“Perpetuating a style has never sufficed. We have always felt the need to keep the discussion alive. Being faithful to a mission means respecting what has been done and, at the same time, rethinking it every day in order to ensure quality worthy of our potential and reputation.” From the Bertani website
We tasted the Bertani wines and spoke with winemaker Andrea Lonardi at the Wine Media Conference held in Desenzano del Garda. This luncheon was sponsored by Bertani.
The conference attendance (not travel or hotel) is subsidized by the Wine Media Conference and their sponsors. In return, attendees are required to post 3 articles of our choice on the conference and its sponsors. No additional compensation is received and all opinions remain our own.
The History of Bertani
The Bertani family had long been in wine. Documents from the mid-1500s attest to the family’s viticultural heritage in the Valpolicella region.
In 1850 Gaetano Bertani traveled to Bourgogne as a political exile. He had been playing an active role in the Italian Unification Movement against the Austrian Empire.
At this time, the Veneto was part of the Austrian Empire (anyone watching “the Empress”? Venice was part of the Habsburg dynasty). Napoleon, in 1797, having conquered the Republic of Venice, exchanged Venice for the Austrian holdings in the Netherlands. It was not until 1866 that the Veneto is included in the Kingdom of Italy.
While in France, his friend Jules Guyot (after whom the Guyot method of trellising is named) taught him about modern winemaking and viticulture.
When Gaetano returns to Italy, he and his brother Giovan Battista establish their winery Cav. G.B. Bertani in Valpantena.
Valpantena is within the Quinto province of Verona. It is the first valley east of Verona and one of the 3 sub-regions that may appear on a bottle of wine from Valpolicella.
In 1860, Valpolicella is known for its sweet Recioto wines. Gaetano, inspired by the techniques he learned from Guyot in France, introduces Secco-Bertani, a dry style. This wine blended Corvina and Sangiovese and made a dry wine without drying the grapes.
In 1959 they are one of the first wineries to produce Amarone with their Recioto Secco Amarone. At the time, there was no market for a dry version, so this wine was not always bottled, and vintages often remained in cask aging until Amarone came into its own, becoming an appellation in the 1990s.
The Bertani’s were one of the first producers of Amarone in the 1950s. It was in the 1950s that they also acquired Tenuta Novare Vineyards at Arbizzano di Negrar their estate vineyards and winery in what is now the Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG.
Bertani has one of the largest wine libraries in the world, with 200,000 bottles. It is the largest library for a single wine. This library includes 45 vintages of Amarone Classico that date back to 1958.
The Bertani family sold the winery in 2012 to the Angelini Group. The family had created a project called Tenuta Santa Maria in the 1990s, and the 4th generation of Bertani now produce wines based at the beautiful Villa Mosconi-Bertani just outside Verona.
Amarone – where climate packs a second punch
Amarone is not just influenced by the climate in the growing season. It is also influenced by the drying season in the late fall and winter. If it is warmer, the grapes dry faster. This gives the wine balance and elegance. Colder temperatures create complexity.
At Bertani, they dry the grapes with the traditional method in a building where the only means of temperature control is opening and closing the windows. With climate change, the temperature and weather in September through December can vary dramatically from year to year. This creates even more vintage variation for the Bertani wines.
A Conversation with Andrea Lonardi of Bertani on innovation, tradition, and climate change
I had the opportunity to chat with Andrea Lonardi, COO and winemaker at Bertani Domains at lunch at the wine media conference. Andrea came from a family who had been growing grapes in Valpolicella for many years. He joined Bertani after the Angelini Group took over in 2012. He is also currently the Vice President of the Consortium for Valpolicella. He speaks of the brand as historic and wonderful, but the brand, like many bottles, was dusty and needed that dust to be cleared off.
They recently tasted 44 vintages, of the same wine, with the same label. A true testament to this winery’s history. Currently, 27 of these vintages are available for sale. (Can you imagine having that vertical?)
He has moved to the use of concrete fermenting tanks, which had been abandoned at the winery. He leans into the terroirs of the region. Yes, that is plural. The soils, and microclimates of the different valleys and even within the same valley can vary. He illustrated this by creating single vineyard wines.
Historically the grapes of Valpolicella were Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, and Molinare. The use of Molinare used to be widespread in the wines of Valpolicella but had fallen out of favor. Andrea told me that they are including Molinare back into the blend of wines. He adds it to bring acidity and salinity to the wine.
He emphasized the need for the winery to be faithful to its history, but also, each day, look to the future, to ensure that they are creating the best wine that is possible. This is even more important as they experience climate change.
As I mentioned before, Andrea reminded me that Amarone is not just subject to changes in climate during the growing season, but also after harvest during the drying season. Temperatures in September through December have been different in recent years.
The key with Amarone is slow drying the grapes to intensify the flavor. A warm fall could dry them too fast. A warm harvest could have them ripe with sugar but without ripe phenolics where the flavor comes from. Dampness also becomes a danger in these traditional drying rooms with only windows and fans.
Andrea looks to the future blending innovation and tradition to maintain the quality of the Bertani wines. I look forward to watching this winery continue to produce delicious wines from this region.
About the wines
At lunch, we were tasting the Valpolicella 2021, Valpolicella Ripasso 2020, and the Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2011.
Bertani Valpolicella DOC 2021
The Valpolicella DOC is 80% Corvina Veronese and 20% Rondinella. From the Classica area in Tenuta Novare, where the soils are rich in iron. It ages in concrete for 8 months. This is the classic expression of Valpolicella.
This is a cool climate and the grapes here have a hard time reaching full ripeness. It used to be that they only reached 9-10% alcohol by volume. So they reverted to drying the grapes to concentrate the flavors and sugars.
Enter climate change. Now the grapes can fully ripen, and base wines easily reach a ripeness level to produce wines at 12% or higher.
This wine is again aged in concrete. This wine and style are brighter, with sour cherry and raspberry with pepper and baking spices. This is a great wine for pairing with food. 12% abv $14 SRP
Bertani Valpolicella Ripasso DOC 2020
The Valpolicella Ripasso DOC is 80% Corvina Veronese, 15% Rondinella and 5% Merlot. The “Ripasso” refers to the method “repassing the fermented Valpolicella wine through the skins and lees left from a recently fermented Amarone. This wine has added complexity compared to the Valpolicella DOC wine. This is a new release, and the Tech sheet is not yet available on their website. 13.5% abv $22 SRP
Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2011
This wine is 80% Corvina Veronese and 20% Rondinella from their Tenuta Novare Vineyards at Arbizzano di Negrar.
The grapes are carefully selected and then dried in a single layer on bamboo drying racks for about 120 days. The idea is to have them dry and concentrate, losing about 60% of their water content. They are then destemmed, crushed, and then macerate for around 20 days. They spend 30 days in concrete fermenting before aging in Slovenian oak for 6 years. They receive an additional year of aging in the bottle before release.
This is a complex wine with notes of morello cherries, tea, anise, plum, nuts, and spices.
Sitting at 15.4% abv this received 97 points from James Suckling and 94 from Decanter. It will run you around $127 US.
Bertani is awarded the Gambero Rosso Winery of the Year for 2023
Less than 2 weeks after we had the opportunity to speak with Andrea, Bertani was announced as the winery of the year in the Gambero Rosso Guide “Italian Wines 2023.”
Speaking before the lunch, Andrea said that Bertani’s recent success was not because Bertani had changed but rather because the market had changed. The winery never lost its soul. They stayed true to the dry style of wine and to truly expressing the place that they came from.
Research and resources
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine and WSET 3 Certified. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.