Two Winning Italian Wineries

by artfuldiner on January 25, 2017

in Artful Diner Review, Opinion, Wine, Wining and Dining

Anselmi, RobertoThe Wines of Robert Anselmi – In 2000, Roberto Anselmi, widely regarded as one of Italy’s leading white wine producers, initiated a very public divorce. But this was not a family breakdown. Frustrated by the low quality and general lack of ambition in the Soave region of northern Italy, Anselmi banished the name “Soave” from his wine label and completely cut ties with the local Consorzio (consortium of producers). His wines are now simply labeled “IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) Veneto.”

Trouble had been brewing for some time, as newly modified laws created by the local Consorzio had lowered the bar for wines to be bottled under the Soave appellation. Garganega, Soave’s major varietal, could now be significantly supplemented by far inferior varieties, allowing lesser vineyards to earn quality designations far beyond their station. Special interests groups, primarily large-volume winemakers attempting to extend profits, had made their case for relaxing local traditions, which had then been rubber-stamped by the Consorzio.

And so Anselmi continued to move in the opposite direction, taking the quality minded approach, starting in the vineyard and extending into the wine cellar. His closely-packed vines are open to the sun’s rays, resembling those responsible for the finest wines in France, assuring healthier and more concentrated fruit. And rather than letting vines hang low, burdened by too much fruit, Anselmi allows only three small bunches per vine to achieve ripeness, thus guaranteeing density of complex flavor and ripe acidity. The winery is similarly advanced with stainless steel vats and French oak barriques. In addition, Anselmi is also undoubtedly the first winemaker in Italy to utilize French oak to ferment and mature his white wines.

Anselmi crafts only five wines – each very different and all at remarkable prices for their extraordinary quality. San Vincenzo is the regional blend, a marvelous introduction to Soave, which exudes plenty of Garganega’s unique character. Capitel Croce and Capitel Foscarino are his single-vineyard stars; the former fermented and aged in oak, the latter made entirely in stainless steel. Unusual for the area, there is also a small vineyard located near the winery in Monteforte d’Alpone that produces an elegant and expressive Cabernet Sauvignon. Last, but certainly not least, is the astonishing I Capitelli, a dessert wine made from dried and rotten grapes that matches some of the world’s finest.

Anselmi - San Vincenzo 2015Both the Capitel Croce and the Capitel Foscarino are well worth seeking out. But as a marvelous introduction to Mr. Anselmi’s winemaking prowess, I would highly recommend his 2015 Veneto White San Vincenzo. Creamy, and full & overflowing with character, the San Vincenzo is a palate-pleasing combo of 80% Garganega blended with 10% Chardonnay and 10% Sauvignon Blanc. Beguilingly unique, the wine is beautifully balanced with refreshing acidity and a modest 12.5% alcohol. The Wine Spectator bestowed 90 points (100 point scale) and placed it at number 60 on its “Top 100 Wines of 2016.” The 2015 San Vincenzo lists for $18.00, but I’ve seen it offered online in the $12.00 – $14.00 range. So do a little surfing… you won’t be disappointed.


Produttori del Barbaresco - Aldo VaccaProduttori del Barbaresco – Barbaresco is a small area in the Piedmont district about halfway between Milan and the French border. Nebbiolo wines have been made in Barbresco for more than eight centuries. Barbaresco is north of Alba, while Barolo, the other major source of great Nebbiolo wines, lies to the south.

Founded in 1958, the priest of the Village of Barbaresco gathered together nineteen small growers and founded the Produttori del Barbaresco. From its humble beginnings, making the first three vintages in the church basement, Produttori del Barbaresco has grown to a 53 member co-operative with 250 acres of Nebbiolo vineyards in the Barbaresco appellation and an annual production of over 500,000 bottles. Its vineyards amount to almost 1/6 of the vineyards of the area, with each member being in full control of their land.

Although Dolcetto, Barbera, and Moscato grapes are also grown in Barbaresco, the cooperative grows only Nebbiolo grapes, which are particularly sensitive to climate and soil. The terroir of Produttori del Barbaresco vineyards is a complex blend of clay and limestone rich in calcium with veins of sand. The vineyards are on steep slopes – 600- to 1300-foot elevation – with southern, southwestern, and southeastern exposure. Nebbiolo, which is a late ripening grape, does particularly well in such elevation and exposures.

Playing an important role in elevating the quality level of Barbaresco over the years, Produttori del Barbaresco produces a simpler, more easily accessible Nebbiolo Langhe; a Barbaresco Blend; and, in outstanding years, nine single vineyard wines produced in premier vineyards: Asili, Rabajà, Pora, Montestefano, Ovello, Pajè, Montefico, Muncagota, and Rio Sordo.

Aldo Vacca (pictured above), whose father was the first director of the Produttori del Barbaresco, uses traditional Piedmontese methods of production… All wines are vinified in stainless steel tanks, typically for 18 – 28 days, and then aged for up to four years in large old wood botti and in the bottle. These are powerful wines; yet, despite the 14+% alcohol, they are incredibly graceful when mature. The single vineyard 2011 Barbaresco Asili Riserva, for example, which is particularly prized for its finesse, was recently awarded 96 points (l00 point scale) and placed number 5 on the Wine Spectator’s “Top 100 Wines of 2016.” (Retails in the $55.00 – $59.00 range.)

Produttori del Barbaresco 2012The wine you’re most likely to encounter, however, is the classic 2012 Produttori del Barbaresco, which is a blend from all nine of the cooperative’s vineyards. This sumptuous wine received a whopping 93 points from the Wine Spectator. Powerful yet elegant, its perfectly balanced fruit intensity and beautifully-integrated tannins lead to a fabulously persistent finish. And as wine writer Antonio Galloni notes: “Most importantly, it is a terrific value at a time when well-priced Barbaresco is increasingly hard to find. In 2012, the Produttori did not bottle their Riservas. When that happens, the straight Barbaresco is often an overachiever. That is certainly the case here, as the 2012 offers outstanding quality for the money, with plenty of potential for the future. I can’t think of too many wines that deliver this much pleasure and value.” The 2012 Produttori del Barbaresco retails around the $33.00 mark. Catch it while you can!



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