Anselmi Capitel Croce 1999
Since taking over management of his family's winery in the Soave district of northeast Italy's Veneto region two decades ago, Anselmi has been motivated by an emotional and professional commitment to tapping the unrealized potential of the wines he grew up with. This has entailed a significant parting of ways with traditional vineyard and winemaking practices that have historically characterized the Soave district, and given birth to a new generation of north Italian white wines of unprecedented quality, character and finesse.
Roberto Anselmi's long-term goals have required the kind of investment and self-assurance that would pass for folly in men of lesser vision. In his drive to upgrade quality, Anselmi reduced output at the very same time that other producers, capitalizing on a white wine boom, were increasing theirs. Limiting production, however, has enabled Anselmi to be more selective in the vineyards, cutting yields and discarding all but the finest fruit to achieve an intensity of flavor, fruit and bouquet rarely, if ever, encountered in the wines of Soave. Anselmi took this limited-production approach to the next level when he became virtually the only producer in the Soave Classico zone to develop "cru" or single-vineyard wines, notably with the release of the highly acclaimed Anselmi Capitel Foscarino.
Other major initiatives undertaken by Anselmi have included the purchase of hilltop vineyard plots, conversion of vineyard trellising from the customary pergola system to densely-planted horizontal spurred cordons, resulting in major reductions in yields, scrupulous clonal selection, reduction of irrigation to an absolute minimum and the pioneering use of small new and semi-new oak barrels in the vinification process, generating wines of singular structure and complexity.
Then in 2000, Anselmi made headlines with a personal declaration of independence, choosing to label his wines Veneto IGT rather than continuing to work within the confines of the Soave DOC. It was a bold maneuver, taken to protect his unmitigated authority over winemaking practices, and it was a decisive statement from one who many in the international wine industry regard as "the conscience of Soave." Latest initiatives include construction of a new 50,000 square foot winery, collaborative research into alternative wine closures and ongoing experimentation into new methods for reducing the presence of sulfites in wine.
In recent years, he has been joined at Anselmi by his daughter, Lisa, a business school graduate who assists with marketing, administration and customer relations. A son, Tommaso, also looks set to join his father in the years that come.
Producing every style of wine and with great success, the Veneto is one of the most multi-faceted wine regions of Italy.
Veneto's appellation called Valpolicella (meaning “valley of cellars” in Italian) is a series of north to south valleys and is the source of the region’s best red wine with the same name. Valpolicella—the wine—is juicy, spicy, tart and packed full of red cherry flavors. Corvina makes up the backbone of the blend with Rondinella, Molinara, Croatina and others playing supporting roles. Amarone, a dry red, and Recioto, a sweet wine, follow the same blending patterns but are made from grapes left to dry for a few months before pressing. The drying process results in intense, full-bodied, heady and often, quite cerebral wines.
Soave, based on the indigenous Garganega grape, is the famous white here—made ultra popular in the 1970s at a time when quantity was more important than quality. Today one can find great values on whites from Soave, making it a perfect choice as an everyday sipper! But the more recent local, increased focus on low yields and high quality winemaking in the original Soave zone, now called Soave Classico, gives the real gems of the area. A fine Soave Classico will exhibit a round palate full of flavors such as ripe pear, yellow peach, melon or orange zest and have smoky and floral aromas and a sapid, fresh, mineral-driven finish.
With hundreds of white grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a soft and full-bodied wine would do well combined with one that is more fragrant and naturally high in acidity. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.