Quintarelli Maestro of Veneto
Wednesday, June 10, 2020 in News
Quintarelli Maestro of Veneto
Ned Goodwin MW writes for Langton’s about discovering the wines of Giuseppe Quintarelli for the first time and the latest releases from the Maestro of Veneto—Bianco Secco, Primofiore, Valpolicella Classico Superiore, and the Classico Amarone della Valpolicella. Shop the Quintarelli portfolio.
I first read about the estate of Giuseppe Quintarelli, tucked in the Valpolicella hills outside of Verona, while working as a sommelier at the fabled Veritas restaurant in New York’s Gramercy neighbourhood. It was the voracious ‘dot com’ era of the late ‘90s and Veritas boasted what was arguably the finest wine list in the world. Quintarelli’s wines were extremely challenging to acquire and more difficult to hold onto, particularly the Amarone and Alzero, the Cabernet Franc-dominant unicorn cuvée. The most perspicacious of international collectors already had a firm grapple-hold.
I found the juxtaposition between the detailed and supremely artisanal wines of Quintarelli and Super Tuscans, fascinating. It was the latter that largely flew the flag of fine wine for Italy, with large estates employing legions of international consultants and a phalanx of barriques to the tune of a global style. The Quintarelli estate, unassuming and modest, a starkly different universe!
Quintarelli, nestled in the inconspicuous village of Negrar, bottled from individual barrels, released his suite of age-worthy reds only when he—rather than the authorities—deemed them ready and wrote his own labels, all by hand! His wines, a symbol of bespoke authenticity. Today, in the steady hands of his family, the quality of wines at the estate remains superlative and uncompromised.
Nothing is rushed at Quintarelli, the estate’s cadence a reflection of each vintage’s seasons as much as Guiseppe’s legacy. Grapes are harvested across numerous passes through the limestone and basalt vineyards, ensuring optimal ripeness. Chemicals and herbicides are rejected. While an important factor to ensure high-quality wine, this abstemious approach also serves as a foundation of the appassimento technique that is intrinsic to the region and many Quintarelli wines.
Appassimento is the process by which grapes are dried on reed mats and in wooden boxes, enhancing and reformulating the tannin quotient, while maximising dry extract and imparting aromatic complexity. Fermentations are slow and completely natural at Quintarelli. New oak is eschewed in favour of large neutral Slavonian barrels. Ageing is far longer than the regional requirements, a period that is defined only by the gestation of each vintage. Each wine is released upon the confluence of resolved tannins and compelling aromas, destined for further evolution in one’s cellar. A long evolution.
Langton’s pre-arrival offer includes the following wines:
2018 Bianco Secco Ca’ del Merlo IGT
A spritely white crafted with an ostensible field blend of Garganega, Trebbiano Toscano, Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Saorin. The fruit is pressed immediately after harvest prior to a 12-hour maceration. The fermentation is cool to accentuate stone fruit scents and herbal inflections while batonnage is used to impart textural detail.
2017 Primofiore IGT
The ‘first flower’ is the youngest red wine released by Quintarelli each year. A meld of Corvina (50%), Corvinone (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, with the Cabernets partly dried, this mid-weighted red exudes floral scents and notes of pulpy red berries, sour cherry and dried herb. A skein of mineral verve, bulwarked by a carriage of juicy tannins, tows the finish long.
2012 Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC
A traditional blend of Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella, this is a richer red that bridles the effusive drinkability of a Valpolicella with the firm tannic mettle and heft of Amarone. This is is because 50% of the fruit is dried for two-months and toward the end of the primary fermentation, the ensuing wine is racked onto Amarone lees. This process is known as ripasso. It instigates a second fermentation and with that, complex esters, darker fruit tones and a more generous mouthfeel.
2012 Classico Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG
Made only in exceptional vintages, Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella grapes are selected across numerous passes through the vineyard. After harvesting, they are placed carefully in small boxes and on reed mats, positioned strategically to promote further ripening and appassimento. Grapes are pressed at the end of January before a 20-day maceration. Fermentation then takes approximately 45 days, before the wine is racked to large Slavonian wood where it continues to ferment to dryness while ageing for seven-years. A tour de force, expect unbridled power meshed with an uncanny feel of weightlessness. Dried tobacco, campfire, mulch, macerated cherry and liquorice backstrap, all signature aromas.
2009 Alzero Cabernet IGT
This legendary wine is crafted with grapes harvested comparatively early, toward the end of August into early September. An iconoclastic blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet Franc and the remainder Merlot, all dried, this constitutes a textural experience not to be missed. The dried grapes are pressed in mid-December and following 20 days of maceration, fermented wild for a whopping 50 days or more. The wine is racked to Slavonian oak where it undergoes four-years of unravelling and the ebbs and flows of further fermentations until dryness. As beguiling as it is undeniably rich, this wonderful wine is an alchemic confluence of Guiseppe’s prowess, the tradition of the region and unashamed, palate-staining hedonism!