Sartori Pinot Noir 2013
To Juliet’s question “What’s in a name?” the Sartori family would answer “Everything!” For over a century, Sartori, a leading name in fine wines from northeast Italy’s Veneto region, has stood for traditional values elevated by innovation, a dedication to quality and — above all — a boundless passion for quality winemaking.
The family took its first step in 1898, when Pietro Sartori bought Villa Maria, a vineyard with a small cellar attached, in the heart of the Veneto region’s Valpolicella district, to assure a source of high quality wine for his hotel. This marked the advent of Sartori di Verona. A few years later, Pietro’s son, Regolo, built the winery into the family’s core business, and by the 1950s Regolo’s two sons expanded the winery and brought these wines to international recognition, exporting them around the world.
Today, Andrea Sartori, Pietro’s great-grandson, is at the helm. Like his forefathers, he has taken steps to broaden the reputation of Sartori di Verona and to guarantee the quality behind it.
In 2002, the company joined with Cantina Colognola, giving the family rare guaranteed access to more than 6,200 acres of high-quality grapes in the Soave and Valpolicella zones, where few wine houses control their own vineyards.
In 2003, Sartori hired the renowned Franco Bernabei as consulting winemaker. His work with the winery marks a return to Bernabei’s roots: although he has lived in Tuscany for over 25 years, he is, in fact, a native son of the Veneto.
Most recently, in 2006, Sartori introduced a new premium collection of Veneto wines crafted by Bernabei at its new winery, I Saltari, in the Mezzane Valley, east of Verona. The winery is named after the mercenary vineyard guardians, known in native dialect as Saltari, hired by vineyard owners from the 16th through the 18th centuries to protect their grapes from thieves and bandits. With legal authority to shoot grape thieves on sight, the Saltari were ready defenders of the vineyards. The choice of the name reflects the winery’s own dedication to defending tradition and expressing these vineyards’ unique terroir.
A constant theme over the last century has been the Sartori family’s bond with their land: it is a heritage that has evolved and is reflected in their new interpretations of the great classical Veronese wines, as well as in their innovative expressions of traditional varietals.
Containing an exciting mix of wine producing subregions, Lombardy is Italy’s largest in size and population. Good quality Pinot noir, Bonarda and Barbera have elevated the reputation of the plains of Oltrepò Pavese. To its northeast in the Alps, Valtellina is the source of Italy’s best Nebbiolo wines outside of Piedmont. Often missed in the shadow of Prosecco, Franciacorta produces collectively Italy’s best Champagne style wines, and for the fun and less serious bubbly, find Lambrusco Mantovano around the city of Mantua. Lugana, a dry white with a devoted following, is produced to the southwest of Lake Garda.
One of the most finicky yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is a labor of love for many. However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. In fact, it is the only red variety permitted in Burgundy. Highly reflective of its terroir, Pinot Noir prefers calcareous soils and a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality and demands a lot of attention in the vineyard and winery. It retains even more glory as an important component of Champagne as well as on its own in France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions. This sensational grape enjoys immense international success, most notably growing in Oregon, California and New Zealand with smaller amounts in Chile, Germany (as Spätburgunder) and Italy (as Pinot Nero).
In the Glass
Pinot Noir is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry and cherry with some heftier styles delving into the red or purple plum and in the other direction, red or orange citrus. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and a lively acidity. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount) it can develop hauntingly alluring characteristics of fresh earth, savory spice, dried fruit and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon and tuna but its mild mannered tannins give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry: chicken, quail and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, Pinot noir has proven it isn’t afraid of beef. California examples work splendidly well with barbecue and Pinot Noir is also vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
For administrative purposes, the region of Beaujolais is often included in Burgundy. But it is extremely different in terms of topography, soil and climate, and the important red grape here is ultimately Gamay, not Pinot noir. Truth be told, there is a tiny amount of Gamay sprinkled around the outlying parts of Burgundy (mainly in Maconnais) but it isn’t allowed with any great significance and certainly not in any Village or Cru level wines. So "red Burgundy" still necessarily refers to Pinot noir.