Vinitaly – Spotlight on Italy
This year the buying team went to Vinitaly, the grand Italian wine fair held in Verona, which just seems to be getting bigger and bigger every year with 2023 offering 16 halls to explore. Sadly it was also the coldest year ever as we arrived to the sight of rain which was very unexpected. We went with the objective of discovering new wines such as Verdicchio and Primitivo from Puglia, but we were also able to meet with a lot of our wonderful producers and enjoyed tasting through the ranges. This got us thinking how easy it is to forget just how good some of these wines really are and so we wanted to put a spotlight on some of our favourites to remind you of not only the incredible Italian producers we work with but also the delicious wines they make. Click on the producers and wines mentioned to read more about them and remind yourselves of the secret behind the Italian magic. Might also inspire your choice of bank holiday wine!
Vite Colte brings together 180 growers, in the valleys of Piedmont, who work hard to produce consistently high quality while working sustainably. We were able to taste through the range and particular standouts were the Gavi di Gavi Ca da Bosio showing lovely soft apple and pear with floral notes and elegant minerality and soft rich texture, Barbera d’Asti Superiore La Luna e I Falo had delicious ripe dark fruit with forest floor and spices to give lovely complexity, and finally the 2018 vintage of Barolo Essenze which is showing really well with rich notes of earth and spice yet a lovely fresh elegance. They are working towards becoming certified sustainable and it has always been at the heart of their philosophy in the vineyard, the winery and socially.
Based in the beautiful Veneto region, home to Prosecco, Bortolotti are found in the heart of Valdobbaidene (pronunciation tip – sounds like Chardonnay) and are considered the pioneers of the quality sparkling wine. We take the delicious Brut and Extra Dry, so we tasted this in our meeting with Daniele and Bruno, but we also got to dry some other amazing wines in their range such as a Lagrein pink sparkling, Cartizze Dry made with charmat method and the delicious 2017 Chardonnay Extra Brut. All the wines are clearly high quality and in beautiful elegant bottles to show their prestige yet at such affordable prices. The Brut is a wonderful dry style (only 6g residual sugar) with crisp fresh apple peach and a lovely rich mousse and elegant finesse. The Extra Dry has slightly more sugar with 12.5g residual sugar, giving a lovely off dry character for intense round fruit such as apple and pear and floral notes accompanied by crisp bubbles.
Also, in the Veneto region and good friends with Bortolotti, Mont Faustino are our lovely Amarone winemakers. We spent an evening at Paolo’s house (meeting his new Baby) in the beautiful hills where traditionally Corvina grapes are dried on the rooftops due to the wines that come down the hills and they are then used for the classic Amarone style. They have kept many historical wine making tools as part of their legacy which dates back to the early 1900s. A beautiful evening with a few fish dishes paired with Bortolotti Prosecco and then we enjoyed the amazing Amarone 2007 and 1995 vintages, and the Recioto della Valpolicella 2004 (we currently have 2017) with dessert. It was exciting to see the amazing potential of the great vintages we have of the 2017 and 2015. We met with Carlo at the fair and tasted the Valpolicella Classico which is showing really well, along with La Traversagna Ripasso Classico Superiore and the wonderful Amarone’s including the Maestro Fornaser 2013 which translates to ‘The Teacher’ in dedication to Paolo’s father who was a Teacher.
We attended a delightful event hosted by Cantina Gorgo had a lovely time trying their wines in a beautiful setting in the Veneto foothills. It truly felt like the way the wine was intended to be drunk; a spring evening with delicious food surrounded by beautiful views. Gorgo make quality organic wines but it is so much more than that with sustainability being at the core of everything they do from the vines and everything that surrounds them. We have a great selection from Gorgo including the Custoza which is an Italian blend that has spent extended time on lees for a lovely full style along with the Custoza Superiore Summa which is a step up in quality as the grapes are harvested late for an incredibly concentrated white with aromas of orange blossom and full palate of all those wonderfully more-ish notes of dried mango, lemon curd and ripe stone fruit. We also have the wonderfully fresh Chiaretto di Bardolino Rosato with an abundance of red fruit and an elegant minerality. We thoroughly enjoyed the Bardolino Rosso which has lovely smooth supple tannins and long fruity notes of blackcurrant with hints of spice, and another wonderfully smooth wine is the Ca Nova made with Corvina grapes for a rich wine packed with red fruit and lovely savoury notes from the oak. Finally, the lovely Valpolicella Ripasso which is a testament to its style with amazing concentration of black cherry and luscious dried fruit with notes of chocolate and vanilla in a velvety smooth finish.
Located in the Soave Classico area of the Veneto region, not far from Lake Garda, Guido Rizzotto and his daughter Laura have been making quality wines combining tradition with modern methods but most importantly working organically with nature. I met with Laura from Balestri Valda as she is recently back after having her baby last year and it was lovely to hear about her passion to work with the environment which even led her to start beekeeping. They run their own vineyards with local varieties on volcanic soils which express themselves through the wines resulting in amazing rich notes and elegant minerality. I tasted through their range including the Soave Classico (100% Garganega) with a lovely expressive profile of apple and stone fruit with fresh acidity and minerality, and also the Soave Classico Lunalonga which is a blend of Garganega and Trebbiano each of which are treated separately for a blend of the fresh aromatic Garganega and the oaked Trebbiano for a round complex wine with elegant notes of nectarine, apricot, vanilla and almonds.
We were able to visit Le Monde’s stand in the Friuli hall of the fair, and it was definitely the popular place to be! We tasted through wines that we have in our range and more as Le Monde make elegant fresh styles of Prosecco (Brut, Pinot Nero Rose), Whites (Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco, Friulano) and Reds (Refosco, Cabernet Franc) benefitting from cool climate of the alps and warm air from the Adriatic with long days of sunshine for ripe fruit while retaining freshness. Friuli is in the North East of Italy, bordering Austria and Slovenia with a wine culture that reflects its mixed heritage. Le Monde pride themselves on great knowledge of the land and soil, working with the land sustainably to create quality with respect for the environment. It is hard to pick a favourite from the tasting, the whites were all so wonderfully elegant and showed really distinctive fruit. Though Le Monde are known for their local varieties they also produce quality international varieties such as the Merlot where we tasted both a 2021 vintage and then a 2018 vintage to see the lovely ripe fruit in a fresh style compared to a more concentrated Merlot with more depth and texture – both delightful examples of the variety.
We were greeted by the team at Kellerei Kaltern Caldaro with 3 kisses (the traditional greeting for the region: left cheek, right cheek, left cheek – good to know so the 3rd kiss isn’t a surprise). In the foothills of the Alps, Alto-Adige is also known as Südtirol due to its German heritage. With 650 members and 450 hectares Cantina Kaltern has a long-established history as one of the largest wineries in the area producing quality wines on the shores of Lake Kaltern. They are known for paying high prices to growers to ensure fairness and encourage quality as they are also first to be awarded ‘Fair’n Green’ applying a holistic approach to viticulture with regard to the environment and social responsibility. All the whites showed really well such as the Kerner with expressive aromas and flavours of nectarine, apricot and lime with fresh acidity and smooth long finish. Schiava is the flagship for the region and the Classico Superiore is wonderfully bright with zippy cherry, strawberry and raspberry with violet as an elegant example of a red that can be served chilled.
In the heart of Tuscany, with romantic views of rolling hills and the distant sound of Pavarotti singing ‘la donna e mobile’, Chianti Classico is known for its quality wines made from Sangiovese. Snapping back to reality, we sadly could not meet Vicchiomaggio in this beautiful location, but rather we met in the rather un-romantic hall packed with hundreds of people. Nevertheless, we were able to taste wines that can always transport you back to the hills. The Castello itself dates back to the 5th century, now carefully and fervently preserved by John and Paola Matta, with John continuing his Father’s legacy of making quality wine that the region is famed for. The Chianti Classico ‘La Lellera’ is made with predominantly Sangiovese and aged in large oak for a well structured wine with fresh notes of cherry, strawberry and vanilla and spice from the oak with fine tannins. Finally the Chianti Classico Riserva ‘Petri’ uses grapes from the Petri vineyard producing low yields for excellent quality resulting in a full and powerful wine with notes of rich forest fruits, earthy undertones and spice, fresh acidity and vibrant tannins for great potential to age.
We met with the lovely Susanna Crociani and caught up with her while tasting through the fantastic range. The family business started in 1955, and today works organically (to be certified next year) with 10 hectares of vines to produce quality wines in the region of Montepulciano in southeast Tuscany. They are respected in the area, with a legacy of cellars that date back to 14th Century, and a reputation gained from their Vino Noble Montepulciano and Vin Santo. We take the Rosso di Montepulciano at the more affordable end and great value with lovely rich dark cherry and blackcurrant and a spicy finish, accompanied by ripe tannins and medium body for a delectable drink. Then at the top end we have the Vino di Montepulciano Riserva are currently enjoying the 18 vintage but ready with the 19 vintage which was showing beautifully with a lovely combination of intense dark fruit with dried fruit liquorice and savoury notes of herbs and earth, impeccable complexity to leave you speechless.
We had the pleasure of meeting with the amazing ladies at Donatella Colombini who make our incredible Tuscan reds. The first winery in Italy staffed by an all-female team, demonstrating that quality production comes from passion and talent whether you are a man or woman. They have 336 hectares on the hills in Montalcino and Chianti Classico with a mixture of cereal crops, olive groves and 17 hectares dedicated to vineyards. For their Brunello wines Donatella aims to produce an ‘original style’ with her wines by using old traditions such as concrete tanks for ferment and manual labour to produce a style that is fresh and elegant. A highlight has to be the very impressive Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2015 with its exquisitely complex concentration of aromas and flavours that fill the senses with notes of dried cherry and herbs and a hint of aniseed that continues to evolve in the finish.
It was great to see our friends at Cantina Orsogna who are a cooperative working in multiple regions such as Abruzzo and Sicily with a community of green-hearted winemakers to make organic and biodynamic wines using native varities. We have a few different brands in our portfolio including Lunaria (Pecorino, Malvasia, Pinot Grigio Ramoro, Malvasia Orange, Primitivo Ruminat, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Pinot Grigio Pet Nat, Malvasia Orange Pet Nat) Vola Vole(Passerina, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo) and Lunagaia the latest addition from Sicily wine beautiful labels telling the story of the italian epic poem Orlando Furioso (Grillo, Zibibbo, Nerello Mascalese). All unique wines that are excellent quality and expression of where they come from.
We enjoyed visiting our new producer Tenuta Olianas who are an organic winery based on the island of Sardinia. A typical Mediterranean island, Sardinia produces some excellent quality wines and it is most known for wines made from Vermentino and Cannonau. They are in Biodynamic conversion ready for this vintage, using natural yeast and they respect traditional farming culture of the island, preferring to use horses to help encourage biodiversity. We tasted the 2022 vintage of the Vermentino (30% of the juice maceration for 3-4 days) with lovely fresh apricot and apple yet a buttery rich finish with a clean salinity and notes of pebble. We then tasted the 2022 vintage of Cannonau which has 30% spent in Amphora for 6-8 months and the rest in 2nd use oak, resulting in a wine with intense red fruit and a plummy medium body with nice hints of spice and supple tannin. The 2021 Anfora Cannonau which is beautifully aged in Georgian Terracotta amphorae for 6 months for lovely fresh fruit character that isn’t influenced by oak and yet a depth and rich texture accompanied by lovely spices and earthiness.
Cantine di Carpe e Sobrara
We enjoyed meeting with Cantine di Carpe who are a cooperative of 1,200 grape growers and they are known for their Lambrusco which they make in a variety of styles. We have the Piazza Grande Spumante Rosato which is made from Lambrusco varietals for a delicate crisp style with lovely fresh notes cherry and strawberry. The Via Emilia Spumante has a lovely expression of crisp apple and citrus fruit with a fine mousse.