The Dal Cero family has transformed their Cà dei Frati property, situated on the southern shores of Lake Garda, into a model Italian estate over the past two decades. Back in 1987, they had 12 hectares of vineyard but now, following the purchase of a large chunk of prime vineyard in 2008, they have over 140 hectares. This increase in quantity has been matched by an increase in quality, and today they remain the best producer in Lugana. The quality of the wines is attributable directly to Igino Dal Cero's obsession with detail. All their fruit is picked by hand; he ensures there is no skin contact as he wants to retain delicate perfumes and enhance the supple texture; he has changed his mind on malolactic fermentation and now inhibits it in order to give the wine the lift he feels it benefits from; and he is now convinced that ageing on lees from end of fermentation gives him greater richness on the palate and the wonderful flintiness on nose that makes this wine so Burgundian in character.
The secret to the success of the Cà dei Frati wines is outstanding vineyards. Most producers in the zone overcrop and train the vines high. At Cà dei Frati, the vines are trained low, on single or double Guyot, newer vineyards have a higher density of planting, and yields are well below the average for the zone. This wine is made from grapes grown on 10 to 35 year old vines. In Lugana, the Turbiana grape is grown on the glacial soils just to the south of Lake Garda. The warmer days give wines with more weight and intensity than those from 60 kilometres to the east. The cool nights, thanks to the moderating influence of Lake Garda, ensures the grapes retain aroma and acidity.
The 2018 vintage began with a long period of dry weather. Rainy weather occurred in May and early June. Hot weather in the summer months allowed the grapes to develop normally. Temperatures throughout the summer remained high; in September it rarely went below 30°C. Yields were slightly higher than usual, and the quality of the grapes was very high.
The must was fermented in temperature-controlled stainless-steel tanks to maximise its fresh fruit character. The wine then remained on lees in stainless-steel tanks for six months before spending two months ageing in bottle before release.
Pale yellow in colour with a concentrated but fresh perfume of white flowers, peaches and ripe lemons. On the palate, it has excellent depth and balance, with lovely richness and a crisp, lively finish.
ABV = 13.5%.
Awarded a Platinum & Best in Show medal and 97 points at the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards (click link for details).
As Cenatiempo will tell you, Ischia wine is mountain wine. The vineyards all over the island are influenced by the close proximity to the Tyrrhenian Sea (off the West Coast of Italy, not far from Naples) but also from their elevation – their grapes are grown up to elevations of 600 meters. The winery is run by Pasquale Cenatiempo and his partner, Federica Predoni. They make compelling, focused, mineral-driven wines from the island’s indigenous varieties on the volcanic slopes of Ischia.
Ischia is situated just off the coast of Naples. Here the soil is volcanic. In fact, the island was formed by a volcano which last erupted in 1302. The winery was founded in 1945 by Pasquale’s father Francesco, who, like Pasquale today, made wine from his own grapes as well as from some of his friends and neighbors throughout the island. Not much has changed over the last 70 years. The wines are still fermented in steel or cement vats with indigenous yeasts and aged in the same vessels. In the vineyards, Cenatiempo farms organically. In fact, for their larger parcels they have begun adapting some biodynamic principles and treatments as well.
Their production is mainly in white wine including a couple of Ischia Bianco blends as well as monovarietal wines of Biancolella and the high-acid, low-octane Forastera. They also make small amounts of red, mainly from Piedirosso, Aglianico and Sciacinosso. The two wines that really illustrate the potential of great winemaking on this small island are the Kalimera Biancolella sourced from an old parcel of Biancolella at high elevation and also the small production Forastera bottling which is more reminiscent of a mountain wine from the north, like a Blanc du Morgex from the Valle d’Aoste, beautifully lean, racy and stony.
These are small production wines form an artisanal producer making traditional, natural wine from a truly unique terroir of high elevation vineyards and compelling local varieties.
Viticulture: Hand-harvested at the end of October. Practicing (but not certified) organic viticulture. Practicing biodynamic. Hand-harvested at the end of October.
Winemaking: Hand-harvested at the end of October. Vinified in cement. Aged in cement, spending three months on the lees.
"It's made from the indigenous Biancolella grape variety which few of our judges had ever tasted before - but its golden colour, almost spritzy style, haunting aromas of wild flowers and fragrant scented hay, and its mouthfilling, complex flavour which seem to hint at celery and fennel as well as quince and medlar captivated everyone who tasted it. A unique, cultural wine of memorable, stealthy charm." (DWWA19 panel review)
ABV = 13.0%.
The 2018 vintage was subject to a very flattering review by Matthew Jukes in the 13th March 2020 edition of Money Week (www.moneyweek.com) (see blue link below).
Donato Lanati, one of Italy's best consultants, began working with La Giustiniana at the beginning of 1998. His indelible stamp of quality has become increasingly evident in recent years. The changes brought in the winery by Lanati are now being matched with the improvements being made in the vineyard, where better grapes are giving purer, richer and better balanced wines. The entire estate covers 110 hectares in the heart of the commune of Rovereto in Gavi, of which 40 are under vine. Two single-vineyard wines are produced, both of which are unoaked so the character of each vineyard shines through.
Lugarara is a single vineyard at around 300 metres above sea level. Soils are grey marl with loose, sandy topsoil. The vines are Guyot trained and planted at a density of 4,000 vines per hectare.
The 2018 vintage began with a good winter, which saw average temperatures and rainfall. Spring and early summer were very rainy, helping replenish water resources depleted in 2017 and bringing forward all vegetative stages. The fresh and humid summer lead to vigorous growth and meant that some thinning was necessary. The hot weather returned from mid-August and allowed the grapes to reach full maturity.
The grapes were hand-picked and gently pressed upon arrival at the winery. They then underwent a cool fermentation in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks at 16°C. Unoaked, the wine was bottled in the spring following the harvest.
Straw-yellow with a greenish hue, the wine's aromas of white fruit, stone fruit and lime zest are immediately beguiling and followed by a subtle yet persistent bouquet of green apples. The palate is well balanced with a fresh acidity and good structure, and almond notes on the finish.
ABV = 12.5%.
Awarded Tre Bicchieri - 2020 by Gambero Rosso.
The 2016 vintage was awarded 91 points by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their February 2018 Italy supplement article on Gavi (see blue link below).
Pale gold in colour with flashes of diamond brilliance, it has a light, fresh, mineral and citrus bouquet. The palate is crisp and dry, with a hint of ripe pears and a complex array of red and green apples, the finish is mouthwateringly refreshing and lengthy.
ABV = 13.0%
Pieropan's estate covers 46 hectares of vineyard which are situated on the stony hills of Soave Classico. The Pieropan family has been producing wines in Soave since the 1890s. Indeed, they were the first producer to bottle a wine with the name Soave on the label in the early 1930s. Nino Pieropan took over from his father in 1970 and was the first producer in Soave to make a single vineyard wine, 'Calvarino', in 1971. Nino's two sons, Andrea and Dario, now work with him running the estate. From the 2015 vintage onwards, all Pieropan wines are organically certified.
The soil is clay-basalt and volcanic in origin. Yields are low and the vines south facing. The fruit come from hillside vineyards (100- 300 m above sea level) in the heart of the Soave classico area. They grapes of Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave (no relation to its prolific Tuscan namesake) are grown without the use of pesticides or chemicals.
Budburst was delayed by 7-8 days compared to 2017, but rainfall and high temperatures in the following weeks brought forward flowering. On the whole, the grapes developed normally and in perfect condition. Yields were slightly higher than in 2017.
Grapes of Trebbiano di Soave are hand-picked starting from midSeptember while the Garganega grapes are picked later in October. The grapes are de-stemmed and crushed with the free run juice fermented separately between 14-18°C in glass-lined cement tanks. The wine remains in glass-lined cement tanks on the fine lees for a period which varies according to the vintage. In the spring following the harvest the wine is bottled and then released after at least a further month in bottle.
85% Garganega, 15% Trebbiano di Soave.
A fresh and expressive Soave, with classic white flower, almond blossom and a touch of citrus. Rounded, ripe fruit is perfectly balanced by a fresh, clean acidity. Long and fragrant, it has a note of fine, almond pastry on the finish.
We like this because we know that Soave is not in fashion. And that's mainly because the world is awash with bad Soave. Good Soave is hard to find and hugely worthwhile when you find it. Nobody should be surprised that Pieroapan lie behind many of the very best Soaves and this, their workhorse, is delightful. with all the tightness and freshness that good Soave should have. At the price, it's terrific.
ABV = 12.0%.
The wines of Ponte Del Diavolo are made on the well-drained soils of Grave del Friuli and are fuller than those from Verona. The Ponte del Diavolo wines take their name from the spectacular medieval bridge in nearby Cividale. The story goes that the devil struck a bargain with the townspeople, promising to make them a bridge in return for the soul of the first living thing to cross it. The cunning citizens sent a dog or cat across, depending on the variation of the story, thereby saving themselves and gaining a wonderful bridge.
The Pinot Grigio grapes for this wine are grown in vineyards in Grave del Friuli in the southern part of Friuli. The vines are grown on alluvial plains with stony soils.
Winter saw cold temperatures and frequent rains. The beginning of the growing season was marked by abundant rains, followed by a hot and dry period. The harvest was abundant; the hillsides gave lower quantities of very high quality grapes, whilst the lower lying vineyards produced higher quantities than usual.
After crushing, the must was chilled to 11-12°C and pressed gently to ensure no herbaceous aromas were extracted. Temperature-controlled fermentation using selected yeasts took place in stainless steel tanks between 12-14°C. Cold fermentation meant that the process could be drawn out to 30 days to increase perfume and complexity. The wine remained at 6°C in tank on the fine lees until bottling. This is a costly and time consuming process but plays a key role in contributing to the finesse and delicate aromatics of the finished wine. No carbon fining was used and the Pinot Grigio was sealed under screwcap to maximise freshness and eliminate cork taint.
100% Pinot Grigio.
Light, bright lemon in colour, this wine showcases a lively, freshly cut pear and baked bread character on the nose. Aromatic, with good structure and body, it has lovely elegance on the palate with ripe pears, a touch of sherbet and a nutty note offset by the characteristic freshness of wines from Friuli.
ABV = 12.5%.