The Veneto and Verona
Ah, the Veneto, tucked in the Northeast Corner of Italy, it holds Venice and its canals, the lush hills in Valdobbiadene where they grow glera for Prosecco, and those cities we are all familiar with from our high school Shakespeare classes, Padua & Verona.
When we visited, we took it all in. We drove the hills of Valdobbiadene, drifted the canals of Venice, had coffee at Pedrocchi Café in Padua, and strolled (or at least tried to stroll) Verona.
This month, the #ItalianFWT writers are exploring the Veneto, led by Deanna Atk of Wineivore. It gives me a chance to relive our wonderful days in this region. You will find links to my colleagues’ articles at the bottom of this piece.
We were nearing the end of our visit, and we had planned two nights at an Estate outside of Verona. We booked a suite with a vineyard view to spoil ourselves.
Magari Estates is located just outside Colognola ai Colli, about 30 minutes east of Verona, sitting in the Soave wine region just south of the edge of the Valpolicella Orientale region at the southern end of the Val d’Illasi.
From Colognola ai Colli, you head west down a road that quickly takes you into vineyards. The road becomes gravel, and the driving is slow, the vines rising high above our little Fiat rental car, making anything in the distance that was not straight ahead impossible to see. Soon enough, after a couple of turns, we could see the stone villa ahead.
The villa was built in the 1500s as the home of a nobleman and has been restored as a boutique hotel complete with a pool, spa, and restaurant in the middle of a vineyard.
I found an article that said “magari” means “if only” in Italian. (Google translates it as “perhaps” or “maybe,” “even,” or “even if.”) Perhaps they named it for the people who would love to live here forever, ‘if only…”
Three buildings with thick stone walls and a small center courtyard with an olive tree make up the property. We had opted to treat ourselves to the Junior Suite with a Terrace, the perfect place to relax and watch the sunset.
When we arrived, our suite was not yet ready for us, but lunch was available! Hungry from our drive, how could we refuse? The dining room was cool, with a slight breeze coming in from the patio. We had a leisurely and delicious lunch with wine.
Our suite was just upstairs from the restaurant, with vaulted ceilings and a large terrace that was over the restaurant patio. The filmy drapes embroidered with lace that draped over the bed probably indicated that it was often used as the “honeymoon” suite.
That afternoon, we visited Verona, took in the views from the top of Colle San Pietro, which overlooks the city, and then tried to make our way into the city. It was a Sunday, and the crowds were oppressive, so we quickly made our exit, returning to our suite to pop a bottle of wine and take in the sunset. I slept soundly in the comfortable bed with the door cracked to the patio to enjoy the breeze, the drapes over the bed gently blowing.
The following day I asked about the winery associated with the Estate, and they set us up to meet someone at Fasoli Gino, the winery in Colognola ai Colli, the commune closest to the Estate.
The winery is through an arched entrance from the main street in Colognola ai Colli. You could easily miss it were it not for the small round sign above the arch. Once through the arch, the area opens. Before you is the tasting room, beside it and beyond, the winery, and then the vineyards.
We arrived, and Mattia Cristofoli took us to the vineyards behind the winery. Mattia works with Fasoli Gino and his own winery, Tasi. He looks at Fasoli Gino as the “Mother Winery.” Established almost 100 years ago by Amadio Fasoli, they began making wine in 1925 with their first official sale to the parish priest.
Gino Fasoli took over the family vineyards and gave the winery his name. In the late 1970s, chemicals were typical in the vineyards, and Gino developed an allergy to one. As the third generation took over, they decided to convert to organic agriculture. They were a bit ahead of their time in the region for that move. Amadio and Natalino Fasoli stopped all their use of chemical products. As 4th generation Matteo stepped up to work in the family business, they made the decision to move forward to biodynamic farming. They were one of the first wineries in the region to convert to this type of farming.
Tasi is a smaller label that Mattia and his friends Michele and Matteo began in 2012. The name in the Veneto dialect means “Shut-up!” the logo is a sketch of a face with a finger across the lips, the gesture for quiet.
This project in the northern end of the Illasi Valley was created in an abandoned Quarry. Prior to the 1970’s, there had been a cement factory in the area that employed many of the local community. The quarry was associated with the factory, and when the factory closed, the quarry was abandoned. For 20 years, it sat empty. Then, in the 1990’s, the township gave a license to a company to all the land to become a landfill. There were nearby leather factories looking for a place to dispose of the chemicals from the tanning process. They hoped that the limestone soil in the quarry would keep the chemicals from leaking down into the water system. The community was not so hopeful and organized protests, which temporarily halted the project.
While the project was halted, Mattia and his partners had purchased 1 hectare of land near the quarry. They requested permission to build a well. With this new water source so close by, the dump site could not continue.
The partners bought the rest of the land and set about to build their organic farm.
“We believe that we need to find a way to work with nature, to find our own place in the system that is hosting us. And possibly, through our work, create a positive impact.”
It takes a bit of time to renew a quarry. All the topsoil has been carried away, and you are left with stone. Think of it: the floor of the quarry was once 50 meters below the topsoil!
But they have worked to renew the soil and promote biodiversity. At the Le Cave site at the quarry, they are experimenting with full Regenerative Organic Farming. Here, at the higher altitude, there is less disease pressure. Mattia says if they can make it work there, they can try it again here at Fasoli and eventually at the vineyards further into the Veneto. But they are taking it slowly and being cautious. You have to be sustainable economically also.
Tenuta Le Cave is a boutique hotel, restaurant, and spa located on the property in Tregnago. The buildings sit on a natural terrace with views of Valpolicella to the west and the Lessinia Park, as well as the sprawling Soave region below.
The grapes and wines of this region
The vineyard we are standing in sits within the Soave region, and here Garganega is Queen! You find it sparking in metodo classico wines, aged in oak or cement…a little bit of everything, Mattia tells us.
In the lower part of the valley, there are International grapes, like the Merlot vines that we were standing next to. The vines here are trellis tall with fruit hanging at shoulder level and above and the vines reaching 8 or 9 feet high. Overhead was shade cloth (probably netting for birds) that kept things shady while we spoke with Mattia.
This Merlot is made with a twist. Fasoli Gino uses an Amarone-style Merlot, made in the appassimento style with long aging in oak. There are also small plots of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay to experiment with.
As you move north into the hillsides, you are in the Valpolicella region. They are growing primarily Corvina, but they also have some Corvinone and Rondinella as well as a little bit of Oseleta.
Oseleta, Mattia tells me an almost forgotten variety that is native to this area. This grape brings bright acidity that makes it great for rosé. The problem is that the bunches are very small, so the yield per hectare is “stupid small,” Mattia says. It gives great color, and the small bunches ripen evenly, making it great for appassimento, but to make 5 kilos you have to walk 400 meters!
We speak a bit about Biodynamic and Regenerative Agriculture before Mattia says “Glass of Wine?”
2012 Fasoli Gino
Sparkling Garganega, Metodo Classico
100% Garganega made from vines near the winery (perhaps those we had been standing in.) These grapes are hand-harvested early in September. Fermented in Stainless steel, it is bottled the following spring.
It ages on its lees (the yeast cells) for at least 60 months.
Ours had been on the lees for 10 years! No liqueur d’expedition is added (this is where the sweetness level can be adjusted,) so the sparkling wine is dry with very fine bubbles.
The suggested music pairing is Pop Rock (listed on the bottle).
As to food, it would be perfect with crudité or shellfish, but these are lovely bubbles on their own.
2018 Fasoli Gino
Bianco Veronese IGT
100% Garganega, this is a single Vineyard wine harvested in “three different moments.” The first harvest is at the beginning of September when the fruit gives bright acidity. They go back and harvest again at the end of September or the beginning of October. Now, the fruit is the perfect ripeness. They leave some of the best bunches for late harvest in the middle to end of October, sometimes even into November. By this point, the skin is almost pink, and the sugars have concentrated. It is completely different aromatically from the first harvest.
The wine is vinified (each harvest separately) in Stainless Steel and then goes into Tonneau for a couple of years. Then, the different lots are blended before bottling and spend 6 months in the bottle before release.
This wine is intense. The color would lead you to think that it is going to be sweeter, but it is dry, with no residual sugar. The weight is almost like that of a red wine. This is a wine that ages and lasts. They have done vertical tastings with the 1999 vintage.
They used to label this wine as Soave. Due to its style, it is now labeled as Bianco Veronese IGT.
Caramel, vanilla, dried apricot, and something richer like figs or dates. The fruit on the nose is sweet and candied, but on the palate, it is dry with savory notes like movie theatre-buttered popcorn.
On the bottle, the suggested music pairing is Psychedelic Rock.
Valpolicella Superiore DOC
Mattia said they were labeling these bottles right now and went to grab a bottle. He was gone a little longer than expected and came back, saying he had labeled it himself.
From the Old Quarry vineyard, this is one of the first wines released in their new packaging. They picked a lighter-weight glass bottle and got rid of the foil. They don’t need it, but apparently, the appellation wants it (that will be something for their lawyers to discuss). The label is a simple paper from recyclable sources. They used to put all the technical data on the label, but it was too much, so they switched to QR labels that can be scanned for all the details.
While the king of wine in this area is Amarone, Mattia believes that Valpolicella Superiore is the most representative of the region. This is a wine that can speak to a place and a particular vineyard.
This was the new vintage, so Mattia had tasted it once or twice, so as we picked up our glasses together, he said, “Let’s see?”
This wine does natural fermentation and only ages in cement for a year and a half to two years.
They do 3 harvests, the first for a light Valpolicella, then 3 weeks or so for Amarone, and then they go back and pick for the Valpolicella Superiore.
My notes: Lots of black cherry, raspberry, black pepper, then notes of woods and conifers. Mattia mentions that to him, it feels like it is grown next to a forest.
Mattia finds this style representational for the area. This is a wine-drinking area. The older generation count their daily intake of wine in liters. Easy-drinking wines are important, essential actually to everyday life in this region.
Sometimes, people are taken aback by this wine. They are expecting the Valpolicella Superiore of the past 20 years, sweeter, bigger, oaky. This wine is lighter, brighter, more lively. He finds this works well with the style of food that is more popular now, fare that is fresher and lighter, works well with this wine.
This is a summer red! Pair it with a gnocchi in pomodore sauce.
2012 Fasoli Gino
Merlot Veronese IGT
This Merlot is from the vineyard we visited behind the winery. It is Melot, made in an Amarone style.
Everyone was growing Garganega here in the 70s. In 1974, Natalino wanted to make a great red wine in an area where everyone was making white wine. So he planted Merlot and started to play with techniques and ended up making a single vineyard wine.
Mattia speaks about appassimento playing tricks. You change the grapes so much. But, he says, “Terroir is also people. The technique is also part of our culture. It is part of our terroir. So, to take an international grape and change it through something that we have been doing for generations. I think there must be a value in there somewhere.”
I found notes of cherry, red currants, vanilla, chocolate, leather, pepper, spices and tobacco.
Perfect with deep dark chocolate mousse, game or a cigar! It is intense, maybe overwhelming.
2013 Fasoli Gino
Rosso Veronese IGT Pinot Nero
We got lucky, and this bottle was open. This is Pinot Nero made in an appassimento method (Amarone style like the Merlot above). The grapes are from a very small plot and they only made 1,700 bottles.
This 2013 is the current vintage. I got rich dried fruit on the nose with currants and cocoa, black cherry, cassis, coffee, and balsamic. It is really intense on the palate.
2011 Fasoli Gino
Recioto di Soave
We finished our tasting with their dessert wine.
Edwardo, who had joined us at this point, told us that “Recioto” refers to “recia” or ears in the local dialect. This refers to the “ears” or “shoulders” of the grape bunch, those parts at the top that are fuller on each side of the bunch. This part of the bunch is typically higher in sugar, having received more sunlight.
The grapes for this dessert wine are harvested late, when the sugars have built up, and then dried for 3 to 6 months before pressing. This wine ferments and ages in French barrique. The 2011 spent 7 years in barrique.
The wine has notes of vanilla and spice, dried apricots, and almonds.
This wine is sweeter, with 120 grams of residual sugar, but there is still acidity that keeps the wine feeling fresh. This is the perfect wine to enjoy with panacotta or a rich blue cheese.
100% Garganega 14.5% abv
Sete Wine – A network of like-minded farmers & vintners
Mattia, Matteo, and friend Ryan Zeman created Sete Wine to build a network of small growers, those with just 2 to 3 hectares and with smaller producers that do 4,000-5,000 bottles annually, who are working with organic, biodynamic, and regenerative methods. They want to create a space to share experiences and lessons learned and support each other in the market.
Sete Wine has 32 producers from 13 different regions in Italy, all making wine in ways that are beyond just sustainable. The word “sete” means thirst, and it is their thirst for bringing these artisan wines to the people.
Their import company is located in California. https://www.sete.wine/
We returned to enjoy a delicious dinner at the Magari Estate and nestled into our suite for another night’s sleep, with the breeze fluttering the drapes as it blew in over the vineyard.
More on the wines of the Veneto from the writers at #ItalianFWT
“The Custoza Grape from the Glacial Hills Near Lake Garda” / Vino Travels” from Jennifer at Vino Travels
More on wines of the Veneto from Crushed Grape Chronicles.
- Monti Lessini – the sparkling wine for star-crossed lovers
- Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG My Style (Extra Brut) with Cicchetti
- Bertani – Finding a way through innovation and tradition to maintain quality amidst change
- Albino Armani Viticoltori dal 1607 – 16 Generations of Pinot Grigio
- Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore and Venetian Inspired Pairings
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.
Check out our book series, “Tempting Spoonfuls” available through Amazon!
Inspired by the flavors and aromas in wines, these books create “tempting spoonfuls” of flavors to pair with wines.
“Tempting Spoonfuls – Pairing single bites with glorious wines” – Our first book paired wines from boutique wineries on the west coast, in California, Oregon, and Washington, with delicious spoonfuls.
This book is 60 pages, 18 recipes, lots of beautiful photos, and insights into some fantastic small wineries!
“Tempting Spoonfuls – small bites paired with wines from around the Globe” – This book takes us around the globe to explore 12 wine regions, a wine from the region, and then gives you a recipe for a pairing!
A slightly larger book at 104 pages, this time you learn about pairing with a type of wine from a region. Rather than a specific bottle, you can look for a style of wine from a region and feel confident that it will go well with the recipe pairing we provide. We give you 12 recipes, each to pair with a wine.
The goal is to make your mouth water and encourage you to create your own “Tempting Spoonfuls.”