When I first tasted systematically through the Valpolicella region a number of years ago, Tedeschi's wines were among those that impressed me the most, and since then I have made it a point to visit Tedeschi's stand at Vinitaly (usually the first day, and it's usually my last stop), both to taste the wines and to chat, because the family is delightful. This year Sabrina and her brother Riccardo instead came to Florence, bringing a number of vintages of Capitel Monte Olmi, their flagship Amarone, which is from a single vineyard, and also of their basic Amarone Classico della Valpolicella, which is instead a selection of the best grapes from their other vineyards.
The Capitel Monte Olmi is intentionally a more substantial wine, one that tends to take center stage when it is placed at the table, whereas the Amarone Classico is intentionally a more approachable wine, one that one can set out and drink -- if one can imagine setting out and drinking an Amarone.
In terms of technique, the Tedeschi Family is quite traditional -- they do have a drying hall, in which they simply dehumidify the air without warming it to quicken the pace at which it sucks moisture from the grapes, and once the grapes have dried ferment the bunches whole rather than destem them, because they find that destemming damages the grapes, and this has a negative impact upon the wines. Fermentation is, unless the sugar content of the must is extremely high, with natural yeasts, and Riccardo, who is the winemaker, lets it start at its own pace; because of the high sugar content of the must it can take up to a month for the fermentation to get going, during which time the must macerates on the skins. The subsequent alcoholic fermentation can take up to another month and a half. They rack the wine when it begins to seem dry, he said, and put it into botti, where it finishes fermentation, while the vinacce, or wine marks, which still have something to give, go into the Valpolicella Superiore following the traditional ripasso technique.
The Wines, tasted January 18 2011
Capitel Monte Olmi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 1995
Elegant almandine with pale orange nail. The bouquet is powerful, with elegant sour berry fruit supported by dried orange peel, spice, and leafy underbrush mingled with leaf tobacco and savory spice. Beautiful, and it opens delightfully. Most impressive, inviting sniff after sniff. On the palate it's full, with rich cherry plum fruit that has the slight sweetness one associates with Amarone, and supported by silky tannins that have slight dried plum accents and are supported by deft acidity and savory underpinning that goes on and on. An extremely impressive wine that revolves around grace and finesse, though there is also steely power, in abundance. Amarone needs time to come together, and this has; it will age beautifully for many more years too.
A note: with this vintage they tried aging Capitel Monte Olmi in tonneaux (500 liter barrels), but decided that botti work better and returned to them.
Capitel Monte Olmi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 1998
Pale almandine with brilliant reflections and almandine rim. The bouquet is rich, with powerful fairly sweet cherry prune fruit supported by savory spice and some underbrush, though not so much leaf tobacco; it's still very fresh, and as it opens intriguing brown sugar sweetness that is perfectly integrated with the fruit also emerges. It has a lot to say. On the palate it's ample, and fairly sweet, with rich cherry prune fruit supported by silky tannins and deft acidity, while the hints of brown sugar present in the nose also comes through on the palate. Very nice, in a slightly richer key than the 95, and this is because it was a hotter vintage. It's not quite as lithe as the 95 -- rather slightly more voluptuous -- and again quite young, and will age beautifully for many more years, though it will drink nicely now too.
Capitel Monte Olmi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2001
Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim; it's significantly darker than the older vintages. The bouquet is powerful, with cherry and prune fruit supported by spice and slight sandalwood, and also by hints of gum Arabic and alcohol. It's quite elegant, and still very young, needs more time to express its best, though what it shows is pretty nice already. On the palate it's ample and rich, with nice cherry plum fruit supported by moderate acidity and smooth sweet tannins that have slight vanilla accents, and flow into a clean fresh smooth finish. It's an ample, powerful wine that is also quite approachable, and will drink very well with roasts or spicy hearty stews along the lines of goulash or pastissada, and will also work well with rich boiled dinner of North Italian tradition.
Capitel Monte Olmi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2004
Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and ruby rim. The bouquet is intense, and much younger than the 2001, and also more aromatic, with lively sour cherry fruit supported by spice and some leathery accents, and also by some greenish vegetal notes. It's not quite a work in progress, but still quite young. On the palate it's ample, rich, and fairly sweet, with bright berry fruit -- a mix of cherry and prune with dark brown sugar sweetness -- supported by alcoholic warmth and tannins that have a dry cedary underlay and flow into a clean rather dry tannic finish that is balanced by some sweetness and voluptuous barely ripe yellow peach accents. We're tasting a toddler here, and it doesn't feel quite right; the wine will be beautiful and fully deserves a very high score, but it's not something that should be drunk any time soon; if you have a bottle set it aside 8until 2020 at least), because it will reward you.
The 2005 and 2006 Monte Olmi have a little Osoleta, a lesser varietal of Veronese tradition, which confers structure, acidity and color. Just a little, says Sabrina, adding that it has to be used with caution.
Capitel Monte Olmi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005
Cherry ruby with black reflections and ruby impenetrable; it's not quite as charged as the 04. The bouquet is quite young, with cherry fruit supported by greenish spice with some sandalwood and some of sweetness, with scrappy brambly accents as well and some sea salt and fairly intense vegetal notes. On the palate it's lighter than the 2004, considerably, and this is due to the vintage, which was much cooler; there's moderately intense cherry fruit supported by brambly acidity and by tannins that are smooth, with slight hints of dark brown sugar sweetness and some cedar, but less than in the 2004, and it flows into a clean rather tart finish. It's a much scrappier wine than the 2004, and has a pleasing lithe grace to it; it's a beautiful interpretation of a lesser vintage and it is very nice to find a winemaker who accepted what Nature gave and worked with it rather than try to "improve" it. It's more similar in some ways to the older vintages of Capitel Monte Olmi, with less concentration, and is a wine that I think will age quite nicely for many years, becoming lacy and ethereal with time, because the necessary acidity is there. If you like cooler vintage wines, seek it out.
Capitel Monte Olmi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2006
Lively black cherry ruby with slight orange in the rim; it's slightly darker than the 05 but not quite as dark as the 04. The bouquet is fresh and quite young, with sour cherry and forest berry fruit supported by some sandalwood -- it's not as intense as the 04 but in that cast -- with pleasant greenish vegetal notes and some sandalwood too. On the palate it's ample and rich, with fairly sweet cherry plum fruit supported by dark brown sugar sweetness, moderate vegetal acidity, and smooth sweet tannins that have slight vanilla accents to them. Though it's younger than the 04 it's further along, and I didn't have the same peeping into a nursery feeling I had with the 04, though here again we are dealing with a very young wine that has a number of years to go before it begins to come into its own. I would give it at least six years before I even thought about drinking it. But it is nice even now, and if you feel you must, you could drink it with a rich, flavorful stew or with a boiled dinner Veronese style.
We followed Capitel Monte Olmi with the basic Amarone della Vapolicella Classico, which isn't at all basic:
Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 1997
Deep almandine with black reflections and almandine rim. The bouquet is powerful and rather sweet, with cherry and sour berry fruit supported by sweetish notes that are balanced by fairly bright acidity too. It's quite powerful, in a charged key, and as it opens intriguing vegetal accents also emerge. Considerable depth. On the palate it's full, with rich slightly sour cherry fruit supported by clean vegetal-laced tannins and fairly bright acidity that flow into a clean fresh berry fruit finish. It's a big wine that nicely reflects the 97 vintage, which was long, hot, and led to very ripe grapes that resulted in wines that are muscular but with slightly less acidity (and therefore definition); it is mature and will drink nicely now with hearty roasts or stews.
Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 1998
Lively black cherry ruby with black reflections and almandine in the rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, and very different from that of the 97, with bright almost minty vegetal accents and hints of chocolate that bring to mind an After Eight mint, with underlying cherry and forest berry fruit and some spice. On the palate it's rich, with fairly powerful cherry fruit laced with slight plums more than prunes, and supported by pleasant slightly greenish acidity and smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean bright sour plum-prune finish with lasting warmth. It's quite pleasant, in a much more balanced key than the 97; it's still a big wine, and does have the sweetness to it that is a hallmark of Amarone, but isn't over the top, and is quite ready to be drink now, with hearty roasts or grilled meats, and will also work very well with a stew or boiled dinner. It's a bit deceptive, because there is more depth to it than one realizes with the first sip; if you want to follow a simple path it will oblige you, but if you want more facets it has them.
Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2001
Deep black almandine with black reflections and some almandine in the rim. The bouquet is muted, though swishing brings up berry fruit supported by slight brown sugar and by some dried raisins, and also by delicate vegetal accents. Quite a bit going on, and it opens quite nicely. On the palate it's full, rich, and fairly sweet, with elegant prune fruit that has some date fruit overtones, and is supported by moderate acidity and tannins that have slight leafy accents and flow into a clean fresh finish that brings to mind dried leaves. It's quite pleasant and extremely approachable, a wine that will dink nicely now with hearty stews or boiled meats, but that will also age well for many years. It will bring joy to the table, and is a wine that will support what it is served with superlatively, offering you all sorts of things to think about, if you want to, but not taking center stage the way Capitel Olmi would.
Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2006
Lively black cherry with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is intense and rather young, with greenish vegetal accents that bring to mind those of the 06 Monte Olmi, though they are not quite as intense, and yellow peach fuzz too, as well as berry fruit. It makes one feel as if one has walked in upon a girl who was dressing, and though she is presentable isn't quite ready yet. On the palate it's bright, with lively sour cherry fruit supported by date and brown sugar sweetness, and supported by tannins that have a warm greenish burr and flow into a clean bright slightly greenish prune plum finish with savory tannic underpinning. It's surprisingly scrappy for a big wine, and brings to mind the well muscled grace of a classical dancer; one could drink it now with a steak or a roast, but to do so would be an infanticide; it will show much better in another 3-6 years, and will age well for a decade at least.
Taken as a group, the Capetel Monte Olmi wines display considerably more finesse than the basic Amarone Classico wines, and this comes as no surprise. What did surprise me a little was the marked difference between the 90s vintages of Capitel Monte Olmi and those made after 2000, which are considerably darker, and also display more concentration and richer fruit -- especially the 2004, which is almost over the top. While I liked the more recent wines, and found them to be more approachable than their older siblings, I found the older wines more interesting; they are more reserved, and demand more concentration on the part of the taster, but I found them to display more finesse and have a little more to say. In short, they are more serious. This may in part be vintage variation; 2004 and 2006 were both fairly hot, whereas the 2005, which was from a cooler, wetter summer, displayed a greater affinity with the older wines.
With regards to the Amarone Classico, I very much enjoyed the 1998, a vintage that received scant attention out of the blocks, as it came on the heels the unendingly sunny, dry 1997 vintage that was at the time haled as the vintage of the decade if not of the century. And it was impressive then, displaying unusual concentration and richness, but with the passage of time it has begun to resemble an aging weight lifter, who is still muscular but no longer boasts the tight physique he had in his prime. The 98, by way of contrast, has emerged with time.
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