Wines of the Colli Berici DOC

 

Wines from the Colli Berici DOC in the Veneto region are wines you probably have never been introduced to but really should get to know better. It may well be one of your most exciting wine discoveries in recent years.

The Colli Berici (coh’ lee beh ree’ chee) is a group of hills (colli) that stretch from just south of Vicenza in a southeasterly direction to just north of Padua. The soil is a mineral-rich combination of volcanic ash, sand, mud and ancient fossil remains that indicate that millions of years ago it was part of an ancient seabed. The mineral-rich, free-draining, gravelly soil along with the mild climate and buffer provided by the Colli Berici hills provide an ideal environment for grape growing. Archaeologists have found evidence that grapes have been grown and wine produced in this area for at least three thousand years.

Despite its rich wine heritage the Colli Berici is not a well-known wine region even within Italy. That is until recently. Marketing initiatives in combination with improvements in the quality of wines and just plain word-of-mouth endorsements have increased the visibility of Colli Berici wines beyond their traditional local market. The entry of established, marquee-name producers like Dal Forno, Inama and Carazza has also raised the profile of Collie Berici wines in recent years.

The Colli Berici DOC includes a wide range of wine styles ranging from still, dry red, white and rosè wines to sparkling and sweet, dried-grape passito-style wines. These wines are based on a mixture of local grape varieties such as Garganega, Manzoni Bianco, Tai Bianco and Tai Rosso and international varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet, Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco. You can find a list of all permissible Colli Berici DOC grape varieties here.

Two of the more interesting grape varieties in the Colli Berici are Garganega and Tai Rosso. Garganega is a native white grape variety that produces light-to-medium bodied wines with elegant white fruit perfumes and crisp acidity. While widely grown throughout Italy, its ancestral home is the Veneto region and it is grown extensively in the hilly area surrounding Verona down to the Colli Berici. It is the primary grape used in the well-known Soave wines.

Tai Rosso is both the name of the grape variety and the resulting wine. Originally known as Tocai Rosso it has recently been renamed to avoid confusion with the EU protected Hungarian Tocai place-name. There is evidence to suggest that Tai Rosso is genetically related to Spain’s Garnacha (and Grenache as it’s known in France) variety. Despite the presumed genetic relationship, Tai Rosso has found a home in the Colli Berici zone and has over the centuries developed its own distinct personality.

A lineup of Colli Berici winesColli Berici wines are not easy to find in the U.S. – difficult, certainly, but not impossible and likely to become easier. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to sample five Colli Berici wines in a guided tasting at the recent Vinitaly wine show in Verona. The wines sampled are listed below along with my comments and observations.

Collis Veneto Wine Group, “Decanto” Colli Berici DOC Sauvignon 2016
This Sauvignon is from the Collis Veneto Wine Group, one of the largest winemaking cooperatives in the Veneto. This is a Sauvignon as in Sauvignon Blanc. It has a pale straw-yellow color and floral aromas with surprisingly good texture and body. It’s green apple and nectarine flavors have citrusy overtones and are complemented by soft, lingering acidity. There’s nothing tart or astringent about this very satisfying Sauvignon Blanc.

Pegoraro, Colli Berici Tai Rosso 2015
This wine is fermented and aged in steel tanks and never sees wood. With its ruby red color, elegant red fruit aromas and light-to-medium body it is a “classic” Tai Rosso wine. There are no rough edges here, just a soft, pleasant drinking experience.

Vitevis, Colli Berici DOC Tai Rosso 2015
This Tai Rosso is aged in French oak barriques for 15 to 18 months and then spends a few months ageing in the bottle prior to release. It is made in the fresh, fruity, food-friendly style. It is fresh and clean with silky tannins, a dark fruit core, balanced acidity and a pleasant fruity finish accented with some spice notes. It is another good example of the variety and the Colli Berici DOC.

Piovene Porto Godi, “Thovara” Colli Berici DOC Tai Rosso 2013
2013 was a good vintage in Colli Berici and the Veneto in general. The wine has a dark, mahogany-red color with aromas of cranberry, plum and dried herbs. It is a full-bodied red with plenty of tannic grip, savory plum and dark cherry flavors and supporting acidity. The Thovara clocks in with 15.5 percent alcohol but the alcohol is well integrated and not distracting. The wine’s overall structure and flavor profile are reminiscent of a well-made red from the southern Rhone valley.

Gianni Tessari, “Pian Alto” Colli Berici DOC Rosso 2013
Unlike the other wines tasted thusfar, this is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon with some Camenere. To concentrate flavors the grapes are left to partially dry on the vine for 20-some days before harvesting. The late-harvest grapes are fermented in stainless steel for about 2 weeks, blended and then aged in French oak barriques for 2 years. The wine is then transferred to large oak barrels where it ages for an additional year before bottling.

The Pian Alto has a dark red color that borders on black and is not a shy wine. It is full-bodied with prominent tannins and mouth-coating plum and dried fruit flavors and some vanilla notes provided by the wood ageing. But it has good acidity that gives the wine some lift and brightness. This is a wine that begs to be served with grilled red meats, game or strong cheeses or perhaps to be savored by itself.

All in all, a great tasting that served to illustrate the vitality and diversity of wines from the up-and-coming Colli Berici.

©Richard Marcis
April 18, 2017

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