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A Lesson in Lessini Durello

Vinnie and I were traveling through the countryside between Vicenza and Verona when we took a short detour to visit a small commemorative obelisk preserving the memory of the events of the 8th April, 1848. After the downfall of Napoleon, in 1815 the Congress of Vienna awarded the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia to Austria. This was never going to be popular with Italian nationalists and resentment boiled over in 1848. On the 22nd March, during the First War of Italian Independence, they declared the independent Republic of San Marco. The monument itself recalls the Battle of Sorio, fought between a small group of around 2,000 poorly-armed Venetian volunteers who took on a larger force of Austrian regulars and were, unsurprisingly, defeated. However, as we now know the tide of history was on their side and over the ensuing 60 years Austria was forced to cede territory to the nascent Italian government.

The nearby Corte Moschina recalls even earlier times when the Republic of Venice was at its apogee. A rambling farmhouse dating from the end of the 16th century it now houses the winery started by Patrizia Niero and her husband, Silvano, in 1998. We were shown round by their son, Giacomo, and while they produce an award-winning Soave we were there to sample the lesser-known but, for me, more interesting Lessini Durello wine. The winery itself is at the foot of a range of hills called the Monti Lessini and it is on this higher ground that the Durella grape has found its natural home. All plants have their preferred environments but at the same time they will adapt to their surroundings and thus the relationship is symbiotic, and over time a synthesis is achieved. As Giacomo explained their vineyards for this wine are all in the range of 250-300 metres above sea level where the temperature will be up to six degrees cooler and interspersed between the vines are areas of woodland which help to enhance the microclimate and biodiversity.

Lessini Durello

The Lessini Durello wines are normally spumante, a term which means that the wine is under more than 3 bar of pressure, but Giacomo also makes a frizzante version, that is under 2.5 bar pressure, called Purocaso. To produce this singular wine he blends together the wine from the preceding three years that have been maturing in steel tanks on the lees. So for the 2020 he has put together 2017, ‘18 and ‘19. To serve this he inverts the bottle first and the lees then cloud the wine. This is a traditional method of serving and if it is not to your taste then simply pour carefully to avoid disturbing the sediment. This is a wine full of citrus acidity and will go perfectly with a oily fish like mackerel. Giacomo tells me his friends also use it instead of lemon on oysters.

Lessini Durello

Giacomo has made a study of the art of producing spumante wines in France, Franciacorta, and Oltrepò Pavese and we were privileged to taste the results of his research when applied to the Durella grape. The first that we sampled is called Millesimato. This is 100% Durella and comes from a single vineyard called Santa Margherita, at 400 metres above sea level. This wine is made using the Martinotti method where the secondary fermentation is carried out in a tank called an autoclave rather than in the bottle. The colour is a delicate pale straw and on the nose there is a delightful grapefruit aroma with hints of white flowers and sherbet. On the palate there is good acidity and freshness.

Lessini Durello

The next was a Lessini Durello Classico from 2015 that was made using the grapes from the same vineyard but this time by the metodo classico, or fermentation in the bottle. The colouris a light gold with a citrus bouquet of lime and elderflower. I asked him how long the wine was left on the lees before being disgorged and his reply was simply, as long as is necessary.

Lessini Durell

The final wine was the Lessini Durello Riserva. Again, a light golden colour but here part of the initial fermentation is in wood which adds a little complexity to the bouquet.

All these wines have a wonderful freshness that will make them great aperitivi. But more than that, with the salinity that comes from the volcanic soil and the citrus from the grape, they will accompany fresh shellfish and also one of my favourite dishes, that is frutti di mare in the lightest of tempura batters.

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