Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Valpolicella, Soave, Lugana & More: Some wines from the Azienda Bennati

The Azienda Bennati was established in 1920 by Annibale Bennati, whose father Antonio had been a successful wine merchant, dealing in wines from both Soave and Valpolicella. At the time Annibale also purchased several hectares of vineyards in their home town, Cazzano di Tramigna, which is in the Soave appellation, and after WWII, when his sons Ezio and Aldo began working with him, the family increased its holdings and began to produce Valpolicella as well.

This year they made their debut at the Amarone in Anteprima, and also introduced a new wine called Gardetta, which they offered to send me. I replied that I would be delighted to taste it, but that more than one wine would give me a better idea of their production. And they very kindly sent me six of their wines, a mixture of whites and reds from the Veronese.

We'll begin with the Amarone, drawn from my 2008 Anteprima notes :

Soraighe By Bennati Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2008

Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is bright, with sour cherry fruit laced with India ink and some hints quinine, also some graphite shavings. Gives impression overripeness. On the palate it's ripe, with cherry plum fruit supported by dusky tannins and moderate acidity, while there are greenish sandalwood accents as well, and it flows into a rather bitter berry fruit finish. Fairly direct, and with time may become rather austere.
2 stars

And continue with the wines they sent me, which are all in the Soraighe line, their best, farmed to lower yields to increase quality:

Casa Vinicola Bennati Libet Soraighe Soave Classico DOC 2011

Lot 3053 (? Blurred)
Brassy pinkish gold with brassy highlights and white rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, and quite fresh, with floral accents and loquat fruit supported by some honeydew melon and slight peppery vegetal accents with hints of white pepper as well. On the palate it's light, with bright white berry fruit supported by some honeydew melon and slight greenish brambly notes, with gunflint laced mineral acidity, and flows into a fairly long slightly greenish honeydew melon loquat finish with slightly bitter mineral notes that emerge as the fruit fades. Pleasant in a refreshing light rather languid key and will be a nice summer wine to drink with pasta salads, cool summer rice dishes, and similar, and will also be a nice picnic wine. Expect it to go quickly.
2 stars

Casa Vinicola Bennati Soraighe Lugana DOC 2011

Lot number hidden by the fascetta, the band indicating DOCG status
Pale brassy yellow with bronze-salmonate reflections and white rim. The color -- the reflections in particular -- is a little unusual for a Lugana. The bouquet is instead typical, with loquat and brambly heather mingled with fairly mineral acidity and some gunflint, and underlying spice. On the palate it's fairly full, with warm lemony loquat fruit supported by bright citric acidity that has some brambly accents, and by slight gunflint that flows into a fairly long rather bitter more grapefruit than lemon finish. It's more powerful and more angular than the Soave, and will work better with more flavorful dishes, say a rich fish risotto, or grilled fish, or fried fish or fried white meats. Again, it will drink quickly in the proper setting.
1 star

Casa Vinicola Bennati Gardetta Soraighe Rosso del Veneto IGT 2009

A Corvina-Merlot blend, Lot not apparent.
Inky pyrope that doesn't lighten a jot at the rim. The bouquet is intense, with jammy berry fruit supported by fairly intense graphite shaving bitterness and fairly intense cassis with slight violet floral accents, and some underlying rust and bramble. On the palate it's full, with rather bitter berry fruit supported by moderate acidity and tannins that have a warm bitter underpinning, and aren't as smooth as I generally expect Merlot tannins (which as a rule have a profound influence) to be; here the Merlot comes through more in the cast of the fruit while the tannins are more Corvina's doing -- though they are smoothed some -- and the effect is rather dusky. It's not a wine to be sipped by the glass, but will work nicely with hearty stews, for example a goulash (they are made in the Veneto too) or a pastissada.
2 stars
Casa Vinicola Bennati Ireos Soraighe Rosso Veronese IGT 2008

A Rondinella, Corvina, Molinara, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Nero blend, Lot 1325.

Inky pyrope ruby with cherry ruby rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with cedar and berry fruit supported by some vegetal accents and underlying spice with some greenish notes as well. On the palate it's full, and rather exotic, with berry fruit supported by cedar and some cumin spice, and by tannins that are rather vegetal and flow into a fairly long rather vegetal finish with underlying peppery accents and some bitterness. It comes across as trying very hard, but is rather blocky, and all flows together, with some cabernet elements that do color the rest. With a lighter touch, it could be more interesting.
1 star

Casa Vinicola Bennati Gadum Cabernet Sauvignon Veneto IGT 2009

Lot 1335
Poured pyrope ink, with the barest lightening at the rim. The bouquet is ripe, and jammy, with prune plum fruit laced with slight greenish vegetal accents and hints of cocoa supported by spice, flinty mineral acidity, and some bitter notes. It gives an impression of roundness. An impression confirmed on the palate; it's full with fairly rich ripe jammy forest berry fruit-plum fruit with slight vegetal accents supported by tannins that have a warm bell pepper laced burr -- the Cabernet comes out -- and flows into a fairly long rather bitter graphite laced forest berry fruit finish. It's fairly direct, and is again more of a food wine than a sipping wine; it's quite powerful and will work well with hearty roasts or stews.
1 star

Casa Vinicola Bennati Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2009

Lot hidden by the Fascetta, the band indicating DOCG status
Inky pyrope ruby with deep pyrope rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with some berry fruit supported by cedar and some spice with greenish accents; it's still developing and needs time. On the palate it's fairly rich, with bright rather jammy greenish fruit supported by moderate acidity and tannins that are warm, with a spicy cedar laced burr and some underlying bitterness, and flow into a fairly sweet sandalwood laced finish with a cedary underpinning. It's rather direct, and though it does need another year to come together is not quite as tight as I might have liked; this said, it will do a nice job of accompanying stews or roasts.
1 star

It was an interesting group of wines; I found the Soave to be the most interesting, because it was lighter, and while the fruit was luscious, displaying a certain agility that will make it enjoyable in the summer months, followed by the Lugana, which is again the sort of wine one can set out and drink on a summer day.

The reds were somewhat more problematic for me; while the search for quality is quite evident in the power and concentration they display, the search for these qualities is taken further than I might have liked, and as a consequence finesse and agility suffer. This is especially true of Ireos, which I found rather muscle bound. Their Amarone, tasted at the Anteprima, is defter, as is Gardetta, and it will be interesting to taste future vintages.

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