Anselmi: Italian wines, whites with grunt
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Anselmi: Italian wines, whites with grunt

My recent visit to northern Italy revealed the DOCG of Soave running at two speeds; one is low speed stuff which is decidedly mediocre and the high speed wine is exemplified by Roberto Anselmi.

By their own virtual admission Soave growers say that their prime grape garganega is a rather neutral entity. Therefore it takes some significant rethinking to ignite the palates of international drinkers now bombarded with wines from everywhere; mostly varietally described.

So the Soave DOCG has a challenge ahead in the next decade.

The garganega grape is sparingly planted in Australia, be it in a climate cooler than Soave (the King Valley), and the wine is passable.

Another winemaker and observer just returned from Verona remarked, “I don’t think this Italian variety will take on very much here – Australian drinkers expect more flavour than what this grape offers”. Increasingly Australian winemakers are falling in love with many new Italian varieties, with quite outstanding results.

Well Roberto Anselmi has taken up the challenge and is demonstrating handsomely that if you get garganega completely ripe then the results are quite outstanding. The way to tell quickly, other than tasting, is the bottle alcohol. A figure of 13 or above is a sure sign of ripe grapes.

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I found Roberto, and his daughter Lisa, thoroughly engaging family producers who made their wine with a passion. Near their winery in Monteforte d’Alpone is a hectare and a half of experimental cabernet sauvignon just to keep their world view of grape growing (Realda) alive.

The Anselmis practice “green” harvesting where a portion of the garganega crop is dropped on the ground to make way for better and riper development of the remaining grapes. Growth is from the guyot training system and with shoots formed from spurs.

I saw the traditional Soave pergola system practised in some other vineyards; and shuddered at such regressive viticulture. That training method is a cess-pit for the development of grape moulds, difficult to harvest and no doubt cropping higher than what the Anselmis choose.

Grapes would find it difficult to ripen fully with the leaf cover so I can see why many of my past Soave drinks have been such steely, flavourless wines.

The Anselmi whites do not take a DOCG title; they are named after the three vineyards – San Vincenzo (54 hectares), Capitel Foscarino (10 hectares) and Capitel Croce (five hectares), with the latter two being single vineyard wines. The vineyard names are taken from ancient shrines (Veronese dialect) which populated the areas when the vineyards were re-planted since the ’70s.

I was very impressed with Roberto’s whites: they had flavour, intensity, a sort of persistence which I found quite interesting to follow through via the Anselmi winemaking.

A big part of the texture comes with the practice of cold macerating whites on skins, this bumps up the flavour and usually provides additional wine colour. No doubt this is a sensible process on that journey to make the grape more drinkable and garanega responds well.

In Australia we tend to move away from skin contact as this highlights flavour tannins which will over-colour young whites. This efect is seen in part with Anselmi whites yet the process to making the final wine has been positive. Bravo.

Anselmi San Vincenzo 2009 Veneto IGT (89), 13%, (USD 10), is pale green with the most wonderful passionfruit aroma, the supreme fruity example, then great texture, filling, rounded, dry, rich yet slatey with some of the tell-tale acidity of this grape.

The blend is 80% garganega, 15% chardonnay and 5% trebbiano di Soave (a ubiquitous Italian grape which has been flogged mercilessly by overcropping, but when controlled gives the palate a zippy citrus note). The additional texture comes with low temperature aging in stainless on natural yeast for six months.

Anselmi Capitel Foscarino 2009 Veneto IGT (90)13%,(USD 25 ), is straw and green, fuller colour than San Vincenzo, hints of yeast passionfruit but more serious in nose, candy, fresh as a daisy, intriguing the smeller to drink some.

And the wine is first class; lots of aromatic fruit, weighty and juicy texture, crisp, tingly acidity and a pleasant unoaked finish. Is 90% garganega and 10% chardonnay-a very modern blend which has international relevance, likewise wild yeast and stainless yeast lees aging for six months.

Anselmi Capitel Croce 2008 Veneto IGT (95) 13%, (USD 38) is another step up again; it is one serious wine and rides on the back of the platform of winemaking of the two previous wines. Though smelling fresh and juicy, it strikes with a more aged colour then texture and weight, controlled fruit development as a monster wine.

Here the yeast lees aging is extended to allier barriques for eight months which shows up as a creaminess palate shape and a more drying palate.

Anselmi produce 600,000 bottles annually from their 70 hectares of plantings; www.anselmi.eu

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