fact about Tezza. They use 1kg of grapes to produce one bottle of Valpolicella, 2kg of grapes (plus three years ageing) to make one bottle of Amarone, and (as mentioned above) 4kg of grapes per 750ml bottle of recioto. The drying grapes that were waiting to be pressed into service as recioto the following week tasted like the best raisins you could possibly imagine. I see a future importing and selling these fancy fruits at posh American groceries. So few times in America do we get to taste how really delicious grapes can taste. So when you wonder why that bottle of Amarone is so expensive. . . . As I mentioned briefly above, the Valpantena is constantly breezy, as it runs straight south from the Alps towards Verona. This drying breeze makes all those lovely Amarones and reciotos possible, as they air-dry in a humidity and rot-free attic environment.

Next Time: My Best of Summer 2006 List: Recommendations for fun, affordable and thirst-quenching drinking


Post a Comment

<< Home