Ca La Bionda Casal Vegri is one excellent Valpolicella
Recently, I returned from an inspirational trip to Valpolicella. Amarone has firmly re-established the reputation of this region. But what of Valpolicella itself, a lighter red wine made from the same grape varieties as Amarone? If you want an excellent example, try Ca La Bionda Casal Vegri.
The Valpolicella challenge
Valpolicella can be delicious. In spite of this, much of it is disappointing because of over-cropping and industrial production. In turn, that creates a perception that Valpolicella can only ever aspire to be cheap and cheerful. Another reason is the growing demand for Amarone, which commands a far higher price. Often, too many of the best grapes go to Amarone. It then this leaves only a rump of inferior quality grapes for the Valpolicella. Not a recipe for great wine.
Fortunately, the best producers are devoted to making superb Valpolicella. These wines don’t need beefing up by the ripasso technique either.
Ca La Bionda
The Castellani family own and run the Ca La Bionda estate in the middle of Classico country near Negrar. They have 29 hectares of vines grown on the spectacular limestone hillside called Ravazzol. Alessandro Castellani explained their approach on my visit.
In 1998, Ca La Bionda stopped using chemicals and went organic. They wanted to make the best wine they could while leaving a healthy environment for their family. Alessandro said this conversion was hard. In the first three years, insects ravaged the crop. Now the vineyards have found a natural equilibrium. This philosophy extends to the winemaking; by using wild yeasts for fermentation, minimal levels of sulphur, and gravity to move the wine around.
Casal Vegri is a Valpolicella Classico Superiore, from a single vineyard of the same name. There is no Amarone selection from this site. Therefore, this wine uses all the best grapes of the harvest. 90% is Corvina and Corvinone. The other 10% is Rondinella and rare indigenous grapes such as Oseleta. 90% of the wine matures for eighteen months in big barrels with the remaining 10% is in oak barriques. After blending it gets a further six months bottle ageing before release.
As a result, the wine is fresh, aromatic and complex. It’s a ruby-garnet colour, with a nose showing violet-tinged notes and red berries such as red cherry, raspberry and cranberry. The palate is deliciously balanced, with silken-textured acidity and polished tannins. Pure sour cherry and forest fruits are delightful. Beautiful drinking when young, it will improve and can age for a decade.
While Casal Vegri is smashing drinking when young, it will develop for a decade.
It’s an excellent companion for roast meats while vegetarians should head for a mushroom risotto.
This 2013 is £18.36 at The DrinkShop.
P.S., I can highly recommend the other wines made by Ca La Bionda; Valpolicella Ripasso, Amarone, and sweet Recioto. For example, their single-vineyard Amarone Ravazzol is one of the very best examples.
Via Bionda 4
37020 Valgatara di Marano
Why not compare Casal Vegri with another excellent Valpolicella from Villa Monteleone? Both are superb, yet both entirely different.