Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant has imported wines from this estate—located in the heart of Veneto—for thirty-six years and counting. For those familiar with the wines and with its patriarch and founder, Gianni Piccoli, this comes as no surprise. The time I spent with Gianni was a highlight of my Italian trip, as he reminded me of my own Italian grandfather. With a four-hundred-year-old family legacy, Gianni speaks with great pride of the meaning of heritage in his craft, as his three sons now handle most of the winemaking duties. Gianni has been a constant champion of Veneto’s local varietals and was perhaps the first in the region to adopt full herbal and organic means to combat pests and preserve the quality of the vines. Best of all, his wines scream as everyday values. Their ability to pair with most food, especially with the ever-diverse Venetian cuisine, is astounding.
Trends in the wine world such as international grape varieties and heavy use of new oak have threatened the Veneto’s rich history of viticulture, but luckily steadfast producers like Corte Gardoni have firmly stood up for and sought to preserve their local traditions. Founder Gianni Piccoli not only pioneered sustainable viticulture in the Bardolino zone but also championed its native grapes like Corvina and Garganega when many producers turned to Chardonnay and Cabernet. Gianni’s three sons carry on his work, crafting deliciously refreshing wines from their stony vineyards south of Lake Garda. This red is a blend of Corvina, Rondinella, and Sangiovese from their top parcels. Aged for a year in oak botti before bottling, it is their most structured wine, yet it has a silky elegance and bright, spicy aromas that beckon. Don’t be afraid to age it for a few years, though: with some bottle age, certain Bardolinos have been known to mimic fine red Burgundy.
I’m often surprised when I sample, on its own, a grape that is more often encountered in a blend. Corvina Veronese is one of three grapes used in the famously rich Amarone, but Corte Gardoni’s rosso is an entirely different expression. A lovely pale ruby color with a juicy cherry and fresh piney note, it’s the perfect substitute for your usual weekday red.
When on the hunt for crisp everyday whites, it is natural to turn to appellations like Chablis, Mâcon, or Sancerre—the tried and true old reliables. But with yields down in Burgundy and prices for good Sancerre slowly creeping up, why not branch out and travel off the beaten path to find real value and experience new flavors? That road leads right to Corte Gardoni, the Veneto farm run by the Piccoli family just south of Lake Garda. Founder Gianni Piccoli, who is all but retired and has handed the keys to the kingdom to his three sons, is something of a local legend. Having resisted the wave of globalization that saw native grape varieties uprooted in favor of international ones, this man is a hero to like-minded peers. And Gianni is an outlier in more ways than one: he has also proudly refused to raise his prices over the years, allowing us to continue offering his wines at bargain cost. Piccoli’s Custoza is incredibly complete—it is hard to think of anything out of place or missing—spring-fresh bouquet, complex flavors, good body, pleasant acidity, and a stimulating finish. Garganega is the secret weapon in the blend, while a number of other local grapes combine to complete the experience. This charming little Venetian white will dance a jig along with any platter you place in front of it.
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