This week I’m focusing on a recent trip to the most expensive vineyards in Italy (courtesy of O’Briens). You might expect that I’d been in Brunello di Montalcino or some of the cru villages of Barolo or Barbaresco, but in fact I was in the Veneto tasting Bardolino, Valpolicella, Soave and Amarone.
The harvest was in full swing during the visit and due to hail damage and other weather problems the crop will be smaller this year, but it is expected to be of good quality. I stayed throughout the trip in the village of Bardolino which is right on the banks of Lake Garda, and yes it is as beautiful a spot as you have heard.
Most of the visit was spent with the Rizzardi family who can trace their winemaking history back to 1649 and have Doges, Counts and Countesses in their history. I wrote about a vertical tasting of Rizzardi Amarone last April and I rather raved about it — I love its combination of exotic fruits and depth of flavour but also that winemaker Giuseppi Rizzardi manages to retain elegance and a lightness of touch.
As well as Bardolino Classico and Amarone vineyards I visited the rolling hills above Soave where the Garganega grape is undergoing a bit of a renaissance. Good Soave has delightfully pure almond and lemon essence flavours and it is particularly suited to Autumn weather — perhaps served with some fresh Ravioli or Sole in brown butter or a meatier fish such as Halibut or Monkfish. Bardolino and Ripasso will also work with pasta but save the Amarone for the steak.
I also visited Musella Winery which is owned by the Pasqua family. Fully biodynamic and open to new ideas they ferment in a mix of old and untreated oak barrels, stainless steel, concrete eggs, amphora and even marble and porcelain for fermentation — their wines have remarkable purity and energy. I suggest two of their wines below.
Meanwhile tickets for the O’Brien’s Wine Festival in Cork and Dublin are on sale. There are 45 wine producers, 200 wines to taste plus masterclasses, details below. For the Diary: O’Briens Wine Festival, Clayton Hotel Cork, Thur. 7th November, 6-9pm. Dublin: 8-9th November. Tickets: €15 (or two for €20) from your local O’Briens or via www.wine.ie
Musella Valpolicella Ripasso, Veneto,Italy — €22.95
Stockist: O’Briens Stores nationwide
Musella is a 35ha Demeter certified Organic/Biodynamic family run estate making some of the purest wines in the region. Their bright juicy Valpolicella is also recommended but I really liked this Ripasso made from a portion of dried grapes and fermented on Amarone skins. Ripe, inviting, sweet and morello cherry aromas, luscious supple fruit flavours and brimming with energy.
Musella Amarone Riserva 2016, Veneto,Italy — €52
During my visit to Musella I tasted a range of vintages with the highlight being the dark chocolate and rasined 2005 which has several years of development left. The 2016 has lively candied cherry fruit aromas and a silky but textured elegance on the palate and good depth — the core of the wine has lots of finely tuned dark chunky fruits to see it into the 2030’s should you be the patient type.
Rizzardi Calcarole Amarone 2013, Veneto,Italy — €70
The regular Rizzardi Amarone is on special for €39.99 this month as is their 3 Crus Amarone (€35), but if you can stretch to it, this is the wine to really treat yourself. From a single vineyard and only produced in the best vintages this has big floral red cherry fruit aromas and flavours.
Rizzardi Munus Rosso Veronese IGP, Veneto,Italy — €14.95 (was €21)
Sourced from some of Rizzardi’s best old parcels in Bardolino Classico and mostly made with local Corvina (57%), but the addition of Merlot (38%) means this is designated as an IGP rather than DOCG. Primary fruit flavours on the nose with black cherry chocolate and cedar, supple and darkly fruity with a pleasing bitter cherry kick on the finish. Outstanding value at this price.
Rizzardi Frizzante Prosecco — €12.95(was €14.95)
Rizzardi Spumante Prosecco is reduced to €18 from €21 this month - it is packed with luscious creamy peaches and will cheer up rainy October. This lighter frizzante retains the creamy peach flavours (if not the textured fizz), and will match well with the last of the peaches and nectarines.
Rizzardi Bardolino Classico, Veneto,Italy — €14.95
Bardolino vineyards are right beside Lake Garda around 40 minutes west of Verona. This is 70% Corvina plus Rondinella, Merlot, Ancellotta and Sangiovese and is packed full of charm and cherries with soft plum fruits on the palate — perfect for a mushroom risotto or light pasta.