“Okay,” said Vinnie, my corkscrew and travelling companion, “tell me why are so many Italian streets named after dates?” That is, in fact, a good question because all over the country you will find roads named Via XX Settembre and Via IV Novembre. The first is named because of the events in 1870 when the new Italian government was finally able to seize control of Rome from Pope Pius IX who had been holding out against unification for some nine years. The second is National Unification and Armed Forces Day and has been celebrated since 1919, when, at the end of the First World War, Italy gained control of areas previously ruled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire but home to many ethnic Italians. This is considered the final act in the formation of modern Italy.
So, armed with this knowledge, we sought out Monteforte d’Alpone. This is a town famous for several things including, at 79 metres, one of the highest bell towers in the region. However, more importantly for us, it is famous for the great white wine of the region, Soave. One of the great practitioners of the art of Soave is Daniele Nardello and it was in his headquarters in Via IV Novembre that we met his sister, Federica.
The family have owned the property since 1608 (no Johnny-come-latelies here) and been involved in agriculture and viticulture across the generations. Daniele has a degree in oenology from the University of Milan and worked in Australia before returning to the family winery whilst Federica, with a degree in economics, brings her professional skills to the business. Together, they make a formidable team. Today, they produce around 75,000 bottles from 14 hectares of vineyards all located in the area known as Soave Classico. This is the area where the best examples of this classic white wine are found due to the volcanic nature of the soil.
The first wine we tasted was a Soave Classico called Meridies. This is 100% Garganega but is a blend from two vineyards, one the volcanic Monte Zoppega and the other the sandier Monte Tondo. After fermentation it spends four to five months in steel on the lees before bottling. It has a bright straw colour and on the nose there is gooseberry. On the palate it is clean and sharp. It should go very well with salmon.
Vigna Turbian is another Soave Classico but in this case it is a blend of 70% Garganega and 30% Trebbiano, all from Monte Zoppega. The vines here are all around 40 to 50 years old. For this Vigna Turbian, the Trebbiano is harvested at the end of September but the Garganega is left until the middle of October when the grapes are more mature. The grapes are then fermented and matured separately. They are left on the lees until the following March when the wine is bottled. The result is a pale straw colour with a bouquet of green apples. On the palate the young Trebbiano balanced with the mature Garganega makes a great well-structured wine with a good finish. Certainly, it would make a great pairing with shellfish.
The final Soave Classico is called Monte Zoppega after the site of the vineyard. It is 100% Garganega and, after fermentation, half the wine is matured in steel and the other half in French oak. The colour is straw with a hint of green and the bouquet is full of vanilla, peaches and red apples. On the palate it is full with the salinity that you would expect with a wine made from grapes grown in strongly volcanic soil. Try this with a fish with a strong flavour like turbot.
The siblings also make a recioto which is a DOCG semi sweet dessert wine which they call Suavissimus. This precious liquid comes from the oldest Garganega vines and the grapes are harvested between the second half of September and the end of October. They are then left on racks to naturally dry over a period of months, losing water and gaining sugar, before being pressed in March. It then ferments in barriques and remains on the lees until late December when it is bottled. The colour is a rich intense gold with a bouquet of honey and apricots. The flavour is soft, deep, and full, and would go very well with a cheese like gorgonzola.
A visit to the tasting room in the renovated 17th century building will show the best of the old and new brought together in an harmonious whole which is an appropriate metaphor for the wines that Daniele and Federica produce using modern techniques but with traditional values of pride and care.