Wine of the Year 2017 – Gini Salvarenza – Soave’s Montrachet
My Wine of the Year 2017 is Gini Salvarenza, Vecchie Vigne, Soave Classico, DOC 2014 13.5%
The Gini family have been winegrowers at Monteforte d’Alpone in Soave since 1600. These days, brothers Sandro and Claudio Gini run their 55-hectare estate. They own some of the best vineyard sites in Soave Classico, such as Contrada Salvarenza, La Froscà and Foscarin.
Their excellent range of Soave wines only uses Garganega. You won’t find any Trebbiano at Gini. At a separate limestone site in nearby Campiano, they also grow Chardonnay, Durella, Pinot Bianco, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. With their recent expansion into Valpolicella, we can look forward to Amarone becoming available in future.
Purchased in 1852, Contrada Salvarenza is perhaps the greatest of their Soave vineyards. It’s a five-hectare vineyard where the plants average 80 years old. Indeed, about a third of them are over 100 years old, hence “Vecchie Vigne.”
Most unusually, these centurions are also ungrafted. In other words, they are the ultra-rare survivors from before the phylloxera epidemic. Phylloxera wiped out most European vineyards during the late 19th and early 20th century.
Any survival of ungrafted vines today is, therefore, a great rarity. Most likely their resistance to phylloxera is down to the composition of the land. Vines not grafted onto resistant American rootstocks will succumb to the insect, unless the soil is light, loose and sandy. The Garganega vines grow in soils derived from black volcanic tufa overlaying a white limestone bedrock. This combination makes it difficult for the insect to travel through.
Such is the quality of the Salvarenza site that it will become one of the newly classified “Grand Cru” vineyards. This new designation will be announced in 2018.
At Salvarenza, the vines are trained high in the traditional Pergoletta Veronese form. Farmed by hand, Gini has also had organic certification for the past ten years.
Gini is as proud of their progression in winemaking as they are of maintaining vineyard traditions. For example, they were one of the first wineries in Soave to bottle their wines. They also made their first wine without sulphur (SO2) back in 1985. That was long before the current fashion for no or low-sulphur winemaking. A modern cellar was dug deep in the black volcanic rock in 2000. Advantageously, this means this has unchanging humidity and temperature without the need for machinery. Above ground, they have a fruttaio for drying the grapes for sweet Reciotto.
Grape picking is by hand using small wooden boxes. In some years, when conditions dictate, there may be a little botrytis (noble rot). Gini is happy for this to add extra complexity. When pressing the grapes, the juice is in contact with the skins. That also adds complexity and perhaps a hint of tannin. Long cool fermentation with natural yeasts is entirely in big old casks and old French barriques.
The maturation uses a combination of 228-litre and 2,500-litre casks.
The new wine matures on its lees for a year to pick up extra flavour. It also undergoes the secondary malolactic fermentation to soften the acidity. After bottling, the wine gets a further six months to settle down before release.
Having a great history and excellent winemaking credentials isn’t enough for Wine of the Year. The wine has to taste brilliant. Gini Salvarenza has won many accolades. They include the prestigious Tre Biccheri from Gambero Rosso, so there’s no need to take my word for it.
Tasting Gini Salvarenza 2014
If you want a short description of Gini Salvarenza then “liquid rock” comes to mind. And Montrachet? Well, you might accuse me of hyperbole, but this comparison isn’t a stretch. It’s a Soave that is Burgundian in tone.
The wine is a golden yellow and delicately aromatic. You might find waxy lemons, limes, hazelnut, basil and a slightly honeyed note. Minerals too, perhaps the gunflint found in great Chablis. In the mouth, there’s a silky and chalky texture, and it feels precise, pure and taught. There’s such an abundance of richness and energy too. There is a hint of oak; never dominant, it just gives support. Finally, there’s a long fade with almonds and a little salt to entice you back for more.
Wine of the Year 2017
And this 2014 is still only a young wine, being a Soave capable of considerable bottle development over many years. A bottle of 2002 Salvarenza tasted at Gini had evolved beautifully yet was as energetic as 2014. It had developed almost a Riesling note on the nose; a minerality with waxy lemons, then almond, marzipan and acacia complexity on the palate. So the choice is yours; drink now or keep.
For food, it’s the usual suspects; fish, white meat, pasta and of course, Risotto.
I drank Gini Salvarenza several times during 2017; at Gini, and again at the Soave Versus exhibition in Verona. Then more bottles at home with friends. And of course, the rest of their wine range comes highly recommended too. See Gini? Buy it!
Azienda Agricola Gini Sandro e Claudio
Via G. Matteotti 42
Monteforte d’Alpone (VR)
A local Soave legend gives Salvarenza its name.
There once was a young woman named Renza, whose face was positively splenda.
I’ll spare you by not extending this limerick further! Suffice to say that bandits kidnapped Renza, and a noble knight came to the rescue here. If you want to finish this limerick, I’ll publish the best one.
For Chiara Mattiello, of the Consorzio Tutela Vini Soave e Recioto di Soave, with thanks for organising superb visits with Gini and Soave Versus.