Now that Summer holidays are becoming little more than a memory, we thought we would bring you on a journey through some Italian vineyards to rekindle thoughts of those sun-kissed days.
Atzei is the newest Farnese project in Sardinia, a region that stole Valentino Sciotti’s heart since he worked there before starting his impressive career in wine. The oenological team is headed by Dennis Verdicchia and supported by Sardinian winemaker Daniele Manca, with the consultancy of Alberto Antonini. They produce high quality wines from selected vineyards that are planted around the village of Mogoro, just south of Oristano in the southwestern part of the Island. As with the other Farnese ventures, this new project aims at producing wines from lesser-known regions and varieties that are particularly suitable for the production of quality wines. Atzei follow a strict selection process in the vineyards at harvest, ensuring that only the very best fruit is picked, and the resulting wines display excellent concentration of flavours.
One such wine is their ‘Saragat’ Vementino. The Vermentino for this wine is grown on the hillsides and the plains close to the village of Mogoro, in the Alta Marmilla sub-region of southern Sardinia. 2020 was a great vintage in Sardinia. The spring was characterised by good levels of rainfall that replenished water reserves in the soil. Summer was warm and dry, and the grapes matured evenly without any intervention in the vineyard. The soils are granitic with a large instance of limestone, producing highly aromatic wines. Saragat’ Vermentino is fermented at low temperatures and aged in stainless steel tanks with bâtonnage for 40 days giving a bright straw yellow colour with greenish reflections. `Saragat` Vermentino has fragrant aromas of rosemary, elderberry, juicy white stone fruit, and lychee. The palate is elegant and savoury, with great structure and balance. The intensity of flavour carrying through onto the long finish.
Another Italian vineyard of note is Farnese’s venture in Puglia (they are also responsible for Gran Sasso, Zabù, Vesevo, Tufarello and others). Their wines are made at two wineries in the province of Taranto on the western flank of Salento. The vineyards are mostly situated in the communes of Manduria and Sava and are owned by growers with whom Filippo has been working for many years. Production is lower than its potential, which ensures the best quality grapes are selected. The red soils are calcareous clay and rich in iron, minerals and nutrients. 80% of the grapes come from old bush vines and the rest from trained vines that are at least 20 years old. The style of the wines - fresh whites, soft and generous reds - will be familiar to those who buy their other wines, as winemaker Filippo Baccalaro is again the driving force behind this particular wine. Filippo, a native of Piemonte, has been working in Puglia for almost two decades. He was attracted by the rich, ripe flavours of the fruit, and has the potential to capture these flavours with minimal use of technology and a lot of know-how.
Vigneti del Salento, `I Muri` Negroamaro 2021, seen here, is ruby red in colour with purple hues. The aromas are intense with notes of blackberries and blackcurrants. It is medium bodied and velvety, with good balance and savoury notes on the finish. 2021 proved to be one of the most difficult vintages of recent years in Puglia with drought conditions persisting throughout the summer, impacting yields and prompting the need for both the use of irrigation and careful canopy management in the vineyards. However, thanks to the dedication of the local growers, the harvest remained excellent in quality with the grapes displaying vibrant fruit flavours and aromas evident in this Negroamaro.
Finally, Alpha Zeta was started in 1999 when Liberty Wines set out to produce a range of modern, fruit-driven wines from the hills outside Verona. Working with leading New Zealand winemaker, Matt Thomson, their aim was to work with growers (rather than buy bulk wine, which is standard among most wines from Verona at this price) to obtain ripe grapes (by reducing yields and picking later) and then, using Matt's expertise, preserve these flavours in the finished wines. The result is a realisation of the potential inherent in Veronese viniculture.
The vineyards used are situated at 100-400 metres above sea level in the hills outside Verona in the Valpantena Valley and are south/south-east facing. Cool breezes blow down the valley from the foothills of the Dolomites, which moderate the climate, enabling the grapes to ripen slowly and helping them to retain their aromatic compounds and acidity. The soil here is poor and chalky so the vines are put under stress which allows them to produce superior quality fruit. The vines are 20-30 years old on average and trained using both the traditional Pergola Veronese and Guyot systems. While 2020 started with a cool and wet spring allowing a good flowering, summer was not as warm as expected. Thankfully, at harvest grapes were at a perfect level of ripening, with a great colour. The production was average in terms of quantity, however, produced was a ruby red Ripasso which opens with a concentrated nose full of aromas of red fruits and dried cherries. Full-bodied on the palate, it shows lovely balance between an opulent cherry-pie character and supple structure. The finish is long with a mouth-watering bitter-cherry twist
While this is just beginning to scratch the surface of what Italian wine has to offer, we hope we’ve inspired you to continue learning about the makers and vineyards behind the wine!