The Italian and International elite of wine turned up in Merano last week for one of the classiest appointments of the year. The 26th edition of the Wine Festival saw five days of tastings, debates, wine Masterclasses and food events with chefs of international fame.
Guerrieri Rizzardi was present for the 11th year, this time displaying Calcarole Amarone 2008 and Pojega Ripasso 2015 that delighted the palates of our visitors. On Monday, traditional day for “vintage bottles”, we poured Villa Rizzardi Amarone 2003 that was still in great form!
How do you improve a Cru vineyard? The answer is with a lot of care, maintenance and hard work and then on top of that a renovation!
That is exactly what we have done to the historic, Cru vineyard of Pojega in the heart of Negrar in Valpolicella.
The vineyard was replanted in 1978 in neat rows of high trellised vines (double Veronese pergola). Now, decades later, every year calls for regular work in the vineyard: the replacing of the supports, trimming of edges, replanting of spent vines.
However this year saw an even bigger project at Pojega. This year we removed all excess vegetation from the eastern side of the vineyard and made room for at least two new rows of vines to be planted. Two rows that will run the entire length of the vineyard.
At the northern part of Pojega, by clearing and preparing the land, we have created space which will allow us to extend each row of vines by several metres.
In addition removing excess wild growth around the edges of the vineyards can help to improve the health of the vines themselves. Being sensitive pants grapevines proximity to other large plant growth can cause problems.
All of which means that Pojega vineyard – from which comes both Villa Rizzardi Amarone Classico and Pojega Ripasso – will cover approximately an extra 1/3 of a hectare and one day those extra vines should be the source of over 2,000 bottles of much needed (as it runs out earlier and earlier every year!) Pojega Ripasso.
Often Amarone production is cited as one of the wine world’s most labour intensive processes and with good reason.
To get things right does take a lot of work from the handpicking, to hand selecting, to grape drying and constant reviewing of the dried grapes, to the long fermentation, blending, barrel aging. bottle ageing etc. etc.
But even before any of that starts there is work to be done and in our pursuit of wines that are pristine expressions of the vineyards, cleaning the very boxes the grapes are carried in is no mean task!
Although not as romantic as straw mats we made the switch several years ago to these white boxes, the choice was one of hygene, here everything shows up and can be cleaned away.
The next step is to wet the boxes, softening up the residue and getting them ready to enter the box washer.
The ‘box washer’ is like a large powerful dishwasher and it successfully annihilates any residue left on our boxes
The boxes are then stacked by hand and placed in columns then with the aid of the forklift they will be put aside in clean condition to await the first harvest, which this year – judging by the incredible sunshine – could only be around 10 weeks away!
A couple of days of rainfall, a couple of thunderstorms and temperatures soaring up over 27°C and Ravei has changed quite a bit in the last three weeks.
The vine growth has been excellent and the leaves are glossy and healthy and should these weather pattern continued for the early part of the summer then the young vines will be off to a very good start.
Ravei sits on a gentle slope that faces south west giving it good exposure to the afternoon sun, it is also quite sheltered, a little bit of a suntrap.As can be seen from the photograph below the vineyard is nestled between an ancient olive grove and in the foreground another vineyard.
Here can be seen the contrast between the traditional ‘pergola’ trained vines and the neat rows of trellis posts which will eventually be used to ‘train’ the vines of Ravei in rows.
The advantages to us of this ‘single Guyot’ training system are numerous, not least is the equal, well displaced exposure to the sun that each vine will receive.
Some changes already underway for our new vineyard ‘Ravei’. A few days of rain interspersed with sunny spells followed by several warm sunny days has resulted in a good burst of growth in the baby vines.
Breaking through the wax coating we are expecting rapid growth over the next few weeks.
At first the vines are free standing but already trellising posts are in place and soon the wires will go through each of these posts providing the structure for these little vines.
As with all our vineyards, this will be a place in which we encourage biodiversity, here are some of nature’s best pest controllers in action, happy to see this ‘coccinella’ in the vineyard:
Ravei is the latest addition to our family of vineyards in Bardolino Classico bringing the total number of vineyards to 40 but Ravei is different…
Here we have chosen to plant a variety normally associated with our vineyards in Valpolicella, namely Corvinone, this will be our first planting here in the heart of Bardolino Classico. We believe here, on this gentle slope, planted in the rocky, pebble strewn, clay soils of Ravei that the Corvinone grapes should do particularly well.
The vineyard is planted to a high density, i.e lots of vines in a small space, in fact 5,900 vines in just 1.18 hectares (just under 3 acres).
For now the baby vines stand alone in their rows but next week the trellising goes in to give these rows their order and give the new vines a structure to grow against.
The nice thing is, some good rain is forecast followed by more warm April sun, good ingredients for nurturing these infants.
In Negrar we have reached the end of the selection of the grapes for the Amarone, all organised in boxes in our drying rooms.
The grapes were harvested between September 1st and September 18th, with perfect weather conditions: sunny, dry and warm.
Last year, as an example of a completely different vintage, especially because of the climate during spring and summer, we started the grape selection on September 18th!
This year, 2015, has been the earliest start for the selection of grapes for the Amarone since 2000!
Some rain fall between the 13th and 14th of September briefly stopped the harvest, otherwise hot and sunny days have had a positive effect on the beginning of the drying process.
In 12 days of work, we picked some 15,000 boxes of grapes, divided into five different drying rooms that we have in Pojega.
Two thirds of the grapes were picked from our vineyards cultivated in rows, while a third of the grapes come from the our pergola trained vineyards in Pojega – Villa Rizzardi.
20% of the total grapes comes from our Calcarole hill.
The grapes harvested are mostly Corvina ( 40% of the total), Rondinella ( 33%), Corvinone (11%) and for the rest Barbera and Sangiovese.
In the second half of September, the high pressure and the nice sunny weather contributed to a fast start to the drying process of the grapes in boxes and the delicate transition from the vegetable to the woody stage of the stem is already well advanced.
Historically, this type of vintage with grapes rich in sugars and polyphenols, accompanied by a good acidity, has given structured and complex wines, concentrated and rich in extracts.
In order to achieve a more balanced ecosystem in our vineyards we began, some time ago the process of moving away from the use of synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the cultivation of our vineyards.
We wanted to get, not only a simple replacement of conventional chemicals, but to be more careful in soil management; aiming to restore ecological balance which the prolonged use of chemical fertilizers and herbicides has weakened over the years – despite the fact that GUERRIERI RIZZARDI has been, since the 1980s, very moderate in our use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
The end result of this multi-year project, will be the production of grapes and wine by organic methods.
The project is at its most advanced stage in our Valpolicella estate in Negrar where:
• Since 2001: we have gradually been reducing the use of chemical fertilizers in favour of organic fertilizers.
• From vintage 2014: total abandonment of chemical herbicides on the weeds between the rows of vines; replaced by a mechanical operation performed with a blade – to clean the line of weeds. Three passes per year are needed to clean the soil from weeds.
• From vintage 2015: total abandonment of synthetic chemical pesticides in favour of conventional products (mainly copper and sulphur) to give the vines protection against powdery mildew, downy mildew, moths lives and botrytis.
The result is that at present all Guerrieri Rizzardi vineyards of Valpolicella are grown organically and the aim is to gradually extend this approach to our other estates in Bardolino, Soave and Valdadige.
Not so much new as refreshed, we have taken our familiar, coloured labels for Bardolino Classico, Soave Classico, Bardolino Chiaretto Classico and Valpolicella Classico and reworked them.
We wanted to emphasis the importance of the land, to make the ‘estate grown and bottled’ message clear to all, especially as we are in the unique position of being able to make wines from our own vineyards in each of the three Classico zones: Valpolicella, Soave and Bardolino.
Each of the three estates has its own, individual winery and fortunately in each case the winery is in close proximity to the vineyards which means that within 10 minutes of being picked, though often even sooner, the grapes can be in the winery. This short time between picking and the start of the winemaking process greatly reduces exposure to oxygen, which in turn allows us to preserve the freshness of the ‘just picked’ grapes and freshness is key to properly expressing the wines in these three zones.
The new vintages are available from this week onward and we hope that the message on the label and the subtle redesign can help to wine more fans to our Classic range.
The 2012 vintage for our flagship Bardolino Munus has turned out to be, much as we hoped, one of the most successful years for this flagship cuvée. The vintage (released summer 2014) marks the 20th year since this unique wine was first brought to life by Contessa Maria Cristina Loredan Rizzardi. Munus was originally made in 1992 from the best vineyard plots and the label with it’s distinct reference to the Loredans of Venice was as a tribute to the Contessa’s aunt who at that time had reached 90 years of age. Munus is a latin word meaning gift and the coin embossed on the label’s front was presented by the Doges (Leader/Head of state for Venice) to dignitaries visiting Venice. This particular coin was from a time when one of the Loredan’s held the title of Doge.
In recent years as vines have matured in selected sites Munus has matured with them into a more complete wine. At its core is 70% low yielding Corviona backed up with 20% Merlot which performs very well in several of our vineyards and 10% Rondinella. After one year in large seasoned oak barrels (2500 litres) Munus is rested in bottle then released. We recommend matching it with pork or poultry dishes but more importantly we recommend getting it while you still can as the vintage is disappearing rapidly!
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