Posts tagged ‘ca’rugate’

Rediscovering Soave


Castello di Soave (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

It’s always a pleasure to be in the town of Soave and the surrounding wine zone, easily one of my favorites in all of Italy. This was especially true for my most recent visit the last few days of May, as I hadn’t been there in four years, so it was definitely time for a return trip. Making this an even more enjoyable stay was the fact that I would be visiting producers with Giovanni Ponchia from the Soave Consorzio. Giovanni set up the tour and put together a wonderful mix of small producers along with cooperatives; he planned stops at some of my favorite producers I have become friends with over the years and also introduced me to some excellent producers I have never visited, such as Corte Adami, Dal Cero, Filippi and Fattori. It was an excellent three days – grazie tanti, Giovanni!

Vineyards at Castelcerino (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

A lot of people know the name Soave, but unless you’ve been there or have tasted a lot of wines from there, chances are you really know only a little bit about Soave. What I mean by this is that Soave has an image of being a pleasant, refreshing wine to drink young and while there are many examples in this manner, the truth is that there are a few dozen producers in the area that have elevated Soave into a complex white with distinct minerality that can age for more than a decade. To me, Soave at its best is a white that ranks with the finest in Italy.

The reason these wines can be so good are the vineyards. You might view Soave from the A4 autostrada and see the beautiful castello as pictured above and think to yourself what a lovely little postcard of a town. But all around the old town are hillside vineyards some 400-1200 feet above sea level. Many of these cru are comprised of basalt rock or volcanic stone, which explains the minerality in the wines, while other sites are more dominated by calcaire (limestone). Given the excellent drainage of hillside vineyards, yields are naturally low, which provides more deeply concentrated wines which can age for many years. Among the finest cru are Castelcerino, Pressoni, Foscarino and Frosca.

Regarding this last cru, Frosca is one source of grapes for Gini, one of the area’s premier producers. The Gini brothers, Sandro and Claudio, produce several bottlings of Soave, from a typical Soave Classico, blended from several sites to the old vines bottling labeled Contrada Selvaneza to the Frosca bottling itself. I was able to taste several vintages of the Frosca bottling at the winery, including 2009, 2007 and 1997, but it was the 1990 bottling that really opened my eyes. With a light yellow color that was amazing for a 20-year old wine, the wine offered aromas of wet stone, dried pear and apple peel, backed by excellent concentration and a flinty finish with vibrant acidity that made me think I was drinking a Grand Cru Chablis. The wine was in amazing shape and has another 7-10 years of life ahead of it.

Filippo Filippi (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Another great Soave producer is Filippi, located in the Castelcerino sottozona. I had tasted his 2008 Castelcerino bottling a year ago and was impressed not only with the complexity, but also the flavor profile – its strong minerality was reminiscent of a single vineyard Chablis. Headed by Filippo Filipi, this is an organic estate that is among the most precise in the area. The care that Filippo takes with his vineyards is evident in his various bottlings of Soave, from the Castelcerino (2009 is the current release) to the Monteseroni bottling (vines here were planted in the 1950s) and the Vigne della Bra offering. My favorite this time around  was the 2008 Monteseroni with its excellent depth of fruit, lengthy finish and stylish acidity. (While 2009 is arguably the best vintage of the past few years in Soave, 2008 is almost as good – and even better for some wines – as the wines from that year offer amazing aromatics and ideal acidity. The 2008s will drink well for another 5-7 years, at least).

There were several other excellent producers that I visited, such as Ca’Rugate, Coffele, Agostino Vicentini and Monte Tondo, but instead of detailing every piece of information, let me list a few of my favorite wines from the trip. Note that most bottlings of Soave are not aged in wood; this not only preserves the wonderful perfumes such as honeydew melon, pineapple and cherry blossoms, but it also means the minerality in the finish is more pronounced. However there are some notable versions of Soave that are aged in wood (even a few in barriques) that are wonderful wines; one of the best is the Ca’Rugate “Monte Alto.”

Here is a short list of several of the finest Soave I tried (and that are available in the United States):

  • Filippi Monteseroni 2008
  • Coffele “Alzari” 2009
  • La Cappuccina “San Brizio” 2008
  • Gini “Contrada Selvarenza” 2008 (a brilliant wine!)
  • Agostino Vicentini “Il Casale” 2009
  • Ca’ Rugate “Monte Alto” 2009
  • Battistelle “Roccolo del Durlo”
  • Cantina del Castello “Carniga” 2008
  • Cantina di Soave Rocca Sveva 2010

I also tasted the 2009 “Castelcerino” bottling from Cantina di Soave, a lovely wine that is not imported into the United States at present, but may be one day.

Finally, I can’t write about Soave without mentioning Recioto di Soave, the great dessert wine of this region (and one of the best in Italy), produced solely from Garganega grapes that have been dried for several months before fermentation. These wines are redolent of apricot and honey flavors and often have a light nuttiness to them. Some are medium-sweet and a bit lush, while others are lighter and actually only lightly sweet of off-dry. Recioto di Soave is liquid gold – tantalizing, delicious and sensual and I love every version. The best on this trip were from Fattori, Coffele, Ca’Rugate, Corte Adami, Monte Tondo and Agostino Vicentini. Try these lovely dessert wines on their own at the end of a meal or pair them with an almond tart or apricot torte.

June 22, 2011 at 9:56 am 4 comments

Best Italian Wines and Producers -2010

Cutizzi Vineyard of Feudi di San Gregorio (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

The 2009 Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tufo “Cutizzi”was among the best Italian wines of 2010

 

You might be wondering why in the first week of April I’m writing about the best wines and producers of 2010. The reason is timing – I’ve just published the Spring issue of my Guide to Italian Wines, which is my annual issue of the previous year’s best Italian wines and producers.

Subscribers received this issue last week and I am offering this issue to readers of this blog for $10 (see below for details). There are dozens of wines from various regions of Italy that I listed as among the finest of 2010, including the 2009 Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tufo “Cutizzi” mentioned above. Here are a few others that made the list:

  • Bellavista Gran Cuvée “Pas Opere” 2004
  • Elena Walch Gewurztraminer “Kastelaz” 2009
  • Livon “Braide Alte” 2008
  • Planeta “Cometa” 2009
  • Pieropan Soave Classico “La Rocca” 2008
  • Produttori del Barbaresco “Rio Sordo” 2005
  • Renato Ratti Barolo “Rocche” 2006
  • Il Palazzone Brunello di Montalcino 2005
  • Abraxas Passito di Pantelleria 2008

In total, there are 90 wines that made the list. Of these, there are:

  • 12 whites from Friuli
  • 16 wines (white and red) from Campania
  • 4 bottlings of 2005 Brunello di Montalcino (and three bottlings of 2004 Brunello Riserva)
  • 3 Bolgheri Superiore from 2007
  • 10 Barolo from 2006
  • 6 Barbaresco from 2007
  • 2 examples of Aglianico del Vulture

 

Sergio Germano, Az. Agr. Ettore Germano, Serralunga d’Alba (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

 

In this issue, I have also listed my choices as the Top 12 Italian Producers of 2010. One of the few rules I have is that I do not list a producer in consecutive years; however they can be producers that were selected in the past.

Ettore Germano is among the best Italian producers of 2010 as is Ca’Rugate from the Veneto. There are 10 other producers that made the list. To learn the names of the other producers as well as the wines that were selected as the best of 2010, this issue is available (via email in pdf format) for $10. If you’d like, you can also start a yearly subscription for $30. Email me (info here) for information on how to subscribe.

April 4, 2011 at 10:12 am 1 comment

Odds and Ends – My Favorites from VinItaly

A stunning Franciacorta, some gorgeous 2009 whites and that Vermentino Nero:

Robert Princic, Proprietor, Gradis’ciutta, Friuli (Photo ©Tom Hyland)


Back from another VinItaly and bursting with dozens of beautiful wines I’d like to talk about – and I didn’t even get to taste any wines from Abruzzo, Alto Adige or Sicily. Here are thoughts on a few:

Beautiful 2009 whites

VinItaly has the advantage of being the first major fair of the year where producers sample their newest wines for the press and the public; in the case of the white wines that meant the 2009s for most bottlings. However, this also meant wines that had only been bottled for a week or two, so it’s a bit difficult to reach a final decision on these wines, as they’re not quite all together yet. However, the 2009 whites as a whole showed beautifully, especially from Avellino in Campania and from Collio and Colli Orientali del Friuli. Among the finest 2009 white wines I tasted were the Alberto Longo Falanghina “Le Fossette” from Puglia; Monte de Grazia Bianco, a blend of local indigenous grapes from the Amalfi Coast including Peppela, Ginestra and Tenera; the Mastroberardino Fiano di Avellino “Radici”; the I Clivi Verduzzo Friulano, a dry version of this grape that is normally vinified dry (I Clivi is doing wonderful things with several grapes from their vineyards in Collio and Colli Orientali del Friuli – this winery will not be a well-kept secret for long) and the Gradis’ciutta Sauvignon from Collio.

This last estate is managed by Robert Princic, who at 34 years of age has become one of the most important vintners in Collio, a great white wine area. This Sauvignon is a brilliant wine, offering aromas of spearmint, bosc pear and ginger with excellent concentration, a lengthy finish and vibrant acidity. Look for this wine to be at its best in 5-7 years.

Stunning 2008 whites

There are always some exceptional Italian whites that are released a bit later than the normal wines; given the complexity and structure of these wines, they are ideal when they are initially offered some 18 months after the harvest. The finest at this fair included Bastianich “Vespa”, a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Picolit from Friuli; the exceptional Grattamacco Vermentino from Bolgheri and the stunning Marisa Cuomo “Fior’duva”. an Amalfi Coast offering made from Ginestra, Ripole and Fenile. This is as lush and as concentrated a version of this wine I have enjoyed and it should once again be in the running for one of the best Italian white wines of the year.

Amarone

There are just too many wines to try at the fair, so it’s difficult to focus on one category. I didn’t try as many Amarones as I would have liked, but the two best for me were the 2006 Tedeschi “Monte Olmi”, full of ripe cherry fruit and peppery notes and the 2004 “Il Fornetto” from Stefano Accordini. This last wine is a true riserva, produced in only the finest years. This is a robust, full-bodied wine with impeccable balance and is a great Amarone from one of the area’s most dependably consistent producers – one that should be better known.

Cantine Lunae Vermentino Nero Rosato (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Vermentino Nero

Yes, you read that right – there is a Vermentino Nero grape that is planted in tiny numbers in Liguria and Tuscany’s western coast. The bottling I tasted is from Cantine Lunae of Liguria, also the home of brillliant examples of Vermentino Bianco.

This is a rosato, as the Vermentino Nero grape does not have the structure to produce a red wine, as the winery’s export manager, Michele Gianazza, explained to me (hope you’re not disappointed, Jeremy). Che un rosato! This has a deep cherry color, aromas of bing cherry, chrysanthemum and mint and finishes very dry. What a pleasure to try this rarity!

A Stunning Dessert Wine from Soave

Ca’Rugate in Soave makes one of the very best examples of Recioto di Soave, the famed DOCG dessert wine of the area. Now comes the 2001 Corte Durlo, an amazing wine, a 100% Garganega made from dried grapes that have been aged in small barrels that have been sealed for seven years. My notes for this wine go on and on; aromas of creme caramel and dried sherry with notes of honey and mandarin orange in the finsh; I think this should drink well for 12-15 years and it could go on for 20 years! This is basically a Vin Santo; however, it is not legal to label the wine this way in Soave, so it is technically a Veneto Bianco Passito. Regardless, this can compare with the finest examples of any dessert wine produced today in Italy.

Matteo Vezzola, Winemaker, Bellavista (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

A Brilliant Franciacorta

If I had to name one wine that was my favorite at this year’s best fair, it was the 2002 Bellavista “Vittorio Moretti”. I tasted through the lineup of Gran Cuvée bottlings from this producer and then was asked if I wanted to taste one more wine. When I was told what it was, I had honestly never heard of it; I’m sure I’m not alone as this is only the sixth time this wine has been made in the winery’s 33 year existence. Named for Bellavista’s owner, the wine is an equal blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Nero that was partially barrel fermented. The lip of the bottle has two levels, meaning that the normal crown cap used to seal the bottle ater the first fermentation cannot be implicated here; rather a cork is used and the wine is manually disgorged.

The wine itself is full-bodied, with sublime aromas of yeast, biscuit, quince and dried pear. I told winemaker Matteo Vezzola that while I didn’t mean to compare Franciacorta with Champagne, as they are two different products, that this wine reminded me of Taittinger Comtes de Champagne. Matteo smiled and said that my comparison was fine with him!

A brilliant wine from a brilliant producer – bravo Matteo!

April 16, 2010 at 8:58 pm 2 comments


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