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One Brilliant Bottle

organic/biodynamic/natural wines in Vinland

Corte Sant’ Alda Amarone della Valpolicella 2004

Italy (Valpolicella)

corvina, rondinella, corvina grossa

My island home has a fundamental link to Italy. The Venetian explorer Giovanni Caboto arrived here in 1497 (there he is, looking rather statuesque in front of our provincial legislature). His was the first recorded voyage of a European after the brief Vinland sojourn of the Norse five hundred years earlier. And it was the Bolognese inventor Marconi who received the first wireless message from across the Atlantic in 1901, a couple of kilometres from where I live. In 1933 the famed aviator and heir apparent to Mussolini, General Italo Balbo, arrived with 24 flying boats in the small, unsuspecting, coastal village of Cartwright, Labrador, on his way to the Chicago World’s Fair. With a portrait of Il Duce adorning a wall, the scene was set for a lavish, wine-soaked banquet.

So we have our connections. Italian wine has a history here.

Little wonder then that amarone and barolo are favourites of mine. Two weeks ago I joined in a meal sponsored by the local chapter of the Slow Food Movement — another Italian connection. On the menu was a whole carcass of local lamb that had been stuffed with rice and chopped organ meats, then slow roasted. Magnifico! It made me think of a bottle of amarone lingering in my cellar. Lamb reappeared a week later, on the menu at home. This time it was pan-fried lamb chops with garlic cream and wild mushrooms — magnifico again! And to accompany it was of course the bottle of amarone, from an estate just north of Verona. Indeed not far from Venice.

Caboto would have been pleased.

Corte Sant’ Alda Amarone della Valpolicella 2004

This is a well-rounded, deep and delicious wine. Classy in its approach. Plums and blackcurrants (dark and dried) come to mind. It’s rich ink to the eye, rich spice to the nose, but never overwhelming. Concentrated in the fashion of traditionally-made amarone. Somewhat tannic still. Until it gets a few more years in the bottle I suggest decanting well before serving. In fact the best mouthful I had was from a half-glass left overnight and into the next day. Quality finish, long and purposeful. Very fine indeed.  $$$

The inspiration behind Corte Sant’ Alda is owner and winemaker MARINELLA CAMERANI, named by Gambero Rosso and Slow Food as Grower of the Year, in their 2009 edition of the prestigious guide to Italian wines, Vini d’Italia. In 1986, without any background in wine production, she began the task of revitalizing what had been an old weekend family estate, over time taking it to its present biodynamic status. To intimately understand her terroir she has undertaken a micro-zone soil survey, extensively classifying and charting the 15 hectares under cultivation. It is a rare step for a small-scale winery.

Her commitment to terroir shows wonderfully well in this wine. Amarone’s intensity is derived from single layer air-drying of the grapes, in well-ventilated rooms. The process lasts up to five months and the grapes generally lose about 40% of their weight. Careful fermentation and aging follow.

In recent years, with the addition of a new, ultra-modern cellar, the arts has come to Corte Sant’ Alda. The estate regularly hosts music performance, poetry readings, and exhibitions of visual art. The art of wine-making joins with more of life’s great pleasures.





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