“You are not “suave” as your name implies, you are uncontrollable, untameable, unfaithful. So that’s it. I’m going. I’m leaving you, and this letter tells you why… It is easy to understand that hillside viniculture is potentially very different indeed from the viniculture of the plains. Unfortunately, the market mistakes one for the other: the bad vine chases the good vine away!”
Roberto Anselmi. From an open letter to the industry announcing his “divorce” from Soave Consorzio. 2000.
Driving along the freeway in the Veneto to visit Anselmi in Monteforte d’Alpone, our little hire car barely dodged the hurtling industrial trucks. It is immediately apparent the Veneto is a major industrial centre in Italy, jostling with Sicily for top place in Italy for production of bulk wine. Even if the green hillsides beyond the freeway are dotted with ancient castles.
Imagine Roberto Anselmi on his motorbike weaving through these trucks (or by-passing it completely in his helicopter!) and you have a good idea of how different the wines of Anselmi are to the rest of the region.
In 2000, Anselmi divorced from the Soave Consorzio in a famous open letter. Standing outside his “experimental” vineyard with his daughter, Lisa, the differences are apparent. The new Classico rules did not do much to change the yields and included areas of the plains: in other parts of Soave area, the vines are trained on the traditional tendone system (Anselmi once called “an unbalanced man”) at about 2000 vines/ha. In Anselmi’s experimental vineyard, Garganega is on the French Guyot system and are at 7000 vines/ha. Here Anselmi challenges the traditional notion of Garganega as a watery and low-aroma variety: the effect is the vines compete to produce the juiciest and most aromatic grapes, which in turn, amplify the aromas and flavours.
At 38 degrees celsius outside, I was glad to get inside the cool winery. The stainless steel tanks gleamed under archways. Everything in the winery is about retaining the freshness of the Garganega grape. Over the past 5 years, they have done more work with nitrogen to completely eradicate oxygen’s affect on the delicate flavours.
Inside the winery, I saw an amazing contraption I had never seen before: a filtering system made of layers of cotton stretched on frames, frame after frame stacked against each other, which fines the wine without any need of physical touching the pulp, the use of sulfites or other chemicals, and all filtered by nitrogen. Roberto developed it with Italian company “della Toffola”. I asked Roberto, where did he come up with this idea? He replied, “Easy – I don’t sleep at night!”.
Anselmi has only five wines and produces 600,000 bottles per year. There is the entry-level San Vincenzo, which is excellent value. Then, the two “Cru” wines Capitel Foscarino and Capitel Croce (Capitel refers to the little shrines dotted along the roads in the hills of Veneto). The red wine, Realda, made of Cabernet Sauvignon as well as the sweet dessert wine, I Capitelli.
Now hitting nearly 40 degrees outside, drinking 2010 Capitel Foscarino with Carpaccio di Piovra (carpaccio of octopus), and the absolute brilliance of Garganega is evident. From volcanic soils, 90% Garganega and 10% Chardonnay this a smooth wine with an edge of fruit sweetness peaking out, just enough to be refreshing. Let’s face it, even thinking about having a super-dry wine in this heat is almost exhausting.
My favourite wine was the 2010 Capitel Croce made from 100% Garganega. Green-gold in colour, this is all about the fruit but with a herbal edge to tone it down, to be cool, and not so in-your-face as other aromatic wines. Although, Lisa Anselmi pointed out, the aromatic flavours can remain for 20 years.
We ended the lunch in Soave town with I Capitelli, the sweet dessert wine made from 100% Garganega, which was as refreshing as a creamy mango gelati, matched with a perfect portion of local cheese called Monte Veronese, which had been aged for 24 months.
It’s always good to see someone do well after a “divorce”. Anselmi is thriving under the IGT. His love of aromatic wines has always been there and his whites are glossy examples of what Garaganega can do and what good Soave aims to be: a very fresh wine with juicy, mouth-watering fruit. There are many criticisms of Soave, but the fact remains, the Veneto has always been a region of innovation (see upcoming post on Valpolicella), and as much as Roberto Anselmi is his own man, Anselmi continues this tradition – in his own inimitable way – making him one of Italy’s great white wine producers.
Anselmi Via San Carlo 46, 37032 Monteforte d’Alpone, Verona, Italy Tel: +39 0457 611488 Fax: +39 0457 611490 Website: www.robertoanselmi.com
Thanks to Enotria UK for making this trip possible.