Between Vincenza and Verona in the hills north of the Po River Valley, the vines have amazing views. Just 45 minutes from Verona and 20 minutes from the inspiration for the castles of the Montagues and the Capulets, you will find this wine region, the Monti Lessini DOC.
This is the perfect way to celebrate Valentine’s Day!
*** Update February 10, 2023
Please note below an update to this post regarding the use of the Monti Lessini DOC name. This DOC is still proposed and has not yet been approved for Metodo Classico wines of the region.
The backstory of Romeo & Juliet
We know this famous story of the star-crossed lovers as told by Shakespeare, but he actually got the idea from a story written by Luigi da Porto.
Luigi was a knight at the beginning of the 16th century and was wounded in battle. He retired to his father’s home in Montorso Vicentino to convalesce. His father’s house was the beautiful Venetian villa of Villa Barbaran da Porto. To occupy his days while stuck in bed, he wrote poems and stories.
Looking out from the villa, you could see the Scala family fortresses, Il Castello della Ballaguardia, and Il Castello Della Villa, which face each other on hilltops. He imagined two great families warring with each other, the Montecchi and Capuleti (or as we know them, the Montagues and Capulets), and wrote his tale of the star-crossed lovers. But even this tale was taken from another story.
In his collection of stories there is the “Historia novellamente ritrovata di due nobili amanti“. In his preface to the tale, he recalls an archer named Peregrino from Verona, who regaled him with this story on one of their marches. The story hit home with Luigi, who had fallen in love in Venice. They were never wed because her father forbid it due to a rivalry between the families. (Layer upon layer, my friends!)
This story became popular, and Matteo Bandello wrote a version. His version spread to France and then to England, where Arthur Brooke translated it. It is likely that this is the version upon which Shakespeare based his play.
Ah…now that we are in a romantic state of mind. Let’s create a Disney ending to this love story! Instead of sipping poison, perhaps they fled into the Lessini Mountains between Verona and Montcchio Maggiore with a romantic picnic, a view of the Po River Valley, and, of course, a bottle of Monti Lessini!
Durella – the grape
Durella is an ancient grape, first mentioned in the 13th century. Originally this grape was called “Durasena” from the laine “durus acinus,” which means hard berry. This grape has thick, almost leathery skin.
Lessini Durello vs Monti Lessini
Lessini Durello DOC and Monti Lessini DOC are two denominations that cover the same area. The difference between the two is in the method of sparkling winemaking. Lessini Durello is made in the Charmat or Tank method, where the wine does its second fermentation in a large tank. Monti Lessini is made in the Traditional method, like Champagne, where the second fermentation is completed in bottle.
The traditional method used for Monti Lessini is more labor intensive. Each day during the second fermentation, the bottles are shaken and turned to move the dead yeast cells to the neck of the bottle for disgorgement (this is called “remuage.”)
***Update February, 10th 2023
Italian wines are complex with so many varieties and regions and they are constantly changing.
I had referred to the Consorzio Tutela Vino Lessini site MontiLessini.com for information. Here it reads as if the production regulations have already been approved.
After a bit more digging and some assistance from sources in the region, I have some clarity on the Monti Lessini DOC. This DOC has not yet been approved for use with Traditional Method Sparkling wines. Here is a link to the proposal documentation. It is currently used for still wines of the region. Here is a link to the current production regulations for Monti Lessini DOC. I want to thank Greta with Sandro de Bruno for these links.
For further clarification you can also visit the UVIVE site where they breakdown the various DOCs in the region. These are Lessini Durello DOC Italian/Charmat, Lessini Durello DOC Classic Method, Monte Lessini Durello DOC for still wines and Monte Lessini Durello Passito DOC for wines made in the passito method.
Hopefully, this new DOC will be approved and producers using the more labor intensive Metodo Classico will be able to use it on their label to set them apart.
It is here in the Lessini Mountains that Sandro de Bruno grows Durella for their sparkling wines. Mount Calvarina peaks at 682 meters, and its volcanic slopes are ideal for growing Durella, adding notes of minerality to these sparkling wines.
I get a little excited when I get to write about a grape, a wine that has but 2 lines in the Oxford Companion to wine. This wine is relatively undiscovered, but it is delicious.
So, how did I find it? While planning our trip to Italy, I searched Vero Vino Craft Wine’s website to see if we might be near any of the producers that Sheila imports. I mean, it’s great to discover new wines and share them with you, but it’s better if I can point you in a direction of where to find them to enjoy for yourself, right?
Visiting Sandro de Bruno
We drove out to the winery and were eagerly greeted by the winery dog, who assisted Michael in getting the camera gear out of the car. Greta, who handles PR took us to the cellar, where Sandro Tasoniero, the winemaker and owner, met us for an interview. (We look forward to sharing that with you later).
After our interview and tasting in the cellar, Sandro packed us into his vehicle and took us out to see the vineyards. He showed us the volcanic soil and the pergola style system that they use for the grapes. These grapes ripen with a view of the Po River Valley below them, you can see the eastern edge of the Valpolicella region from here.
There were some berries left on the vine, and Sandro handed them to me to pop in my mouth. Delicious, even before being made into wine.
Lessini Durello DOC Metodo Classico Riserva 60 Mesi Extra Brut
While this wine is labeled as Lessini Durello, it is indeed Monti Lessini. We were given two bottles of this beautiful wine when we visited Sandro.
The wine is 90% Durella with 10% Pinot Bianco grown on these vines at between 450 and 600 meters on Monte Cavarina. From the winery
Manual harvesting by small crates at the end of September.
Destemming, cold skin maceration (5-7 ºC) in closed press for at
least 12/18 hours and soft pressing in low temperature, in nitrogen
saturation. Before fermentation, the must is decanted. After
fermentation, the noble lees are preserved by performing weekly
bâtonnage and stored for at least 8 months. Aging in bottle on its
lees for 60 months. After disgorgement, stabilization and aging of
the wines for 5/6 months before sale.
This wine has the distinctive notes of iodine that you find in the wines of this region, with citrus and tropical fruit notes, as well as mineral, chalk, smoke, and flint. There are also delicate florals and, of course, notes of bread. There are honey notes tempered by the beautiful acidity and a finish with bitter almonds.
Both the 36 and 60-month versions of this wine received 95 points from Wine Enthusiast.
You can find them at VeroVino Craft Wines.
Suggested pairings for Metodo Classico sparkling Durello
The winery suggests pairings of Baccalà alla Vicentina, Fassona tartare with egg crust, Escalope of Foie Gras, and Fresh pasta tagliolino with smoked char and pumpkin flowers. Other thoughts might include dressing up a pizza night with a flatbread pizza with mozzarella fiordilatte and guanciale, mortadella (bologna), or soppressa veneta. Seafood pairs well, and fried seafood would be divine with the bubbles—vegetables, white meat, appetizers of all sorts, and celebration all pair well. The celebration need not be momentous. Life is short. Celebrate Tuesday!
Of course, if you are celebrating Valentine’s Day, all the better.
References 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.
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