Posts Tagged ‘Prosecco’

Rainy start to an early VinItaly

March 24, 2015 Leave a comment


 Verona  – VinItaly came early this years, and while rain isn’t unexpected during this spring four-day gathering, the transition from late winter to early spring weather seems a bit cooler than normal.

That’s certainly not a complaint, since it’s always a thrill to arrive in this bustling north-Italy city, to see the coliseum and Castel Vecchio and stumble on fine restaurants hidden down narrow cobbly streets.

However, a comment on the weather is a suitable way to start as one of the laments heard from winemakers in northern Italy is that last year was one of the wettest vintages in memory, with rain until late August.

The sun returned in late summer but didn’t leave some winemakers with enough time to have their grapes reach the desired level of ripeness. 

On the morning of Day 1 I first made a  quick run through the Franciacorta region, which is one of my favorite places to start this fair,  and several people remarked how their 2014 wines were a little “sharper” than normal, even in their young state.

That gave a bit more acidity to the wines, a characteristic I found pleasing and certainly makes the wines more food-friendly. Apparently a lot of people agree; by mid-morning this always popular area had people three and four deep at some of the booths.

Another oft-heard remark was the early start to VinItaly (last year’s fair was two weeks later) gave winemakers a short time between finishing and bottling their wines for presentation here in Verona.

“It’s a little young” or “It’s not ready ” was heard at many booths although there was no lack of enthusiasm for the wines from either winemakers or fairgoers.

My first day normally is a whirlwind as I get my bearings and seek out old friends and try their latest vintages. As customary, I spent most of the day on sparkling wines, from the metodo classico of Franciacorta to the tre bicchiere Prosecci of Graziano Merotto in Valdobbiadene.

Other stops included the newest Bandarossa from Bortolomiol and the bright-cherry Raboso Spumante from Corvezzo.

 I also stopped to see Ambra Tiraboschi from Ca’Lojera in Lugana, of whom I’ll write more after my visit there Saturday.

And that’s enough from Day One.

Making the most of an ancient grape

Tezze di Piave, TV, Italy – When I first met winemaker Antonio Bonotto, of Tenuta Bonotto Delle Tezze, he looked like anything but a renowned winemaker continuing a family tradition almost 400 years old.


Winemaker Antonio Bonotto making something new out of something very old.

Instead, dressed head-to-toe in a forest-green rubber suit and standing on scaffolding 12 feet high, Bonotto was diligently power-washing 400 years of grime off the walls and ceiling of the ancient, heavy beamed space where grapes once were delivered by horse-drawn wagon and making the room into a new tasting room/reception area.

For the moment, Bonotto was making it rain harder inside than out.

I was with my friend Patrick Caseley of Trevignano and when Bonotto recognized Patrick, the oenologist called out, “Hey, Patrick, welcome,” and crawled down from the high rise.

“You caught me at a bad moment, I’m really working,” he said, shutting off the sprayer and walking to us.

It didn’t seem he was very dry, in spite of the rubber suit, and specks of grime dotted his smiling face

“But I’m quite happy to quit for a moment, this is hard work,” he said. “You probably don’t want any photos of me right now.”

He laughed and brought us a treasure found in the walls during the ongoing renovation.

This bottle of 1966 Raboso del Piave was hidden in a wall by Antonio Bonotto's father nearly 47 years ago. It was broken when recent construction uncovered it.

This bottle of 1966 Raboso del Piave was hidden in a wall by Antonio Bonotto’s father nearly 47 years ago. It was broken when recent construction uncovered it.

“It is, or it was, a bottle of wine my father put in the walls in 1966, when he was doing some remodeling,” Bonotto said.

He showed us a broken bottle, still bearing a hand-written label with the date 22/9/1966.

“One of my workers was inexperienced with a machine and he wasn’t able to stop in time to save the bottle,” said Bonotto, shrugging. “Too bad, it would have been nice to have it whole. My father made this wine.”

Bonotto’s family has lived in the Tezze area since at least the 1400s and for centuries the family rented farmland from the local monastery and paid their rent with wine.

The commercial winery began in the 1800s and today Tenuta Bonotto makes a line of still and sparkling wines, including a delightful Prosecco DOC (he’s just outside the Prosecco DOCG zone) in brut and extra dry and a refreshing Novalis, made of 100 percent Manzoni Bianco, with hints of oranges, apricots and a stony minerality derived from the soils and waters washing down from the nearby Dolomites.

He’s particularly proud of his Raboso del Piave-based wines.

It’s an ancient grape, Bonotto said, with ancient records indicating this indigenous grape, considered the “king of wines” by Venetian aristocracy, having been vinified since the 800s.

“The real distinctive characteristic of this grape is the acidity,” Bonotto said. “Normally, when a grape ripens the sugars go like this (moving his hand in an upward arc) and the acidity goes like this (a downward arc). But with Raboso, the acidity gives you this,” and he drew a straight line.

It’s that straight-on acidity that deters many winemakers who don’t understand how to make wines with Raboso, Bonotto said.

Vittoria Bonotto, wife of winemaker Antonio Bonotto, selects a bottle of Bonotto delle Tezze Raboso del Piave Potestá for a guest.

Vittoria Bonotto, wife of winemaker Antonio Bonotto, selects a bottle of Bonotto delle Tezze Raboso del Piave Potestá for a guest.

“It’s not something you can eliminate, so you learn to work with it,” he said. “Or not.”

When vinified as a sweet wine, the acidity balances the sugars, the result being a sweet wine with “nerve,” as Caseley said.

That bottle of his father’s wine from 1966 may still have been drinkable, given Raboso’s acidity, and the current Bonotto rued not being able to see how it might have aged over nearly 50 years.

With his wife Vittoria, we tasted Bonotto’s 2009 Potestá Raboso del Piave DOC (100 percent Raboso Piave) and found hints of violets and roses on the nose with spice, licorice and a pleasing bit of earthiness and minerality.

He also makes a Raboso Passito, its grapes dried naturally for four months before vinification, and a Raboso Rosato Frizzante, bright and indulgent in fresh red berries and cherries.

“This is the blessing of this grape, you can make so many different wines from it,” Bonotto said. “It’s a pity because we have so many other varieties here we don’t focus on Raboso. It’s really a marvelous grape.”