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Bussola Amarone BG 1999
Originally trained as a stone mason, Tommaso took over his uncle’s Valpolicella estate—with its prized old vineyards in the heart of the Classico zone—in the mid-1980s. While vineyard work came naturally to him, he experimented relentlessly, and absorbed information and ideas from every source available. With each passing vintage, his wines came to show more polish, finesse, intensity, and personality.
By the late nineties, his style had matured, and his wines had become world-famous for their incredible intensity of fruit. Like other top Veneto winemakers, he uses new barrels, but any hint of new wood is hidden by cascades of lush, opulent fruit.
The key is not only the age of his vines but the fact that they are nearly all naturally low-yielding ancient clones: Corvinone (40%), Corvina Grossa (25%) and Rondinella (20%). Corvinone, in particular, is quite rare today because of its low yields and finicky growing habits. Yet, Tommaso claims it is the Corvinone that gives his wines their depth. He calls it the "Super Corvina," saying that it produces stronger, denser, richer, more perfumed wines. Small percentages of old vine Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Dindarella and Pindara round out the cépage, along with new experiments like Teroldego and Merlot.
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 red 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.