A Flying Visit To The Veneto
Having just returned from a flying visit to the Veneto, it’s a great time to update you on the latest handiwork of our friends at Astoria Vini, in Prosecco, and at Corte Adami, in Soave and Valpolicella. You’ll be pleased to know that at both estates their newest vintages and their newest wines were all brilliant!
Because it was quite late when we arrived at our hotel, the Villa Cà del Poggio in San Pietro di Feletto - just a few kilometres from Valdobbiadene where Astoria is based, dinner was a simple but delicious affair before we headed off to bed in readiness for an early start the next day. Family owned and run, nothing was too much trouble and, if ever you’re in the area, Cà del Poggio is well worth a stop. The hotel has beautiful views across the vineyards of Conegliano to the mountains beyond, or it would have done if only we could have seen them through the mist!
The following morning the weather unfortunately hadn’t improved, but after a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast we were primed and ready to taste some wines. Despite our proximity to the Astoria winery, we arrived a little later than expected thanks to a GPS induced detour. Just a word of warning if you’re heading out that way: satnavs don’t always work very well in rural Italy and it’s not unheard of to find yourself in the middle of a vineyard rather than at the address you want! We eventually arrived at Astoria and we were warmly welcomed by Enrico Dini and Laura Sartori. After the usual formalities, they took us on a tour of the cantina to show us the technical aspects of the winery before pouring us a well-deserved aperitivo - a new addition to the Astoria range, Fanò Extra Brut vintage Prosecco from the Asolo DOCG. With only 4 grams per litre of residual sugar, this was dry, crisp, well fruited and just the ticket to relieve our parched palates. It had all the hallmarks of top Prosecco without any overt sweetness, ideal for those of you who prefer a fresher style of fizz.
For our second aperitivo (did I mention what hard work these trips are?), we enjoyed the Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Millesimato Extra Dry 2015 - soft, elegant and very fine with a delicious finish reminiscent of pears. Although the residual sugar level was considerably higher than that of the Fanò, the additional sweetness wasn’t especially marked on the palate and it’s a wine that just about everybody can enjoy. It will even pair nicely with lighter primi piatti and fish dishes. With lunch, we were served the 2015 Estero Chardonnay which for me was still a little young but it displayed great potential to blossom in the near future. The red was the Il Puro Merlot 2015, fresh as a daisy with beautifully perfumed berry and plum fruit, with light, approachable tannins and a fine, savoury finish. A great wine to drink with a wide range of vegetarian, poultry or red meat dishes. After what is, in Italy, the almost compulsory cup of coffee, we went back to the cellar for a comprehensive tasting (I know, such a punishing workload). Although we have tasted through the Astoria portfolio on many different occasions, it’s not often that we have the opportunity to sample such a large number of the wines side by side.
First up was the Yu Sushi Sparkling, a wine specially developed by Astoria to partner, you guessed it, sushi. Made from Glera grapes grown outside the delineated Prosecco region (hence it cannot be called Prosecco), it had a soft, full nose, plenty of bright orchard fruit notes and hints of minerality that kept it refreshing and vibrant. Although I’d only just finished lunch, I’d have killed for a couple of prawns to eat with it! Next we were poured the Fanò Prosecco d'Asolo once again which, after the Yu Sushi Sparkling, showed even more fruit aromas and flavours than it had done earlier, with a dry but most certainly not austere finish.
These were followed by the Casa Vittorino Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Brut in its distinctively elegant bottle. Vintage 2015, it had a gently alluring nose, a bright, fruity palate and a soft, round finish. Brilliant Prosecco. Next came the Galie Prosecco di Treviso Extra Dry - a classification that, perversely, is actually sweeter than Brut! - and this extra richness was evident on both the nose and on the finish. Far from being sweet it was only just off dry, the touch of residual sugar boosted the expansive fruit flavours and gave a lovely, creamy texture to the palate. The final sparkling wine was a second taste of the Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Extra Dry Millesimato 2015 from lunchtime. Although this had the same amount of residual sugar as the Galie, it had the most refined fruit characters of all and it seemed considerably drier on the palate. A real masterpiece.
On to a couple of still wines, the first of which was the Alìsia Pinot Grigio which has been a favourite of our customers for several years. The newly released 2015 vintage was full of ripe pear aromas and flavours with delicate notes of spice. As this had only recently been bottled it was still a little backward in coming forward, but the quality of the 2015 vintage shone through and, given a month or so to settle, it will be quite magnificent for its price. Our last wine was the 2015 Caranto Pinot Nero, but for some reason the bottle we opened was rather too warm to show at its best and Laura and Enrico kindly gave us another bottle to try before dinner.
Before returning to the hotel and a palate cleansing beer in the bar, we took a quick detour to the Astoria estate just a mile or so from the winery where the small, but perfectly formed, barrel cellar is housed. It is always interesting to see which stage of the growing cycle the vineyards are in and, as they awaited the onset of flowering, the vines all looked to be in good shape. With a little benevolence from the weather gods, 2016 could well turn out to be a very good harvest. Keep your fingers, and everything else, crossed!
After a quick, revitalising beer and an even faster shower and change of clothes, we took our seats for dinner in the hotel’s much-lauded fish restaurant; advertised as the spot where Prosecco meets the sea. For once, you can truly believe the hype. The food was tremendous, starting with a platter of raw fish and seafood (the Sicilian red prawns were a memorable highlight) all washed down with the Casa Vittorino Prosecco. Next was a seafood risotto, fresh and creamy and accompanied by Suade Sauvignon Blanc which was wonderfully refreshing; a classically framed Sauvignon Blanc with loads of gooseberry and nettle flavours balanced by a vital and vibrant acidity. The main course of seabass baked in a salt crust was served with wilted greens and another glass of the Suade. If you haven’t tried it, this really is an excellent way of cooking fish as it preserves both the moisture and the flavour and is actually quite simple to do at home. Before dessert we re-tasted the Caranto Pinot Noir which was a different wine when served at a cooler temperature - very fruity, light, crisp and beautifully balanced. It is a triumph of a light-bodied red wine, particularly for its price.
Dessert was a wonderful array of cream and chocolate confections, and these were served with the Fashion Victim Moscato that tasted like a liquid fruit salad, light and playfully sweet, guaranteed to make you smile! It was a great dinner with excellent company and delicious wine; we’d certainly recommend a visit to Cà del Poggio’s restaurant, especially if you’re a fish lover.
It was another early start the next morning as we had to travel over to Soave to meet Martina Adami of Corte Adami. We had to leave for the airport at 1.30pm and, as a result, it was straight to work the moment we arrived. We’d also been promised lunch before we left - not something to be rushed in Italy, I assure you - and so we were very keen to get started! Although the Adami family has been growing and selling grapes for many generations, actually making wine is a much more recent development and the cantina was only established in 2004. From a flying start, every year the quality of the Corte Adami wines gets even better as the family continues to tweak and improve the translation of its terroir into its wines.
Our tasting kicked off with the 2015 Soave, made of 90% Garganega and 10% Trebbiano di Soave to add a little extra body. All of the other Corte Adami white wines are 100% Garganega. For a (deceptively) simple Soave this was tremendous, highlighting yet again that Soave is quite possibly Italy’s finest white wine and one you dismiss at your peril. With a full and generous perfume, packed with soft, white fruit aromas, floral suggestions and underpinning mineral touches, the keenly balanced and rounded palate gave way to a long, fresh finish.
Next up was the Cimalta Soave Classico 2015. With a name that translates as “the top of the hill”, this wine is figuratively and literally at another level and has even more sharply defined mineral flavours and concentration of fruit than its little sister. Elegant and very, very stylish. We were then poured the Soave Vigna della Corte 2014, a wine fashioned from grapes that were left to slightly over-ripen on the vine. This was outstanding. The grapes were given a cold maceration before fermentation to amplify their fruit flavours and the wine spent 5 months resting on its lees in stainless steel tanks to develop its richness. This masterpiece displayed bold, exotic fruit flavours such as pineapple on the nose; a soft, full and ripe palate that was chewy and perfectly balanced, and a long, lingering finish. How can anyone say that they don’t like Soave?!
Our final white wine was the Soave Il Decennale 2013, bottled in magnums and made especially to celebrate the winery’s tenth birthday. Even with more than two years of bottle age, this wine was still as fresh as a daisy with generous and evolved fruit flavours on the palate and an easy-going, exceptionally long finish. The epitome of Soave.
The first red we tasted was the Corte Adami Valpolicella Superiore 2013. This had an immediate nose of fresh cherry fruit with very appealing notes of clove spice over. The palate was similarly fresh and juicy with plenty of clearly defined fruit flavours and a fresh finish. Very much a cut above your average Valpolicella and a must-have for summer lunchtime drinking.
The middle child was next: big brother of the Valpolicella and little brother of the Amarone, the 2013 Valpolicella Ripasso 2013 was bigger boned and more substantial than the wine we had just tasted. It shared the familial, bright, cherry/ berry fruit aromas and flavours, but also offered a full, generous and dark palate with great acid balance and a lingering finish. Bring on some duck! Last, but far from least, was the Amarone della Valpolicella 2012, a wine for meditation the Italians would say and I have to agree with them, although well prepared game dishes or some aged Parmesan wouldn’t go amiss as a partner either. The nose was elegant and sweetly fruited, leading to a full bodied, rich palate with notes of dark chocolate, kirsch and red berries. The finish was big, bold and very long.
It had been another very strenuous morning (!) and we couldn’t possibly go to lunch without first having a little aperitivo. Out came the Corte Adami Recioto di Soave, usually thought of as a dessert wine by the British but often used to enliven the palate by the Italians in much the same way as the Sauternaise who also serve their ambrosial wines before a meal. This was pineapple and cream in a glass! A full and luscious palate that bursts with honeyed fruit, very well balanced by the fresh and vibrant acidity. A superb and fitting way to end a truly wonderful tasting. Brava e grazie mille Martina! After an all-too-brief but delicious lunch in the town, it was straight off to the airport for our flight home.
Although something of a whistle-stop trip, it had been very well worthwhile. If you ever find yourself with a free weekend, you could do far worse than hopping on a plane to Bergamo and visiting the Prosecco, Soave and Valpolicella regions. Soave is a 1.5 hour drive to the east and is Prosecco a further 1.5 hours to the north. Flights to Verona would be quicker if you can find one, and if you fly to Venice you are only 35 minutes from Valdobbiadene in the heart of Prosecco. Drop us a line and we’ll gladly contact Astoria and Corte Adami for you. Vai, vai!
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