2008 Amarone della Valpolicella, Corte Sant'Alda, Veneto, Italy
Antonio Galloni - 23/12/2011
About this WINE
Corte Sant'Alda, Veneto
Corte Sant' Alda is fast becoming one of the top-flight producers of Valpolicella and Amarone. It is owned by Marinella Camerani and is named after her daughter, Alda. Marinella has 15 hectares of certified organic vineyards located in the foothills of the Lessini Mountains, near the town of Mezzane, about 30km north-east of Verona.
The winery is situated in an old farm building in the centre of the vineyards. The wines are all made from the classic Valpolicella blend of Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara - the vines average about 25 years of age and the grapes are all hand-harvested. Since 2000 the wines have been fermented in large French oak fermenters using only use wild yeasts to increase their individuality. The wines are then aged in a variety of barrel sizes, made from both oak and cherry wood.
The Mithas name is reserved for the very finest wines produced by Marinella. The Mithas wines all come from fruit from the superior, two hectare, "Macie" vineyard which is rich in humus. They all have extraordinary concentration and complexity and rival the best wines produced in the Veneto. Recently Marinella has replanted 30% of her vineyards with "Albero", stake trellissed vines, to further improve the quality of the wines. She is also in the process of making the Macie vineyard biodynamic and to that end she has recently bought twin, rare breed Alpine cows, named "Rosa" and "Roma", to work on the estate.
Amarone della Valpolicella
Amarone della Valpollicella, a leading Venetian wine DOC, now represents 25% of the total production of Valpolicella wine. Amarone della Valpolicella (normally known more snappily as "Amarone") is made using partially shrivelled fruit that has been left to dry, and produces a rich, full-bodied, unfortified, dry red wine.
Amarone's sweeter sibling Recioto della Valpolicella can trace its history back to the Romans, when Pliny, Virgil and Columella made reference to a wine called "Recitium", however, Amarone was not seen until it was first sold in 1936 and was only officially recognised in 1953. Its birth was apparently the result of a producer forgetting to take his Recioto out of barrel, allowing it to ferment to dryness.
Located between Lake Garda and Venice, the Amarone zone is concentrated around the villages of Negrar, Fumane, Marano, Sant Ambroglio and San Pietro-in-Cariano. Its vines grow on stony, volcanic, calcareous sites in the foothills of the Lessini Mountains at between 150m and 350m above sea level. With Lake Garda and the Adriatic Sea nearby, the region's climate is relatively temperate although the proximity of the Alps brings with it the constant threat of hail (as occurred in 2007).
Corvina (aka Veronese) and Corvinone must constitute 80% of the blend, with Rondinella, Molinara and Croatina accounting for the remaining 20%. Once harvested, the clean fruit is traditionally dried in airy lofts for 100-120 days over the winter, a process known as "appassimento". This typically results in an increase of sugar by 27% and dry extract by 28% while malic acid levels reduce by 66% with tartaric acid levels remaining the same. Importantly, evaporation leads to a 65% reduction in must weight (although this is less in modern purpose-built "lofts") aided and abetted by the development of noble rot (aka "botrytis cinerea"). The desiccated fruit is pressed in the March following the October harvest and fermented in Slavonian or French oak.
It is then aged for up to 7 years (as is the case for the wines of Giuseppe Quintarelli). The left-over grape pomace is recycled, with Valpolicella Classicopassed through it to produce Valpolicella Ripasso. The legal minimum alcohol level for Amarone is 14% but most easily surpass 15%. The best wines are dense and richly textured - reminiscent of Vintage Port but drier and without the fortification! - with lively acidity, supple tannins and lovely flavours of Morello cherry, roast coffee and chocolate.
Recommended producers: Bussola, Corte Sant' Alda, Dal Forno and Giuseppe Quintarelli.
Corvina, Corvinone blend
Corvina is widely grown on the Veneto shore of Lake Garda and the hills of Valpolicella to the north and north-east of Verona. Sometimes known as Corvina Veronese, it is blended with Rondinella and Molinara to produce Valpolicella and Bardolino. It can be a tricky grape to cultivate, as it ripens late and is prone to rot if affected by rains at harvest time. It is a high-yielding grape and quality is very dependent on keeping yields low.
Corvina-based red wines can range in style from a light, cherryish red to the rich, port-like Recioto and Amarone Valpolicellas. Most Valpolicella from the plains is pale and insipid, and bears little comparison with Valpolicella Classico from the hills. Some producers such as Allegrini are now producing very high quality 100% Corvina wines.
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The 2008 vintage sticks in Marinella’s memory more because her daughter Alda graduated, than for the fresher damper summer. It was also a year in which Marinella chose not to make her flagship wine ‘Mithas’, so giving the estate Amarone wine even more substance.
A blend of small berried Corvina (Veronese), plumper Corvinone & Rondinella, vinified in wood & aged for 48 months in 5-25 hl french oak, Marinella makes approximately 1000 cases of this wine. It’s a dark, densely coloured, the elegant yet full nose has a sapid black fruit & rocky moss feel to it, which leads onto a generous dry palate rich with soft, fleshy, succulent, liquorice, grilled meat & brambly flavours. Still in its youth, there’s a gentle openness that makes this enticing even now.
(David Berry Green)
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