Gambellara is a tiny white wine appellation in Italy’s Veneto, situated roughly midway between the city of Vicenza and the more renowned Soave zone. Like Soave, Gambellara wines spotlight the local Garganega grape; however, differences in soil type yield very distinct expressions of this same variety. Whereas the limestone of Soave gives fine, elegant wines with generous fruit, the volcanic basalt that makes up most of Gambellara’s vineyards produces a much more steely, mineral-driven, almost gritty white. When young Davide Vignato took over the family vineyards, he set out to craft whites that would genuinely reflect this fascinating, unheralded terroir. Col Moenia represents a selection of the estate’s highest-quality organically grown grapes, fermented with a starter culture from wild yeasts and aged in tank with regular lees stirring. It brilliantly balances a delicate, slightly creamy, floral side with the saline minerality conferred from these volcanic soils. It pairs perfectly with any number of cicchetti (Venetian snacks).
One of our most “off-the-beaten-track” discoveries of the past few years is the azienda of young Davide Vignato. The family history behind Davide’s wines began when his grandfather, Rinaldo, purchased a small plot of land in the hills of Gambellara and planted vines. Davide’s father, Gian Domenico, was the first in the family to make wine from those grapes, and as of 1997, Davide introduced organic and biodynamic farming to the vineyards with the goal of producing deeply mineral wines that would reflect Gambellara’s unique soils. The grapes are harvested by hand, fermentation is spontaneous, and the wines are aged on fine lees. These wines represent not only authentic and compelling terroir expression, but also great values.
Italy’s most prolific wine region by volume, the Veneto is the source of some of the country’s most notorious plonk: you’ll find oceans of insipid Pinot Grigo, thin Bardolino, and, of course, the ubiquitous Prosecco. And yet, the Veneto produces the highest proportion of DOC wine of any Italian region: home to prestigious appellations like Valpolicella, Amarone, and Soave, it is capable of excelling in all three colors, with equally great potential in the bubbly and dessert departments.
With almost 200,000 acres planted, the Veneto has a wealth of terroirs split between the Po Valley and the foothills of the Alps. While the rich soils of the flatlands are conducive to mechanization, high yields, and mass production of bulk wine, the areas to the north offer a fresher climate and a diversity of poor soil types, ideal for food-friendly wines that show a sense of place. Whether it’s a charming Prosecco Superiore from the Glera grape, a stony Soave or Gambellara from Garganega, or a Corvina-based red in any style, the Veneto’s indigenous grape varieties show real character when worked via traditional production methods.
Since his first visit in 1979, Kermit has regularly returned to the Veneto to enjoy its richness of fine wines and local cuisine. Our collaboration with Corte Gardoni, our longest-running Italian import, is a testament to this. The proximity of beautiful cities like Verona and Venice, with their deep culinary heritage, certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
Trust the great winemakers, trust the great vineyards. Your wine merchant might even be trustworthy. In the long run, that vintage strip may be the least important guide to quality on your bottle of wine.—Kermit Lynch
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