Tastings on the road between Amarone & C.

ViaggidiViniTastings on the road between Amarone & C.

Tastings on the road: holidays can also be enjoyed among vineyards and cool cellars. To get to know our most typical wines up close and enjoy a restful sleep in rooms overlooking the vineyard such as those of Villa Betteloni in San Pietro in Cariano in the heart of the classic Valpolicella.

Amarone, Recioto, Passito and company

So, notebook in one hand and goblet in the other, we took notes cellar after cellar, choosing the smaller and less noble ones among the approximately 420 present in this strip of Italy that gives wine tourists great satisfaction.


We started with the young and passionate Francesco Aldrighetti at Terre di Gnirega, the winery that takes its name from the place where the vineyards are located in the territory of Marano della Valpolicella.


Francesco represents the fourth generation of this family, from the great-grandfather Cristoforo born in 1874, passing through Sante and arriving to his father Luigi, who on these lands cultivates 4 hectares of vineyards with Corvinone and Rondinella grapes and another hectare of cherry, plum and olive trees.

The organic method has been used since the 1970s and certification was obtained in 1989 but it is since 2010 that, after renovating old cellars around a courtyard, they began to vinify their grapes, starting to produce 25,000 bottles of Valpolicella classic wines: Valpolicella Classico DOC, Valpolicella Classico Superiore, Ripasso DOC, Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG and Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG and an IGT Passito Bianco del Veneto.

Francesco takes us to the vineyard and on a small tour of the cellar where his parents are busy labeling the bottles.
He explains that the vinifications are carried out leaving the indigenous yeasts naturally present on the grapes, with minimal interventions and supporting the annual character of the wine.

The drying for the Valpolicella Superiore, the Amarone and the Recioto, respectively of one month, three and four months, takes place in the old barn and you have to climb up a ladder to be able to photograph what is called the fruttaio, that is the room where the boxes are stacked one on top of the other to let the grapes dry so that the berries lose some of their water and all the other substances inside them are concentrated.

And before starting with the tastings he invites us to follow him in the barrel cellar and then in the family “safe” where the bottles of each vintage are kept: the oldest dates back to 1963.

In the room prepared for the tastings the bottles are already lined up. Let’s start with an experiment! The wine is called Armeno and is a white based on Garganega, the most important native white grape of Veneto. But why an experiment? Because this is how it was born a few years ago and since then Terre di Gnirega has continued to produce it as its intense aroma combined with the fresh taste was very much appreciated.

The story behind Creari, an ancestral method sparkling wine, a procedure similar to the Classic Method, is very interesting. The slightly sparkling wine or as the French would say “petillant”, is obtained by lightly pressing the grapes to extract the must from the berries, followed by fermentation in stainless steel using the indigenous yeasts present on the bunches, without temperature control. Here the fermentation is followed by monitoring the sugar content which gradually decreases and, upon reaching a sufficient residue to ensure the formation of sufficient pressure in the bottle, we proceed with bottling, without the addition of sugars and yeasts, and it waits for the natural end of fermentation in the bottle which creates the pleasant bubbles effect. Then the wine rests for about 3 years and is drunk without disgorging.


A wine in which freshness and acidity stand out is the Valpolicella Classico 2017, the result of a very hot and dry year, which gave it an alcohol content of 13.5 and aromas of ripe fruit. Ripasso, as the name implies, is a wine passed on the skins that derives from an old technique still used today to obtain a second fermentation, made between March and April, of the Valpolicella wine on the dried and fermented pomace remaining after the production of Recioto and Amarone. The Ripasso 2015, a particular vintage in which the maturation blocked by drought ended after the rains of late summer, has an aromatic part typical of hot years, but also fresh and acid notes typical of the Gnirega area.


We then move on to the king of tastings here in Valpolicella, Amarone, which is produced only from healthy grapes suitable for drying. Subsequently, the bunches are pressed and the must left to ferment in steel tanks. The wine is then aged in steel tanks for about 2 years, with a further 3 passage in oak barrels, before being bottled.
The 2015 vintage in the glass is “full”, but at the same time very fresh and if it may seem light and simple on the surface, it reveals an unexpected complexity and a depth that owes its 16.5 degrees.

We closed the series of tastings with a Recioto 2015, another classic Valpolicella wine that takes its name from the “recie”, the two wings of the bunch, more suitable for drying because they are rich in sugars and less compact.
We appreciated the hints of ripe grapes, but with a nice acidity that leaves the mouth clean from the sweetness of the wine so it is possible to combine it not only with desserts, but also with risottos, meats and cheeses.
To say goodbye, we toasted with a 2015 Passito Bianco Veneto which is the wine that best represents the history and tradition of the family as grandfather Sante was famous in the district for this recioto. A little moved, Francesco tells us that he has never had the opportunity to work together in the cellar, yet one of the oldest women in the district, tasting his passito, recognized “el vin che fasea el Santo” (the wine that made Sante).


For the second of the tastings we reached a large 15th century house that dominates the Marano Valley from the top of a hill: the headquarters of the Novaia company. What Novaia means is explained to us by Cristina who with Marcello represents the fourth generation of the Vaona family, the one that started the conversion of the estate to organic production.

“Novaia means new farmyard, a new family in the Marano Valley” says Cristina in front of a glass of Amarone produced from the best bunches, destined for drying, strictly selected in the vineyard and placed in boxes then placed in a traditional and ventilated hilly fruit cellar at an altitude of 400 meters above sea level.


In the space dedicated to tastings located inside Corte Vaona, the former family residence and company headquarters, we drink together an Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico which takes its name from the place where we are. A soft and balanced wine, aged two years in wooden barrels and 8 months in bottle, but which, well preserved, can withstand an aging of 10 years or more – Cristina assures us.

This is followed by the tasting of Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico – Riserva, CRU “Le Balze”, which makes 36 months in wooden barrels and 12 months in bottle: the flagship of the winery derived from grapes grown in the vineyard “Le Balze”, located at 300 meters above sea level and with south/south-east exposure.

We reached this plot, one of the three at the origin of the Crus of the estate together with I Cantoni and Le Novaje, with a short walk that allowed Otto to stretch his paws running between the rows and we to enjoy one of the most beautiful views of classic Valpolicella.


It’s also mandatory visit to the new cellar, inaugurated in 2011, which, a few hundred meters from the historic site, houses the wine cellar and the fruit drying room.

En plein air tastings at Villa Guerrieri Rizzardi, after the visit to the wonderful Giardino di Pojega which also includes the vineyards where Corvina and Corvinone, Rondinella, Barbera, Merlot and Sangiovese are grown.

The winery has a long and interesting history that is told to us as we taste. It owes its name to the union of two ancient Veronese families. Guerrieri Counts, owners of an estate in Bardolino, and Rizzardi Counts of Lombard origin, who bought their vineyards in Negrar in 1649, subsequently expanding the business with the purchase of land in Calcarole, Rovereti and Tomenighe.

The Guerrieri Rizzardi farm was born in 1913 with the marriage of the two families and is now a reality that has four estates. In addition to that of Negrar, the wines are produced in Bardolino, Soave and Valdadige.
Precisely for this reason we allowed ourselves a slightly “wider” tour than the classic Valpolicella with the tastings of the Tacchetti and Cuvée XV labels, the Bardolino Classico produced by the company on the hills of the eastern shore of Lake Garda.

We then returned to Negrar with Pojega, a 2018 Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore mixed at 6% with Amarone, and Cuvée XVII, Valpolicella Classico, to close with Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Calcarole, produced exclusively in the best vintages and in small quantities, and with Amarone Riserva Villa Rizzardi from grapes grown in the Pojega vineyard, where the average age of the vines is at least 30 years.

And we got to fruit! In Lessinia, in fact, the Misso Pear is cultivated, a Slow Food Presidium unknown to us until now, whose fruit is harvested unripe at the end of September and is consumed in November after ripening in boxes when it becomes dark: in the Veronese dialect “misso” indicates in fact a very soft and ripe fruit. What did it remind us of? The “winter medlars” which, harvested unripe, are matured in the straw barns. And this is where the saying comes from: “With time and with straw, medlars ripen”.

Terre di Gnirega
Via Gnirega, 7 – Marano di Valpolicella (VR)
www.terredignirega.it – terredignirega@gmail.com

Via Novaia, 1 – Marano di Valpolicella (VR)
www.novaia.it – info@novaia.it

Guerrieri Rizzardi
Strada Campazzi – Bardolino (VR)
www.guerrieri-rizzardi.it – mail@guerrieri-rizzardi.it

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