Indigenous grapes excite me. Learning about these grapes and their flavours and aromas make wine tasting interesting. We can travel around the world and sample Cabernet Sauvignon, and it will in general have a very similar flavour and aroma profile, depending if you are in a cooler or a warmer climate. Indigenous grapes, that are from their original country and are typically found in limited production in other corners of the world, let you learn more about a wine and its terroir.
The Bonomo family, owners of Monte Del Fra, from the Verona region of Italy for the past 55 years has produced wines from indigenous grapes; both red and white grapes. Verona is a province within the Veneto wine region in Northeast Italy. I was fortunate to be given 3 bottles of their wines to try; 2 reds and 1 white wine. Let’s learn about some of Italy’s indigenous grapes, and the wines made by Monte Del Fra.
Monte del Fra Ca Del Magro Custoza Superiore 2012
This white wine, Monte del Fra Ca Del Magro Custoza Superiore 2012 ($20.99) is made with 40% Garganega, 20% Trebbiano Toscano, 5% Tocai Friuliano, 10% Cortese, 15% Incrocio Manzoni, and a 10% mix of Chardonnay, Riesling Italico, and Malvasia. How many of these grape varieties do you know? Probably Chardonnay and little else. Garganega is a late ripening variety with high acidity. It can have aromas of melon, pears and flowers, and flavours of citrus and almonds. The high acidity helps sweet wines made from this grape to have long longevity. Trebbiano Toscano is another grape with high acidity and offers light lemon and herbal flavours. It has spread around the world, and is also known as Ungi Blanc. Tocai Friuliano, now known as Friuliano to not confuse it with the Hungarian wine, Tokaji, has medium acidity, floral aromas and delicate fruit flavours. Cortese, also high in acidity, is also known for its minerality. Flavours of lemon, white flowers, an herb. Incrocio Manzoni is a grape that I have never heard of before. Incrocio in Italian means “crossing” and Manzoni is the last name of a Professor that made new grape varieties through crossing other varieties. From my research I think it is a cross between the Riesling and Pinot Blanc grapes. From the aromas and flavours I get from this particular wine, I think this grape offers a strong presence. Riesling Italico is not the Riesling grape; it is Welschriesling, a grape grown in Central Europe that is high in acidity and has aromas of green apple and lemon. Lastly we have Malvasia, which is a term for 17 varieties of grapes of similar character. The most widely planted Malvasia, Malvasia Bianca di Candia, has aromas of white flowers, citrus, green or yellow apple, and herbs. While I may sound like a walking encyclopedia of Italian grape varieties, I am not yet. I learned about these grapes, and many more from the Italian Wine Central website. The name of the wine, Custoza, is its DOC region name.
This wine is deep gold in colour. It has a medium intensity nose with a complex fruity nose. It shows some waxiness, lemon, vanilla, honeysuckle, light peach and a hint of spice on the nose. With decanting you get less intensity, but now a lovely lavender incense scent. The wine is dry and you pick up a light acidic prickle when you sip this wine, followed by intense fruit flavours; ripe stone fruit, in particular pears, apricots and peaches, and a hint of tropical fruit. The wine is full-bodied, round with a heavy mouth feel. With decanting the flavour of apples becomes more prominent, along with the sensual lavender incense. It has a medium length, finishing with mouth-watering acidity, aged oak,honey, dried fruits, lime skin, some pepperiness and leafy bitterness. With decanting you get more pepper and more apples on the finish.
Rating: A complex white wine with intense fruit and honey aromas and flavours to enjoy immediately from the bottle or with decanting.
Monte del Fra Bardolino DOC 2013
Monte del Fra Bardolino DOC 2013 ($17.49) is a blend of 3 of red grapes, which go into making Valpolicella wines. 65% Corvina, 30% Rondinella, and 5% Sangiovese make the blend for Bardolino. I was not sure of the name of the wine, Bardolino, but I determined it is a DOC region that is on the western border with Valpolicella, and shares many of the same grapes. The Corvina grape is the main constituent in Valpolicella wines. It is a thick-skinned variety, good for drying (which we will find out more when we talk about Amarone), and has aromas and flavours of violets, blackberries, red cherries, and herbs. Rondinella is a more neutral flavoured, low tannin red grape, that is used more for blending. Sangiovese, more well-known for producing Chianti Classico, can produce a variety of aromas and flavours depending on climate. In warmer areas, you get sweet red cherry, plum, and herbs, while in cooler areas, it offers sour red cherries, red berries, licorice, violet, and tea. With aging you get complex flavours of underbrush, leather, and tobacco. Again grazie to the Italian Wine Central website for this information.
This wine is a lighter medium garnet in colour with a ruby tint; translucent from the rim to the core. It has a medium intensity youthful nose. It’s very expressive, with lots of red fruit, ripe raspberry, and lesser amounts of vanilla, baby powder, nutmeg, chocolate and meatiness. With decanting you get less vanilla, and the introduction of bramble and smoke. It is dry with medium plus acidity, and a light, soft mouth feel. This wine is feather-light in the mouth, yet has a lot of flavour to offer. It’s a mix of red fruit and toasted oak, raspberry, tart red cherry, along with a mineral edge. There is also a nice perfume in this wine that supports the red fruit flavours. It has a medium plus length,with mouth-watering acidity, tart red fruit and a touch of oak on the finish. A very enjoyable wine!
Rating: Wonderfully expressive red fruit that shows elegance in the glass. Enjoy with antipasti or a nice light, thin crust Neapolitan style pizza.
Monte del Fra Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Lena di Mezzo DOCG 2011
Monte del Fra Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Lena di Mezzo DOCG 2011 ($59.99) is a big wine, as befits an Amarone. This wine is made with two grape varieties; 80% Corvina and 20% Rondinella. What makes this style of wine BIG is how the grapes’ juices are concentrated before fermentation. The grapes are dried on racks, which may be made from bamboo or other wood, till they lose 40-50% of their volume, concentrating the sugar and flavour of the grapes. This takes between 100-120 days for the process known as appassimento to complete. Once dried, these concentrated grapes are pressed for their remaining juices. After fermentation to dryness, it is aged at least 2 years in barrels, or up to 4 years for Riserva level. As an aside, the grape skins after fermentation can be re-used in a secondary fermentation with regular Valpolicella wine to produce a Ripasso (or re-passed) wine, that is fuller bodied.
This wine is deep ruby in colour; 95% opaque in the glass. Pronounced aromas, starting with capsicum, dark chocolate and dark fruit. The capsicum aroma burns off quite quickly, to be replaced with red cherries, vanilla and nutmeg. With decanting, the capsicum aroma completely dissipates, and is replaced by red cherries, vanilla, nutmeg, dark chocolate and dustiness. The wine is dry, full-bodied, round, with a heavy mouth feel. At first sip you get coffee followed by dark fruit, and bitter dark chocolate on the palate. Then there is black cherry and vanilla. The wine is silky but does have a supportive tannic backbone. Medium plus length, finishing with firmer tannins, and flavours of dark fruit and bitter chocolate. A quality wine that can age many years.
Rating: An Amarone that offers full, dark fruit and chocolate aromas and flavours. Very good quality that needs a full-bodied dish to pair with such as braised beef short ribs.
With Christmas holiday season coming up, I think these wines would be wonderful for dinners or parties.
Where Can I Buy These Wines?
These wines are listed in the BC Liquor stores as general listings. You can find out which BCLDB stores are carrying these wines at this link. Ciao!