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A Day in Valpolicella with the Tedeschi Family

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A day in Valpolicella with Sabrina and Riccardo Tedeschi at their winery was a great opportunity to learn more about their winemaking. Here, I will take us back to a lovely summer day when I jumped on a train with destination Verona and Valpolicella. I had gotten an invitation to come and visit the Tedeschi winery and I was very curious to discover more about them. (This happened before the pandemic but then my website was hacked and, therefore, this article was only restored recently.

Tedeschi winery is one of the historical Valpolicella wineries that was one of the founders of the Famiglie Storiche in 2009. This is a union of wineries working to preserve the history and traditions of winemaking in Valpolicella as well as focusing on innovation. Upon my arrival, Riccardo Tedeschi picked me up in Verona and we headed directly to the vineyards. I got to see stunning views of the viticultural landscape in Valpolicella and I could really get an understanding of the terroir and the vines up close.

What’s the story then and who are the people behind Tedeschi winery?

Let us discover more together below about Valpolicella and this interesting and historic winery.

Valpolicella – Between History and Winemaking

Valpolicella is an area with a long history going back to prehistoric times. There are many populations that have inhabited this area in the past such as Arusnates (ancient local people, by some thought to be connected to the Etruscans, though no proof has been found), Romans, and Venetians.

Wine has also been produced since ancient times in this area. Research has found evidence of wine production as far back as to the Iron Age, and further ahead, during the Roman era, the wine was, of course, an important product. In fact, Pliny the Elder has written in his Naturalis Historia, XIV, 16, 3., about how the ‘uva retica’ (from vitis raetica, of the region Raetium) that was produced in the Verona area was served at the dining hall of Emperor Tiberius.

Acinatico becomes Recioto

Another interesting thing to add here is that today’s Recioto di Valpolicella with its particular appassimento technique is considered to date to the 5th century AD, in the recent aftermath of the fall of the Roman Empire.

In that period the wine went under the name Acinaticum (Acinatico). The first written mention of the Acinatico is said to be in a document written by Cassiodorus, a Roman statesman who served under Theodore the Great, king of the Ostrogoths. The Acinatico wine was indeed served at the royal court of Theodore the Great in Ravenna.

It was only in the 19th century that this sweet wine got the name Recioto. (To read more about the Recioto of Tedeschi winery, see 3 Different Italian Appassimento Wines That You Will Love.)

Enough about Romans and Ostrogoths, let’s dive into the history of the Tedeschi family…

Sabrina Tedeschi

Tedeschi – A Vine Growing Family With A Long History

We need to go back four centuries in time, to the early 17th century, to find the beginning of the Tedeschi family’s wine narrative. Indeed, they are known as vine-growers and wine producers since that time in Pedemonte di Valpolicella. Tirelessly and with passion, they have continued their work, generation after generation, constantly adding to their experience and knowledge.

It was only in the 1960s though, that Lorenzo Tedeschi, the father of Antonietta, Sabrina, and Riccardo, decided to make a radical change and start to treat the grapes separately during the winemaking process and to bottle high-quality wines.

Their grandfather, Lorenzo’s father, had tried to start producing a bit more than the needed quantity to sell to the local taverns. But it was Lorenzo Tedeschi who made a fundamental change to their vine-growing and winemaking philosophy. Lorenzo decided to source the grapes from their Monte Olmi vineyard and in that way started to produce one of the first cru Valpolicella wines. The Monte Olmi vineyard is going strong still today and is now the oldest vineyard of the winery. The first Monte Olmi Amarone wine was produced in 1964. I got to see a Monte Olmi Amarone from 1964. LOL They still have a bottle or two in their wine cellar.

Amarone della Valpolicella from 1964

Since the 1960s, the Tedeschi family has taken huge leaps forward in their development and innovation without forsaking their history and traditions. Today, it is the siblings Antonietta, Sabrina, and Riccardo who are running the winery. Lorenzo, their father, still keeps a watching eye over the activities. In fact, Lorenzo Tedeschi and his wife Bruna, as well as Riccardo and his family, still live in the family house just next to the winery buildings. This, of course, makes it easier for Lorenzo to pop in every day and see what is happening.

Lorenzo is now over 80 years old, but that does not hinder him from being almost as active as ever. Sabrina told me how he still hops on his bike (an electrical bike nowadays though) every morning to cycle a certain amount of kilometers, pass by the village, read the newspapers and then check in to see what is going on at the winery.

In the vineyards of Tedeschi Winery

On my visit to the Tedeschi winery, I got to see two of their cru vineyards, namely Maternigo and La Fabriseria. I mentioned before how Monte Olmi is their oldest vineyard and the one that became the cornerstone in the business when Lorenzo decided to start producing quality Amarone wine in 1964. The Monte Olmi vineyard was bought as far back as 1918 and has thus an important history in the Tedeschi family business.

Research and Mapping of Vineyards

While driving to the different vineyards, Riccardo talked to me about the research on zoning they are doing together with the University of Verona. He continued to talk about how they started in 2010 to look closer at the Maternigo vineyards and the Classical area to understand the characteristics of the soil.

They specifically looked closer at any differences of the vines within the same smaller block or area. This has helped to better know where intervention is needed and what type of interventions are needed to arrive at a consistent quality level in the vineyard and in the wines. For example, setting up plans for cover cropping, canopy management, monitoring of water stress and disease.

The data gathering and research have allowed the Tedeschi family to create a sort of soil map that they can base their vine growing and winemaking work on. Perhaps it could also be called a sort of map over the different micro terroirs in the areas that were part of the study. However, they have not stopped at regular zoning of the vineyards but have also carried out an aromatic mapping of the areas. This means that they have tried to define the specific aromas for each viticultural area of the researched estates. They do believe that the soil compositions can have a significant impact on the aromas of the wine.

I found this very fascinating, don’t you?

There are five cru areas out of the about 10 vineyard plots (I believe Riccardo said around 10 plots) where they carried out the aromatic study. The grapes in question in the vineyards of the case study were mainly Corvina and Corvinone. Riccardo mentioned that he does not think there are many in the world that so far has focused on aromatic zoning. He said that he has only heard of a similar study in Niagara.

When we stopped at a part of the Maternigo estate vineyards, where they source grapes for their Maternigo Amarone, I asked him about the specific aromas the soil could add there. Riccardo said that it is an area with very intense aromas and a variety of grape expressions. He gave an example of notes such as black pepper, cherry, and red fruit, in general, to be present in their wines with grapes from this specific vineyard block.

By the way…

The Maternigo estate was bought as late as 2006. It comprises 84 hectares of which 31 hectares are planted with vineyards so far. The area is located in the eastern part of Valpolicella and the soil is here of pink calcareous and marly rock combined with white and pink marl. The altitude varies from about 290 to 480 m.a.s.l.

The Maternigo Vineyard

The vast extension of the Maternigo area and the different expositions make it an important stronghold allowing the Tedeschi family to use the grapes for many of their Valpolicella wines.

At a tiny part of the Maternigo estate, they have also set up about 1 ha of an experimental vineyard, or as they say a sort of “live vineyard”. Here they try different techniques on Corvina and Rondinella vines with a combined pergola and guyot training system. For example, they are experimenting with pruning leaving the canopy to develop vertically for an optimal mature fruit, and adapting to climate change.

Continuing to talk about aromatic zoning…

Other results they have found thanks to their study, are that, for example, the calcareous soil gives intensity and complexity, the soil with ferrous oxide and manganese gives notes of cherry and spice, the sandy soil adds more notes of forest and darker fruit such as currant and raspberry, and so forth.

I found it all very interesting…

What about La Fabriseria vineyard then?

Well, we continued to make a quick stop in this vineyard too which is located almost an hours drive from the Maternigo estate, in the Valpolicella Classico area between the communes of Fumane and Sant’Ambrogio.

They started to plant the La Fabriseria cru vineyard in 2000. The La Fabrisera vineyard plot is at an altitude of 450 meters and the soil is of pink calcareous and marly rock combined with calcarenite and shale. It is with the grapes from this vineyard that they, for example, make the very special cru wine La Fabriseria Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva. It is a wine that is only produced in those years when the grapes are of excellent quality and to a very limited number of bottles.

The view over the Valpolicella area from La Fabriseria vineyard is just fantastic and I took the opportunity to take a photo of Riccardo with the vineyard as a background. (See below)

Riccardo Tedeschi in La Fabriseria vineyard.

Wine tasting with Sabrina Tedeschi

This article is already very long and I feel like I still have so much to tell you about the day at Tedeschi winery in Valpolicella. However, I will here mainly talk about two of the wines we tasted, namely Capitel Monte Olmi Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva DOCG 2012 and La Fabriseria Amarone 1995.

When I was in the car with Riccardo coming back from the vineyards, I asked him out of curiosity about the oldest vintage they still have in their wine cellar. He said that they still have a bottle or two from 1964 and that the oldest vintage he himself has tasted was from 1974.

Then he said: Let’s open a bottle of La Fabriseria Amarone 1995 today for the tasting!
I felt a bit guilty because I really had not asked to get to taste an older vintage but only out of curiosity.

Imagine my surprise then when Sabrina gave me the remaining La Fabriseria Amarone 1995 together with a Capitel Monte Olmi Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva DOCG 2012 to take home with me. I felt overwhelmed.

Capitel Monte Olmi Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva DOCG 2012 is, as you might remember by now, made with grapes from their historic Monte Olmi cru vineyard. Sabrina told me that the typical trait of this wine is its significantly herby and green notes. It is dry, complex, and structured yet with a lot of elegance.

The wine has matured for 4 years in large casks of Slavonian oak. Their philosophy is indeed to use mainly large casks and it makes the wines very smooth without any intrusive notes of the wood.

When it comes to the lovely La Fabriseria Amarone 1995, Sabrina told me that 1995 was considered a very good vintage and that there has been a discussion regarding which vintage was best: 1995 or 1997. Generally, she said that 1997 has been considered the best vintage almost of the century but that some still think that 1995 might have been even better for Amarone.

In 1995, Fabriseria was not a cru wine as today but in those years they selected the best Corvina, Corvinone, and Rondinella grapes in the different valleys. Even though 1995 was a fairly warm year, the wine is not overly sweet but rather dry and fresh. As it opens up you feel beautiful notes of chocolate and coffee followed by mature almost caramelized fruit, but as mentioned above not too sweet. Rather it is a smooth wine that has an elegance and structure that is astonishing for its age. The wine is out of stock, so I feel very lucky and happy to have had the opportunity to taste this fantastic Amarone.

A couple of months later, I shared La Fabriseria 1995 with Nadia, my friend from Veneto, who had cooked polenta and ragù made with wild boar for the occasion. We meditated over the wine and the food in front of the fire.

Thank you, Sabrina and Riccardo!

(Disclosure: the visit was sponsored by Tedeschi winery.)

Katarina Andersson

Seen often at wine events streaming live, Katarina is a wine writer, wine educator, social media strategist, and translator. She is the founder of WinesOfItaly LiveStream. She has been a guest at The Cellar, hosted by Richard Glover, at Wine Two Five, a podcast hosted by Stephanie Davis and Valerie Caruso, and at the Twitter chat #WiningHourChat founded by Li Valentine.

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