Harvesting Corvina in one of Corte Gardoni’s oldest vineyards
The Corvina grape has spent most of its history cast as a workhorse. In Valpolicella, it lays to dry on straw mats, where its hallmark bright acidity is sacrificed to ramp up the sweetness and power of Amarone. Across Lago di Garda, Corvina typically huddles in dense, industrial-style growing conditions and is mostly found blended with less expressive, easier-to-grow varietals. Fortunately for us, at Corte Gardoni they believe in pure Corvina, putting the best aside for their Becco Rosso. Vibrant and faultlessly refreshing, this variety is worthy of praise in its own right.
Gianni Piccoli grew up surrounded by orchards, but he had wine in his blood so when an estate with extensive vineyards came up for sale in 1971 he jumped at the opportunity. For years the grapes of Corte Gardoni were sold to cooperatives, but Gianni felt that their wines lacked soul. In 1980 he broke those ties and began crafting his own wine, focusing on the character of the grapes and terroir. Today Gianni is a highly respected figure in the region as well as a leader in the fight against homogenization of local wines. Gianni still keeps a close eye on production, but has turned over the daily work to his sons: Mattia, the winemaker; Stefano, the vineyard manager; and Andrea, who handles the commercialization of the wines.
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.
Let the brett nerds retire into protective bubbles, and whenever they thirst for wine it can be passed in to them through a sterile filter. Those of us on the outside can continue to enjoy complex, natural, living wines.
Inspiring Thirst, page 236
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