John Paul Kaminga
Superlative: Ca' la Bionda Ravazzol 2016
Straight to the point: this wine is one of the finest Italian wines we have ever offered. If you buy a 6-pack, we'll knock 15% off....
One of the first things I came to value in a wine was freshness. Time and time again, I would come across very well-made wines, sometimes quite expensive, that sacrificed freshness in the name of intensity. Jammy, cooked and dried fruit flavors can be utterly delightful, a beautiful note of prunes can take a wine to another dimension, but when these flavors tip out of balance*, I'm tasting for edification rather than pleasure. One of the most difficult wines for me is Amarone della Valpolicella. The product of dried grapes, Amarone is invariably redolent of jammy, cooked and dried fruits, and though in the right setting I am probably going to enjoy a great many Amarone, it is nonetheless not a wine that I collect or promote often. For about a decade there has been a notable exception.**
Ca' la Bionda first caught my attention when I tasted their Casal Vegri, an extraordinarily elegant and complex single-vineyard Valpolicella with a purity of fresh fruit flavors vaguely reminiscent of Pinot Noir. Although Ca' la Bionda's most expensive wines are Amarone, it is perhaps Casal Vegri that most exemplifies their philosophy. While most other producers in the region are pushing for weight, extraction and richness, Ca' la Bionda looks for brightness, levity and drinkability, without ever sacrificing intensity and freshness. Their work starts in the vineyards, with careful organic farming, and in the winery every step is taken to preserve fresh and lively flavors.
When it comes to Amarone, Ca' la Bionda makes a limited quantity and extraordinary care is taken to dry only carefully chosen bunches of grapes. After drying, the grapes are fermented in stainless steel, and the wine is subsequently raised in large oak for 36 months, then in bottles for at least 8 months. The DOCG requirement is that Amarone not be released before 2 years after the harvest, but Ca' la Bionda does not release an Amarone at less than 4 years old. They make three bottlings of Amarone: one blended from across their holdings, and two from the historic Ravazzol cru, one of which is a riserva. Today we offer the non-riserva designated Ravazzol, from the great 2016 vintage, a wine that could easily be $100, a wine that I can say without hesitation competes with the best of Amarone, which accounts for wines that are $200, $300, $400...
Ca' la Bionda Amarone della Valpolicella 'Ravazzol' 2016 - $64
Aromas of tar, grilled fruits, cherry and plum preserves, dark chocolate, flowers, tobacco, autumn leaves, petrichor.... complex, savory and stony on the nose. Fresh and lively for Amarone, you are definitely getting torrefaction and oxidative stuff, but tons of fresh stone fruits next to the typical cooked fruit notes, savory and grippy and stony, just like the nose, immense balance and structured to age, this will turn velvety in time. Long and tangy, very complex, very dry, tarry and savory, though there's a gush of rich cherry juice and preserves to live things up as it fades. Gorgeous, will be worth following a decade or two, maybe longer.
At $64, this is a steal for great Amarone made on a small scale, but if you purchase 6 bottles, we will knock 15% off your order.
*my definition of balance in a wine is obviously quite personal
**given munificence and connections, there would likely be another exception, namely Quintarelli
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