The Cantina Valpolicella Negrar may be Europe’s most quality-oriented cooperative. We tasted the 2008 Domini Veneti Crus for this article. We earlier tasted the 2005 vintage in our report on The Amarones of Valpolicella. These Amarones are made to express the distinct terroir of each of Amarone Classico’s five distinctive areas–Sant’Ambrogio, Fumane, San Pietro in Cariano, Marano, and Negrar [see map below].
Initiated in 1992, the project bore fruition in 2005 with the first release of the Espressioni line of single vineyard Amarones. Each wine was produced under the supervision of winemaker Danielle Accordini in exactly the same way from the same blend of grapes, the same drying (appassimento) period of 120 days, the same maceration and fermentation methods and with 60 months aging in 50 hl Slavonian oak botti, from the best Cantina vineyard in each valley. Viticultural practices were also similar between the vineyard sites with pergola Veronese training, no irrigation (excepting the Monte), and grass interplanted between the rows. We tasted the first release of these wines for our Report #41 The Amarones of Valpolicella and gave them very positive evaluations.
While several grapes—Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Forselina, Croatina, Dindarella, Molinara, Oseleta—can be used to make Amarone, the predominant variety is Corvina. The rules of the DOCG requires that Corvina account for between 45 and 95% of the volume of grapes.
In this article, we review the second release of the Domini Veneti Crus, from the 2008 vintage, a cooler year than 2005. The result, in our opinion, is elegant wines that are rich and without an excess of the raisin-like fruit found in warmer vintages.
The Espressioni wines are of consistently high quality, revealing both the variety of Valpolicella terroirs and their influence on Amarone wines. Add in the kinds of decisions growers and winemakers make about trellising, canopy management, harvesting, drying, fermenting and barrel aging, and one can begin to appreciate the variety of Amarones produced in Valpolicella.
For more on Amarone, please see our Report # 41 The Amarones of Valpolicella.
The US importer is Domini Veneti USA.
Cantina Valpolicella Negrar 2008 Espressioni Castelrotto ($125) 93 The Esspressioni Castelrotto is ripe, lush, rich and superbly balanced, and the most ready to drink of the five Amarones. It’s a beautiful, concentrated wine with a persistent finish. Espressioni Castelrotto comes from a 150 m high, south-facing vineyard in San Pietro in Cariano with alluvial clay and sandy soils overlaying limestone.
Cantina Valpolicella Negrar 2008 Espressioni Mazzuriga ($125) 95 The Mazzuriga reveals darker, earthier aromas and flavors than the Castelrotto and is more voluptuous and firmly tannic. Hints of smoke, graphite, dark fruit and loam provide a layered, complex wine that’s very full, long and rich. A gorgeous wine. Espressioni Mazzurega comes from a 500 m high vineyard with southeast exposure and calcareous sandstone soils in the Fumane Valley.
Cantina Valpolicella Negrar 2008 Espressioni Monte ($125) 96 The Monte is our favorite of the 2008 vintage. It has the richness and complexity of the Mazzuriga with the addition of a silky elegant mouth feel and a very long, rich finish. It’s a very fresh wine revealing dark fruit, minerals, Asian spice, and crisp acidity. Espressioni Monte is from a 440 m high, south and southwest facing vineyard in Sant’Ambrogio near Lake Garda. Its soils show marly limestone and degraded rosso Verona marble, and the vineyard is exposed to the winds that come off Lake Garda with lots of sun.
Cantina Valpolicella Negrar 2008 Espressioni San Rocco ($125) 93 The San Rocco is the most backward of the Espressionis with firm, round tannins and understated dense dark red fruit and notes of undergrowth. Its silky attack, unctuous texture, and lovely ripe flavors shows excellent potential. Espressioni San Rocco comes from a very high (510 m) east-facing vineyard in the Marano Valley with mineral and basaltic soil.
Cantina Valpolicella Negrar 2008 Espressioni Villa ($125) 94 The Espressioni Villa is another wine that needs considerable time in bottle to show its best. It’s a huge wine, mouth filling, with notes of sweet dark plum, forest floor, tar and dessicated grapes. It’s a refined wine with a brilliant future. Espressioni Monte is from a 440 m high, south and southwest facing vineyard in Sant’Ambrogio near Lake Garda. Its soils show marly limestone and degraded rosso Verona marble, and the vineyard is exposed to the winds that come off Lake Garda with lots of sun.