The parentheses are important, they signify the parent company’s guiding hand over the new properties which have been added to their portfolio over recent years. These newer additions however have their own dedicated teams making their own decisions in order to bring out the best in each individual terroir. The only constant is that they are all committed to single indigenous varietal wines.
Bertani are famous for their exquisite Amarone and at a recent seminar it was a treat to taste a 2006; 1986; 1975 and 1964. But the purpose of the morning was to showcase the new wines and what an immense amount of work has gone into them. they have thought deeply about viticultural practices and have a fascinating programme of using traditional methods in very modern ways.
The first wine we tried was from their Puiatti vineyards in Friuli called ‘Archetipi’ IGP a 100% Ribolla Gialla. This is produced by a method they call ‘Infusion’ whereby grapes are painstakingly separated from their stems – it is very important the skins are completely whole – and added to the previous year’s wine. Andrea Lonardi the Operational Director for the Group believes the beauty, depth, fragrance and structure you get from the skins are unique and priceless from this varietal.
The way he talked about it reminded me of Andrew Jefford saying we may look back on whisking juice off the skins as one of the great travesties of white winemaking in the late C2oth. Or indeed the ‘natural’ winemakers who are storming the international scene with their amber hued, tea-tannin flavoured, skin contact whites. The singular difference here is that the infusion with skins takes place without oxygen but in the presence of alcohol which is quite different to the usual maceration process used elsewhere.
The infusion lasts for up to 60 days and gives a warm, golden pear and apple flavour, honeyed and unctious but still fresh and so moreish with a cinnamon spicy finish. It was the highlight of the tasting for me, sensational.
Then came ‘Governo all’Uso’ from their San Leonino vineyards in Tuscany near Castellina in Chianti, made from 100% Sangiovese. The area is the warmest part of Chianti and the berries are very small as are the yields. The method known as ‘governo all’uso Toscano’ consists of adding slightly raisined grapes (ie with a higher sugar content) to the wine immediately after fermentation and racking which induces a secondary fermentation. This increases glycerol levels and makes the wine rounder and softer and more approachable in its youth allowing wineries to trade some of the wine as early as the following Spring, helping with cash flow.
Historically Trebbiano grapes were used for the secondary fermentation but in their pursuit of single variety purity, here only Sangiovese is used. The finished wine is very ripe on the nose and palate but with high bright cherry notes. There is some earthy power too and a rustic charm. Alessandro Torcoli the editor of Civilita del Bere and co-presenting the seminar talked of the dusty characteristic that you find in pure Sangiovese. Once he mentioned it I could see what he meant but I am always rather susceptible to the power of suggestion.
Leaving Tuscany temporarily we then tasted ‘Novare’ a 100% Corvina Veronese from the heart of Valpolicella. They have an innovative trapezoid training system in the vineyards but the most interesting thing here is that once harvest is declared they cut the canes with the bunches of grapes off the main plant but leave them on the wires in the vineyard for the grapes to continue their phenolic ripening without increasing sugar levels. In this way they achieve a more aromatic and concentrated wines but avoid the somewhat ubiquitous and now misleading term ripasso which Andrea feels has led to too many unbalanced, high alcohol wines with a lot of residual sugar being released and confusing the market.
The Novare 2013 IGT is rich with chocolate and morello cherry fruit, it’s full and intense with beautiful depth but with no compromise of its Valpolicella freshness. Clever, winemaking using Nature rather than additives or gizmos to create something pure and balanced – I really loved this wine. And it’s not expensive either, ex-cellar €7.50
The hills of Montepulciano look as though they are covered in green leopard spots as Andrea told us. The vines are a pale lime green or dark ivy green depending on the soil composition with varying levels of clay and sand. It is clear and obvious to see, even with google maps for the casual observer. These variations can mean a difference of up to 2% ABV and 30% of polyphenols and anthocyanins. To harness these differences they use precision viticultural mapping and a satellite controlled harvester. Each mini-plot is individually harvested, fermented and aged to respect their characteristics and extract the perfect blend from the land.
The need for mapping and cru designation is something that is of huge concern to local producers and is a topic to explore in detail another time.
Their Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Santa Caterina DOCG 2011 is curranty with sour cherry and orange peel notes. The soft entry is followed by a dark, graphite length with beautifully balanced acidity and depth of flavour.
And then finally we come to the Val di Suga Brunellos, of which there are 3 wines corresponding to their own cru designations which they believe show profoundly different terroirs and we tasted the Brunello di Montalcino, Vigna Spuntalli DOCG 2009. This is from vineyards on Montalcino’s south-western sea facing slopes, sunnier and drier than the 3 main Brunello areas. The wine shows some evolution on the colour already and has a mushroom, lacey autumnal delicate power. It is quite austere and very complex with orange zest, liquorice, tobacco and spice. Ripe and complete and very grown-up.
This was a fascinating seminar and tasting and I look forward to watching these properties evolve.
Andrea Lonardi, photo courtesy of Gabrielle Gorelli
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