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Reaching For The Soave Stars

“We are off to the mountains to visit a Soave winery,” I announced to Vinnie, my trusty corkscrew. He then threw me completely by asking what is the difference between a mountain and a hill? Well, it seems that it is not something that people can easily agree on. Apparently, it used to be that above 1,000 feet a hill became a mountain but today it must be 600 metres. Then there are various specifications concerning the degree of slope that some insist on and also there must be a summit so a plateau cannot count. It would appear that, basically, there is no simple answer.   

Anyway, in the hills - or should that be mountains? - above the plain of the river Po, between Vicenza and Verona, lies the village of Brognoligo and here you will find Le Battistelle. Owned by Gelmino Dal Bosco and his wife, Cristina, their son, Andrea, is the 13th generation of the family to work this land. The earliest records of the holding go back to 1644 when it is believed it was owned by two sisters. The Dal Bosco family were in the area in the 17th century and by 1721 were cultivating this land.

This is an area that is seriously devoted to grape growing;  Andrea told me that a stunning 96% of the land of the Commune di Monteforte d’Alpone is used for vines. From the terrace of the family cantina he pointed out the vineyards on the side of the volcanic mountains that consist of the hard dark rock called basalt - this black rock is full of the minerals that the vines bring to the wine. Working the vineyards can be difficult because in most places the land is so steep that everything must be done by hand. But if you want your wine to have the appellation Soave Classico then it must come from the mountainside. The vineyards on the flat valley floor may be Soave but they cannot have the coveted denomination 'classico'.

Over the generations the family have slowly extended their holdings until they now have 9 hectares from which they produce around 50,000 bottles per year. When you consider that the 1,700 hectares that makes up the land that produces Soave Classico is shared amongst some 2,000 owners, this makes Le Battistelle one of the larger producers. 


The rules for the production of Soave state that it must contain at least 70% Garganega, the great grape of the area, but the family are proud to make their wines with only this variety. The first wine we tried is called Montesei and comes from several very small vineyards. After a manual harvest the grapes are gently pressed before undergoing a slow 15-day temperature-controlled fermentation followed by about 4 months maturing on the lees before bottling. The result is a wine with a pale straw colour. The bouquet has more than a hint of grapefruit and on the palate is the salinity, from the basalt rock, that stimulates the salivary glands and just insists that you eat. This is a fresh invigorating wine ideal as an aperitivo.  


The second tasting was a wine called Battistelle. This is a single-vineyard wine that undergoes a slightly longer fermentation at around 20 days and matures on the lees for around 6 to 8 months. The result is a slightly darker straw colour with an aroma of green apples and on the palate a freshness and acidity that make it a great accompaniment for all seafood dishes, I can almost taste it with a seafood risotto.

The third wine, Roccolo del Durlo, is a single-vineyard wine that lets the Garganega grape tell the story of the vines and the soil they grow in. After a 48-hour temperature-controlled cool maceration the wine is fermented in steel before being matured for 8 months on the lees with a batonnage every 2 days. This wine has a straw yellow colour with the merest hints of pale green. On the nose there is a suggestion of honey, balanced with the perfume of white flowers and freshly-mown grass. On the palate there are fresh pears, light citrus, and a touch of hay. The salinity that comes from the basalt soil is balanced with good acidity to produce great structure. This is a very drinkable, elegant wine. Andrea tells me that this wine has an ageing potential for up to 10 years.

This is a very traditional winery but that does not mean that it eschews experimentation. They have recently planted vines without grafting onto American rootstock (which is the accepted way to avoid Phylloxera) and so I look forward to returning to see how the project works out.

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