A week ago on the 27th July 2011, the wonderful Sommeliers Australia association put together a delightful tasting for twenty willing Members at the old Melbourne Wine Room in St Kilda. The tasting was hosted by none other than The Wine Guide’s Dan Sims, with panel members including Speri winemaker Luca Speri, Italian wine importer Matt Paul from Trembath & Taylor and La Donna del Vino. I sat up the front voraciously anticipating the good things to come over the next two hours.
What words do you associate with an Amarone della Valpolicella wine tasting? Let me tell you: Velvety. Voluptuous. Vim. Vibrant. Va va voom! Exaggeration aside, my brain cannot ignore the urge it has to continue that alliteration of the letter ‘v’ by making reference to the script from a scene in the movie, ‘V for Vendetta’. Right here. Right now. Apologies for confusing anybody. Blame my brain.
In view, a humble Vaudevillian Veteran, cast Vicariously as both Victim and Villain by the Vicissitudes of fate. This Visage, no mere Veneer of Vanity, is a Vestige of the Voc populi, now Vacant, Vanished. However, this Valorous Visitation of a bygone Vexation stands Vivified, and has Vowed to Vanquish these Venal and Viulent Vermin Vanguarding Vice and Vouchsafing the Violently Vicious and Voracious Violation of Volition!
The only Verdict is Vengeance- a Vendetta, held as a Votice- not in Vain, for the Value and Veracity of such shall one day Vindicate the Vigilant and the Virtuous. [Chuckling].
Verily, this Vichyssoise of Verbiage Veers most Verbose, so let me simply add that it’s my Very good honor to meet you, and you may call me V.
As spoken in V’s introduction to Evey – V for Vendetta (2006)
Enough of that. Now to the details of the tasting!
BRACKET ONE – VALPOLICELLA & RIPASSO
This was the bracket where some of the inconsistencies in Italian DOC laws were revealed by Luca Speri, noting how the increasingly popular screwcap closure on the Allegrini and Speri wines forced them to remove the word ‘Classico’ from the front of their label. Realistically it should only be a matter of time before the demand for screwcaps leads to an adjustment in the Italian law system. Or so you would think. How long have you waited in an Italian post-office though? How long does it take you to get your Italian citizenship from the Italians? Or how long does it take you to do anything in Italy? So my estimate may be slightly off.
Valpolicella is a style I have written about before in a focus on the Speri winemaking family. Click here for that post.
As Dan commented, “It is a style to be had not necessarily in moderation.”
1. ALLEGRINI Valpolicella (Classico) 2008
Salty and meaty on the nose, bright but savoury, a prosciutto wine, like so many others. Simple and clean.
2. SPERI La Roverina Valpolicella (Classico Superiore) 2009
Superiore due to the extra year of ageing. More fragrant in a jooby berry aroma, mouthwatering and more primary forward than the Allegrini.
3. BRIGALDARA ‘Il Vegro’ Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2006
Smells like there are hints of Merlot in there, thicker, tomato sauce characters, soy sauce, barbecue sauce, a little bit foxy.
4. GIUSEPPE CAMPAGNOLA Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore ‘Le Bine’ 2008
More syrupy and concentrated, more of a wild bramble character, more persistent on the finish, better length, oyster shell minerality.
5. SPERI Valpolicella Ripasso 2009
Again the Speri is of a dark red berry fruit base, but now more mid-palate weight over the Valpolicella style, a more noticeable amount of lusciousness yet not along the lines of Amarone just yet.
Kudos to Luca Speri for making it clear that the Ripasso style is better termed a ‘very good Valpolicella’ and not a ‘baby Amarone’.
BRACKET TWO – AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA 2006
This bracket was served blind. The best way for really assessing your opinions on a wine.
1. PIEROPAN Amarone della Valpolicella 2006
Strawberry liquoroso-style sweet fruit, slatey, fresh and vibrant, rabbit fur tannins and overall very polished. This was their first vintage release off a highly elevated vineyard called Monte Gorzon. I think Matt said there was a little bit of Sangiovese in there too.
2. LA SALETTE Amarone della Valpolicella Classico ‘La Marenga’ 2006
Darker-fruited over the Pieropan, touch of savouriness, creamy, velvety, full-flavoured and concentrated to the finish.
3. TEDESCHI Amarone della Valpolicella ‘Monte Olmi’ 2006
Their single vineyard cru and a wine built for longevity off their limestone-terraced vineyard. Appeared spicier, darker herbal characters, earth clove, more drive, astringency and with an amazing persistency.
4. PRA’ Amarone della Valpolicella 2006
Chocolatey, more oak influence, denser, warmer fruit, mulberry, Barossa-like nose. A little too ripe for me.
5. ALLEGRINI Amarone della Valpolicella 2006
Touch of pepper, warm, long finish, barrels of guts, hint of grano padano though that was concerning. Fruit cake spices on the nose.
6. TEDESCHI Amarone della Valpolicella 2006
Herbs like thyme mixed with the more obvious cherry notes, a little closed initially but one of the many wines that opened up throughout the bracket tasting in the glass to more complex earthy spice flavours.
Overall the 2006 vintage in the Valpolicella wine zone was tempered and balanced so none of these wines were showing anything overtly worrying. A currently youthful vintage that would be great for cellaring.
BRACKET THREE – SPERI AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA VERTICAL
In this bracket Luca Speri informed us how the standard residual sugar (measured in g/L, shortened to RS) in Amarone wines is 7 g/L. Speri’s Amarone is more like 4 g/L, but it has become common for less renowned and traditional Amarone producers of the Valpolicella to leave 13 g/L residual, which is, in his words, a result of the burgeoning American market. Dandy. As long as the majority of dull Amarone does not head to our shores and we keep getting our allocation of top Amarone, most from a collection of twelve noble family producers who strive to maintain the name and class of the Amarone style, then I, amongst others, will be satisfied. They are the Amarone Families and include: Allegrini, Begali, Brigaldara, Masi, Musella, Nicolis, Speri, Tedeschi, Tenuta Sant’Antonio, Tommasi, Venturini, and Zenato.
1. SPERI Amarone della Valpolicella 2006
Dark chocolate, like opening a fresh bag of coffee, bark-like tannins, voluptuous, fine and elegant, a wine with that delectable lift
2. SPERI Amarone della Valpolicella 2004
Personally thought there was bottle variation in this wine, as I’d had this wine a few years ago and it never held that musty, oat-like nose. Warmer than the 2006 with a mealy finish, chocolate and chilli touches. I wanted it to open more, but I’ll attribute this one to being at a confusing stage in its overall development.
3. SPERI Amarone della Valpolicella 2003
Doesn’t have the guts or concentration in flavour of the 2006 or 2004, a result of a poorer vintage. Not a horrible wine in any way, but instead you find there are more herbal notes, and it gives off an interesting diesel-like whiff! Jet-skiing, anybody?
4. SPERI Amarone della Valpolicella 2001
Dates, pudding, soft and voluptuous, mushrooms, black fruits, tertiary development. Matt commented that it had ‘lost its baby fat’. This was my favourite. Totally clean and seductive in a creamy fungi-like quality.
5. SPERI Amarone della Valpolicella 1997
Married and drinking beautifully on the palate. The nose still needs to open more however. Brown mushrooms overlaying softer amounts of black fruits.
6. SPERI Amarone della Valpolicella 1995
Truffled with field mushroom developing. The finish is dry, fresh and clean. For a 1995 this was impressive nonetheless.
Seemingly, as the Amarone della Valpolicella wines of Speri age, they begin to adopt more earthen fungi-like tertiary characters that are truly appealing. Take me to a forest and lay me in the centre of a sinister fairy ring and my senses would be divinely content. I suppose the main concept the group got from bracket three of Speri wines, was the inherent ‘freschezza’, or freshness, that has become a defining character of the producer.
The evening was completed with Matt pouring us all a serving of Speri La Roggia Recioto 2007, the famous dessert wine made from dried grapes. The smells coming from the glass were just like you’re standing over the fermenting tank; fresh, young, purple-fruited, dense, and on the palate that wonderful lick of glycerol and the balance of fine tannins that ties it all in together.
Insomma, era una bella giornata!
Ti ringrazio, Luca Speri.