Italian road trip 2016: all good things come to end

We might be on our way to visit the last vineyard, but that doesn’t make it less worth it!! The last vineyard we would visit on white wine Saturday and even from our trip was Sandro de Bruno at the eastern side of Verona. As we arrived a bit early at our destination we decided to already check-in at our B&B (named La Dolce vita :-)) Once we arrived we also found out it was the perfect spot to stop after lunch and have a little siesta before visiting our last vineyard. I guess the picture below gives you an idea about oasis of piece we arrived at. Another great news fact, we still had some room left in the trunk of our car for more wine 🙂 🙂

Il paradiso

Not that we were stressed, but you would be surprised how tiring visiting and tasting can get. I can definitely recommend the B&B as they also have a very nice breakfast and very friendly hosts. The B&B was also only 1km away from the Sandro de Bruno vineyard, so we had all the time in the world as it would only take us a minute to get there for our visit.

Sandro de Bruno

The Sandro de Bruno winery saw the daylight in the year 2000, so you would think it is a young winery. It’s not! In reality the winery is already making wine  since 1930 or better current owner Sandro’s dad and his dad’s 2 brothers were making wine since 1930… Sandro changed the name of the winery  in the year 2000(when he took over and after buying the parts of his uncles) as a tribute to his dad into ‘Sandro de Bruno’ which comes from Sandro ‘son of’ Bruno… it is as simple as that 🙂

Sandro de Bruno produces different kinds of wine, but 2 of them are their trademark wines (I think that’s the best way to call them) : the Soave and the Durello. Let’s first start with the Durello (or Durella how the grape is actually called) a DOC wine, meaning the Durello can only come from a specific area in this case from the area between the provinces of Verona and Vicenza (DOCG would mean it would need to come from a specific town or more specified area and only from that place like chianti or Barolo, or Amarone, etc…). The Durello/Durella grape is a strong  autochthonic grape variety. Strong because it is said to be disease resistant and grows best on a soil composed of lime and clay of volcanic origin. Indeed volcanic origin… I was surprised to find out that the area we were at has a volcanic origin… I didn’t know the area used to be volcanic. Another remarkable characteristic of the grape is the thick and leathery skin (may be the reason for it name as ‘duro’ means hard in Italian). What I’ve learned from tasting other wines that come from volcanic areas is that they have lots of minerality in them. For the Durello this isn’t any different. Something fascinating is that there are around 500 growers growing the grape variety but only I0 of them actually bottle the wine of which Sandro de Bruno is 1. Because of its high level of acidity the grape is 99% used to make spumante wines.  At the nose you notice lots of white flowers and minerality. It combines nature and freshness and its character lends itself good to be paired with seafood I think 🙂 I’ll have it a try at home… according to Sandro it pairs great with codfish alla Vicentina.

Durello

At our visit we did see Sandro, but as he and his wife had to go to Genova it was Andrea (who was about our age) who showed us around the winery. At all vineyards we were received with open arms, at Sandro de Bruno it at some point felt like we were just having a drink with a friend at a bar or so 🙂 It felt so relaxed!!

Sandro de Bruno Sandro de Bruno 2 Sandro de Bruno 3 Sandro de Bruno4

Soave as I mentioned is their 2nd most important wine.  For me Soave has always been around, but never got the attention it deserved.  Soave was produced in a medium-bodied style that was often compared to Chardonnay, except with a distinct bitter almond note. In most cases people in that case chose a bottle of chardonnay over one of Soave  or at least this until the end of the 90’s as since the 21st century trends have been turning and now Soave is the new Pinot Grigio in the US 🙂 Basically a wine everybody wants to drink + it must be said that producers like Sandro de Bruno and others in the region have worked very hard to make the opinions turn!!  The main grape variety that has to be present in Soave wine is Garganega , but can be blend with Trebbiano di Soave and Chardonnay. The Garganega grape also lends itself well to produce sweet recioto (who knows maybe they could even make a White Amarone if they let it ferment more 🙂 ) wines that have the potential to improve with bottle age for a decade or more.  Garganega can make classic white wines, both complex and satisfying!  Sandro de Bruno has 2 kinds of Soave, a regular (DOC) and a superiore (DOCG). Although I like both, I have a slight preference for the superiore, maybe because it has been in wooden barrels and therefore has more body, whereas the DOC Soave only saw stainless steel thanks… Let me say it like this, the DOC would be perfect as apero in your garden, the DOCG Superiore is more appropriate with food. as it has a broader aroma and complexity (and again the nice minerality)… and is rounder (good with white meat).  It are definitely very good wines with a very good price/quality ratio!! Also the bottles I bought at the vineyard are already finished… so I guess I like them

Soave superiore

What I find amazing is that on every bottle of Sandro de Bruno, is that all info on the wine can be found on the back label. Info like best served with which dishes, the best temperature to serve it, which grapes used, etc… basically a simplified technical sheet :-).  Also every bottle is numbered, although I don’t remember why that was 😦 nevertheless the content in the bottle is nectar of the Gods!!

Thanks Andrea for the tour and Sandro for making such great wines!! Hope to see you soon. In case you would have questions regarding the wine, you can contact Sandro de Bruno or for Belgium you can check with Alex from The Vine.  Sad enough our trip ended after this visit…but they gave us a wonderful dinner advise that was maybe the best from our whole trip!! if you would ever be in the neighborhood do stop at il Convivio!!!! A true  hidden treasure!! I also know the bottle you see on the picture (and that we had) from during our meal isn’t one from Sandro de Bruno, but as we had already been tasting their wines whole afternoon I was also keen on finding out which other great wines they had in the area…

Il convivio

I can’t wait for the next wine trip with my buddy Carlos!! Always a pleasure to travel with him…. Although I’m now first travelling with my lovely wife and baby girl to Friuli!

Italian roadtrip 2016: 1st stop and already beyond the clouds

It had already been almost a year since my last wine trip, so it was about time to do another one. My idea to do one again actually came during a meal with Raffaele Bosciani from Masi who said he hoped I would pass by one day… let’s call it the trigger 🙂 The only problem I still had was to convince or better find the perfect time to tell my wife I was going on a wine trip… AND Then it happened, as if the gods were favorable to me my wife told me she was thinking of going on a weekend with her sister 🙂 🙂 In the time she was still thinking I had already planned 2 trips 🙂 (one wine trip with by buddy Carlos and one with my daughter to visit my grandparents in Italy). Deciding which vineyards to visit was quite difficult as I wanted to visit lots of them, but I must say I had my mind made up pretty quickly. This wine trip brought us to 3 different Italian regions, we started in Alto Adige with a visit to the Elena Walch vineyard. We continued our trip in Veneto with visiting Masi and Guiseppe Quintarelli (and surprise stops at Farina and Bulgioni). To finally end our trip on what we called white wine Saturday at Ca dei Frati in Lombardy and Sandro de Bruno in Veneto again (Soave).

Route trip

What I love about travelling to Italy, is the fact that no matter where you go or how big the vineyard is they still receive you as you are part of the family.. I guess that’s the southern hospitality…

On the road

After a looooong drive we finally arrived in a little town of Termeno that is a few kilometers from Bolzano and from the Austrian border. What you notice when you are in this region is the Austrian influence in the housing, but also the fact that I think around 80% of the people speak German as first language (but all of them also speak very good Italian). We also couldn’t have imagined a better way to start our trip/holiday then in Termeno, we started it with a wonderful lunch at  Ansitz Romani outside in the open air with a nice bottle of Pinot Bianco from the Elena Walch estate… to already get familiar with the vineyard we were about to visit after the lunch  😉 FYI believe it or not, but the picture of the wine was taken with a smart phone camera (Huawei P9 –  with Leica lens)

Pinot Bianco Elena Walch

Ansitz Romani

Normally it was Julia Walch who would be showing us around, but unfortunately she had to travel abroad… but she had found good substitutes, her mother aka Elena Walch herself 🙂 and Lena a lovely young lady (oenology student) who was doing a internship at the vineyard and who I can say was very passionate about wines.

Elena Walch and daughters

Azienda vinicola Elena Walch was only founded in 1985 but the Walch Family already makes wine under the the name Wilhelm Walch that make ‘table wine’( or everyday wine or however you prefer calling it) since 1869 but it was not until Elena’s husband took over the family estate that he together with his wife Elena (who until then was architect) decided to start making next to the Wilhelm range of wines also wines of a higher quality or better ‘Cru’ wines from the grapes of their best parcels which they would make under the name Elena Walch. Eventhough Elena stopped working as an architect in 1985  when they founded the Elena Walch estate, you can clearly see that once an architect – always an architect 🙂 you see the influence of an architect in the newest part of the estate (the buildings that is) . You just know these are details only an architect would think of (I know Elena didn’t design it herself, but I’m sure she influenced it) like special lightning, the shapes of everything, etc…

It also seems like the next generation is getting ready to take over the torch as both daughters of Elena Walch recently joined the family estate and work in the Marketing department and took over most of the travelling from their parents.  When I asked Elena if it was difficult to work together with her daughters she said: “It is not difficult, but you do notice the difference with a regular employee. When you tell a regular employee something he’ll just do it. My daughters on the other hand 🙂 :-)”  But was very happy they were around and helping and continuing the business.

Elena Walche Estate 1 Elena Walche Estate2 Elena Walche Estate3 Elena Walche Estate4 Elena Walche Estate5 Elena Walche Estate6

The vineyard does use the most modern techniques and machinery , but they do still try to respect tradition. This you mainly see in the older part of the vineyard. What I personally love is the big decorated barrels… something they only back in the day as nowadays making the decorating  would cost too much

Elena Walche Estate 7  Elena Walche Estate 9 Elena Walche Estate 10 Elena Walche Estate 11 Elena Walche Estate 13

The philosophy of the estate is dedicated to its ‘terroir’. They have the idea that wines must be the expression of the grounds, climate and even of the cultivation in the vineyard that like mentioned gets done according to the most modern techniques and to principles of sustainability. The two main territories (where the grapes grow)  of the Elena Walch estate are Castel Ringberg (the ‘regular’ top wines. In France they would call it premier cru) and Kastelaz (the absolute top or Grand Cru) that today have a surface of almost 55 Ha. Where other estates in the region might mix grapes from multiple territories, at Elena Walch they handle the grapes separate (something similar like they do at the Bollinger Champagne estate).

Castel Ringberg that was once owned by the Hapsburg dynasty is located on mostly steep chalky soil, but with some sandy and loamy parts (basically a quit unique combination as mostly it is one of the 3). Because of the diversity of soil  it allows the estates to be very flexible and grow a very wide range of grape variaties: Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lagrein, Schiava. Again something very unique. I was really surprised about the amount of varieties as I thought in the mountains (even-though the Elena Walch vineyards are only up to 400m altitude above sea level) were very difficult and only a few grape varieties were strong enough to grow here… but that’s why I like to visit vineyards as you always learn news things you don’t always learn in books 😉

Castel Ringberg

What makes Kastelaz more special for Elena Walch or maybe even for the whole region is the southern location of it that creates micro-climatic conditions. Most other pieces of land in Alto Adige follow the valley and therefore get less sunshine. In difference with Ringberg, at Kastelaz there are only 3 grape varieties grown Gewürztraminer, Merlot and Pinot Bianco. This is due first of all because the soil here is chalk with raw rock like granite which isn’t the ideal soil for grapes, only a few can survive in these conditions

Kastelaz

It is of course all nice to know that they separate all of this, but how does it reflect in the glass.  Well we obviously didn’t try all the wines they have as that is I believe 31 different wines. From the wines we did try you can actually draw a line or find a red wire in all the wines (and it seems that most guides like Robert Parker, Gambero Rosso and Wine spectator agree on this when I read their comments about the wines they tasted). The Elena Walch wines are full bodied yet very elegant with a harmonious acidity where needed and a long length/finish (that I personally like a lot) and on top of all that every wine (because of its grape variety and location where it came from) adds that own specific mark on the identity.  Every taster we were served asked for more… I mean even the heavier red wines had that fresh part in them and want you to have more 🙂

Just FYI another piece of modern architecture at the estate is the Bistrot where we tasted the wines… not to speak about the view

Elena Walch Bistrot

One of our favorites (and I do think I speak for myself as for Carlos who joined me during this trip) was the Castel Ringberg Sauvignon with its fresh nose of minerals and green apples that definitely do not disappoint once you taste!! You’d be surprised how often a wine has a wonderful nose, but when you taste it its not what you hoped for… but in this case the taste was everything you’d hoped it to be 🙂 that’s also why we brought a box home :-). I do realize I can buy all those wines here in Belgium or anywhere else in the world for that matter…but you just get caught up in that moment that you just have to have it then and there 🙂 🙂 (a feeling we had quit a few times during this trip 🙂

Sauvignon

Another wine that got our immediate attention was the Pinot Nero ‘Ludwig’ Aged for 14 months in half new oak and half old oak, its power is discreetly brought to the surface by subtle tannins and lively acidity. Perfumed, complex, elegant, it is drinkable now, but I guess a bit of aging wouldn’t hurt… so we’ll have to try not to touch those bottles we brought back home 😦

Pinot Nero Ludwig

I can say for a fact that we couldn’t have imagined a better first day! A great lunch (with great wine), being around lovely beautiful ladies a whole afternoon (I don’t remember seeing to many men working at Elena Walch‘s estate) and finishing the day with a good piece of meat and some great red wine at the Schwarz Adler 🙂 What more do we need?? We also slept like babies as it had been a very very long day.

dav

Next stop VERONA!!!

In case you would want more information on Elena Walch wines or where to buy them in Belgium you can contact Young Charly. For the rest of the world you can check the Elena Walch website or contact the Elena Walch estate directly