I always refer to this tour as our ‘Verona’ tour, although the place is more famous for Shakespearean references than wine! It is however in the centre of the Veneto, which has some of Italy’s most interesting wine regions – Soave, Valpolicella and Bardolino, which may not have the prestige of Chianti or Barolo, but offer fabulous quality and variety, with the backdrop of the Dolomites, the Northern Lakes, and of course some of the best gastronomy in the world.
In 2010 I ran three tours, all based in Verona, a wonderful walled city, complete with a roman amphitheatre famed for its opera performances, and, if one is minded to engage with a bit of romanticism, the very balcony on which Juliette called out for her Romeo.
On each tour, our first day took us east of Verona.
Our first stop was to Corte Sant’Alda. A small very high quality biodynamic estate where we not only tasted some absolutely fabulous Valpolicella and its richer version Amarone but received one of the most pragmatic and incisive explanations of how Rudolf Steiner’s biodynamic theories apply to vineyards from Marinella Camerani, who has been tending vines and making wine here since 1985.
Rather large tasting samples left many of us somewhat woozy by 11am, but undeterred we headed over to the family owned estate Inama, now run by the third generation on a mission to resurrect the reputation of Soave, by making great wines with minimal intervention that truly express their terroir. We walked through their old vine Garganega in the heart of Soave Classico, and tasted through their top class range of single vineyard Soaves, Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs and reds made from Carmenère and Cabernet Sauvignon grown on the Colli Berici. The young dynamic Matteo Inama, who is slowly taking over winemaking responsibilities from father Stefano, was our host
After lunch in the Enotecca Di Monteforte, a wonderful traditional 16C brick building, we arrived in the historic walled town of Soave for our visit to Pieropan, producer of La Rocca. Hosted by Andrea Pieropan, we visited the beautiful cellars, amid the oak barrels, barriques and whatever they are called, and were taken through the racks where the grapes destined for their Reciotos de Soave and Amarone de Valpolicella dessicate, up to the roof terrace for the stunning views of the vineyards and town.
We explored the differences between the Calvarino vineyard which produces perfumed aromatic Soave Classico from a blend of Garganega and Trebbiano, and the La Rocca vineyard from which they make a pure Garganega with wonderful minerality, and were blown away by the glorious combination of delicate sweetness and acidity of the Recioto de Soave, and the power and complexity of the Amarone – both of which achieve their intensity through drying of grapes post harvest.
The following day we continued our exploration of Valpolicella at the historic Masi winery in Valpolicella itself. We enjoyed a comprehensive tasting tasting of wines from around the region, and erased any residual doubts we might have had about just how much quality these fabulous wines can produce.
After a simply gorgeous lunch on a terrace overlooking Lake Garda we continued on to Ca de Frati
in Lugana di Sirmione, also on the southern shore of the lake. A fabulous tasting of their varied range, including two wines made from 100% Turbiana, the native white grape variety of the Lugana DOC, which produces gloriously complex wines reminiscent of the best of the Rhone whites. Turbiana has fantatic acidity ensuring they make great fizz and sweet wine as well.
For many the highlight visit was to Giovanna Tantini who grows Corvina, Rondinella, Merlot and Cabernet in the Bardolino DOC. A former lawyer, with an MBA in wine management, Giovanna was the most fabulous, generous host. We walked through her vineyards, visited the winery and tasted her wines (reds, rosés and IGT sweet wines made from grapes that dessicate on the vine), and those of her husband, in a glorious covered terrace, along with local cheese and meats.
Our final visit was north towards Trento where we experienced the Vallarom estate, owner Barbara Scienza hosted a fascinating vineyard visit on some fairly steep hills, and we enjoyed a traditional farmhouse lunch at the property.
Verona was a lovely place to stay and provided some great places to eat. Our final night dinner was at the Antica Trattoria Inotecca al Bersagliere which rounded off the tour with a typical Veronese five course dinner.