Venice is a delight, as is the hinterland behind La Serenissima, but it must be said it is flat and if you long for a little verticality in your landscape then you are not alone. Over the centuries Venetians have sought refuge from the unending horizontality of their environment and while it is true that from the city the Alps provide a mountainous backdrop, they are a long way away even with today’s modern transportation. Imagine what it must have been like 500 years ago… The solution for the hill-starved Venetian aristocrat lay much closer to the city in the volcanic outcrop known as the Colli Euganei. Leaving the plain of the river Po behind and entering this small range of hills is like entering a different world. Indeed, this landscape has inspired poets over the centuries; Petrarch lived here, Shelley wrote about it and still today people are drawn to its beauty. The succeeding generations have all left their mark on the countryside, principally in the form of beautiful villas and castles.
Enter Maria Gioia Rosellini who was following this age-old tradition and looking for a rural escape from city life. She and her husband found the Ca’Orologio and it was love at first sight. The 16th century building was originally constructed as a holiday home but over its long life has seen many changes serving as an oratorio and a farm house amongst other things. As we all know, the course of true love is rarely smooth but a five-year programme of restoration did not dampen Maria’s enthusiasm and, in 1995, she began growing grapes, progressing to making her own wine in 2002. She now produces around 25,000 bottles per year from 11 hectares of vineyards. She has two main vineyards one on volcanic soil and the other, by contrast, calcareous. She has no formal wine-making qualifications, relying instead on practical experience and reading to shape her ideas. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating and indeed she produces some wonderful wines.
The wines from this area have their own DOC appellation but the variations allowed are so generous as to make the rules almost superfluous but within those rather nebulous regulations Maria produces some notable wines. Calaóne is a blend of 60% Merlot, 35% Cabernet, and 5% Barbera. Fermentation takes place partially in steel and partially in an oak tini. The wine is then matured for 2 years, 12 months in barriques, 6 months back in the tini and finally another 6 months in the bottle. I sampled the 2019 that had yet to spend its full 6 months in the bottle but it had already become a wine of note. The colour was a rich deep purple that comes from a relatively young wine. The rich bouquet of bitter cherries, prunes, pepper, and cinnamon filled my nostrils and on the palate it was full-bodied with tannins that were present on my tongue but not, for some reason, on the gums. The acidity will let this wine cut through any fattiness so it will go equally well with steak and lamb. The ageing potential for this is good – Maria says at least 10 years.
Ca’Orologio is more than just a vineyard – it is also an agriturismo where you can stay in the most elegant of surroundings but its focus is the wine and if you choose, at the right time of year, Maria will invite you to become involved. She makes a wine called Relógio which is made from 80% Carmenere and 20% Cabernet Franc all from the limestone vineyards. After harvest the wine must be macerated to extract all the goodness from the grapes. Left to themselves, the grapes float to the top forming a cap that inhibits the extraction of all the goodness. There are several sophisticated ways of circumventing this problem but Maria has certainly found an original one. The wine is fermented in an old oak barrique and guests are invited to help by stirring the cap, breaking it up and helping the extractive process. There follows 2 years of maturation, 12 months in French oak barrels, 6 months in a stainless steel tank, and a final 6 months in the bottle.
The Ca’Orologio wine list stretches to six wines covering white, spumante and rosato. I would suggest booking in for a relaxing stay and an opportunity to try them all.