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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.
A large and diverse wine region in northeastern Italy, the Veneto is home to a vast array of different styles of wine. With no defining regional characteristics, it can be a bit confusing to the general consumer to parse through its many subzones, but the patient wine lover will find many treasures to be discovered here, typically at wallet-friendly prices. Red and white wines are produced here, with more emphasis on the latter, as well as the ultra-popular sparkling wine Prosecco. The region is sheltered from harsh northern European winters by the Alps, which form its northern border, but the climate is still relatively cool, making the Veneto ideal for white wine production.
Much of Italy’s Pinot Grigio hails from the Veneto, where it can range from neutral and inoffensive to crisp and refreshing. Soave, made primarily from the Garganega grape, has a reputation for producing relatively ordinary, bulk wines, but can be very elegant when yields are carefully monitored, with aromas of lemon, almond, and white flowers. Valpolicella is the region’s best-known red wine, with juicy, tart red cherry flavors derived from the Corvina grape. Recioto and Amarone wines made from dried grapes are a regional specialty and can be very intense, heady, and cerebral.
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 create complex wines with many different layers of flavors and aromas, or to create more balanced wines. For example, a variety that is soft and full-bodied may be combined with one that is lighter with naturally high 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.