One of the thrills of spending 12 months working on the eastern side of Lake Garda, N. Italy was to fully appreciate the wide and varied cuisine, accompanied by fine wines. My purpose of employment was to set up a nursery business for a successful German businessman in Bardolino. Unsurprisingly I was asked to source a wide variety of alpine plants that would suit the continental climate.
On my doorstep was a veritable market garden; verdant yet seemingly parched hillsides with occasional groups of regimented cypress trees. Orderly arranged plantations of apricot, peach and nectarine along with olive groves and vineyards as far as the eye could stretch. I set out to discover and experience just a tiny fraction of this marvellous agricultural storehouse. My employer was a man who, not only knew his wines but had the means to purchase his favourites without compunction. I was in for a treat! An early surprise was the variety of fine red wines available from close proximity to Lake Garda. While Bardolino and Valpolicella Classico are household names, my personal favourite from this area is a Masi Amarone Costasera. I have sourced an Amarone Classico Costasera 2006/2007 Masi from Majestic Wines. At £30 a bottle this may seem more than one would normally expend on a bottle of red wine, but this, however, is rather special.
Masi has been run by the same Boscaini family for the past 6 generations and perhaps a little background information will explain the true value of an Amarone. The grape varieties that make up this wine are typically, Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara.
A fascinating process goes in to the production of this wine, called appassimento or rasinate (to dry and shrivel) in Italian. Grapes are harvested, where possible, in the first two weeks in October. They are allowed to dry, traditionally on straw mats, in modern times in special drying chambers. This concentrates the remaining sugars and flavours. The length of this drying process may last for 120 days. The grapes are eventually crushed towards the end of January/ beginning of February. After fermentation, the wine is then aged in barriques made from either French or Slovenian oak. As to the wine itself, my overall impression is of a full-bodied wine with loads of fruit with a very refreshing finish. More discerning folk will note ”an opulent nose of ripe-red cherries, with the addition of liquorice, sage, bitter chocolate and espresso”.
My wife prepares a splendid stew from shin of beef and accompanied with Pink Fir Apple potatoes with plenty of butter and on a special occasion a few glasses of this exceptional wine will be simply memorable.
My recommendation is: Amarone Classico Costasera 2006/2007 Masi from: www.majestic.co.uk
To accompany my special recommendation for April, I am keen to highlight a more accessible and very popular, dry red from C. Italy, Montepulciano D’ Abruzzo. This is a recommendation exclusive to the famous emporium for Italian food and wine, Valvona and Crolla based in Edinburgh. Montepulciano is a pretty town perched on a hill surrounded by vineyards, planted, in the main with a mixture of Sangiovese and Colorino grapes.
The wine I’m recommending is V and C’s own 2008 vintage and is “bursting with black cherry aromas, hints of violets and the merest touch of spice”. It is medium to full bodied and aptly described “like a Vespa, it is tremendous fun and classically Italian”. A great choice to accompany Pasta or a light meal.
Readers may shop online at www.valvonacrolla.co.uk