The Times They Are a-Changin’ – The Bardolino revolutions

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
Keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
– Bob Dylan

I was invited to a revolution. I was invited to see a glimpse of tomorrow – did I?

I think so.

The Bardolino Anteprima 2014 was much about the pink revolution! The Chiaretto, the Bardolino Rosé wine is changing. From fruity and expressive to pale wines with more acidity and elegance.

Bardolino is perhaps not the most famous of the Italian wine regions, largely due to the fact that much of the wines they produce is relatively simple and easy. They grow about the same grapes in thier more well-known neighbors Valpolicella,  but the wines are made in a different style, much due to differences in terrior.

2014 was a bad year in Bardolino. It could have been a lost year and the pink revolution might in many parts be due to this. Looking back I don’t think many will remember 2014 for the great wines of Bardolino, but they might look back at it as a turning point, not only for the rosé wines but also for the red wines. The Consorzio did let us take a peek into the future of the red wines of Bardolino.

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The Bardolino Anteprima 2014 was held a few weeks ago, I tasted about 200 wines and to tell the harsh truth the wines told the tales of a hard year for rosé and red wines alike. A few were very good, many good and yet many difficult. During this difficult year the winemakers of Bardolino made a hard decision. They changed the style of their rosé wines. They started a revolution, a pink revolution. The goal was and is to win new markets by making the wines lighter but also change the style, going for an Italian Provence style rosé. Some might say that this is marketing tactics, and true it is, but it is also a change in style.

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Did they manage? In part yes, many of the wines are going in this direction, it is a different way of making wine and the vintage might also in some sense have forced this hand. There are wines that are more like traditional chiaretto but due to the vintage are lighter and more acidic in style. I think this is a right move to take, Bardolino needs to evolve, needs to raise the bar and this is one way. They’ve had a few difficult years, 2011 to 2014. I would love to taste these wines during a good season – Bardolino deserves one, soon!

Mao Tse Tung once said revolution is not a tea party neither is change in general, it is hard work, it is difficult and it takes time.  This is a first step and perfection will not be made in one vintage.

Well you can bump and grind
And it’s good for your mind
Well you can twist and shout
Let it all hang out

But you won’t fool the children of the revolution
No you won’t fool the children of the revolution
No, no, no! –
Marc Bolan

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The wines above are some that are good examples of the new Chiaretto, the children of the revolution. Among these you’ll find wines from VillaBella, Guerrieri Rizzardi, Zenato, Muraglie and Le Fraghe.

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know We all want to change the world
– the Beatles

As I said we were promised a glimpse into the future, a sneak preview of the next revolution, the red revolution.

Traditional Bardolino DOC and DOCG reds are a cuvée of 65%-80% corvina and 20-35% of rondinella and/or molinara. The idea is to change this and make wines with up to 95% corvina. This was a future we got to taste, i.e. wines with 80% corvina or more – after that I want more of those wines!

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Silvio Piona

 

The idea is not new. Silvio Piona owner and winemaker of Albino Piona made a 100% corvina between 2004-2009 under the name Campo Massimo, classified as an IGT wine. From 2010, he does them under the name SP, which stands for Silvio Piona. Officially this wine is a blend with 80% corvina and 20% rondinella, however, it is an open secret that it contains more than 80% corvina, maybe closer to 100%. When you taste these wines you realize that this is the right way to go.

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The wines are stored in large oak barrels, about 4-5000 liters, for one year to give them a slight oxidation but no oak flavors. Here in lies another difference compared to the traditional Bardolino’s, these are wines that developes positively during storage. SP 2012 will be really good but is still slightly to young, how often have you heard that said of a Bardolino? The 2008 Campo Massimo is fab now and will easily handles an additional five years of storage.

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Le Fraghe is another winery that also is experimenting and makes wines for the future. Her Le Fraghe Bardolino Classico Brol Grande containing 80% corvina and 20% rondinello. The grapes also comes from a single vineyard. They are stored in large oak barrels, of about 4000 liters, for about eight months before being bottled. This is a wine that shows that it is possible to develop Bardolino and that it is worth identifing “crus”.

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One of the driving forces in making these changes is the new chairman of Conzortzio Tute La Vino Bardolino DOC, Franco Cristoforetti. He also owns the winery Vignetti Villabella, which is one of the largest in the region. He wants to develop Bardolino to reach new export markets, to reach new tourist markets and to raise the total quality level of the area. Villa Bella is also developing a wine that goes in this direction, but that goes in a slightly different direction, more towards an international style. He also works with more traditional wines, but coming from a single vineyard, Villa Cordevigo. Here they work organically. He puts his money where his mouth is working with the revolutions and also with tourists, having a hotel and a one-star restaurant Oseleta just next to his Villa Cordevigo vineyards .

Revolution in their minds – the children start to march – Black Sabbath

As we speak of revolutions – I want one more, strike while the iron is hot! A sparkling Chiaretto revolution. I’ve tasted a few this year and several last year. There is no question which ones I chose, the ones made with the traditional method (champagne method). A very good example is Castelnuovo di Garda.

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Personally I think that Bardolino should abandon the charmat-method as the wines I’ve taste made with this method tends to get a mousse that is to hard, they get to much bubbles and the wines does not hold enough elegance. Really good sparkling wine is a way to raise the status of an area and the acidity in the grapes used gives good opportunities for this. Give me a sparkling Chiaretto revolution!

May I have your attention please?
Will the real Bardolino please stand up?
I repeat, will the real Bardolino please stand up? –
Eminem with a twist

Let’s not forget the traditional type of red Bardolino. It might not be the real Bardolino, but it is the common Bardolino – still! There are those who have proven, over time, that with the right tools: with focus, with knowledge, good work in the vineyards and good winemakers you can make really good Bardolino DOC. Really good!

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The one that I really want to mention is Castelnuovo di Garda. The wines reflects how hard work with quality really gives results. This is really good good classical Bardolino DOC. We got to try five vintages 2008-2013. 2014 have not yet been bottled. For me the 2010-2012 vintages are really good, the 2008-2009 are nice and the 2013 will probably be as good as the the others in a year or two. These wines proves that you don’t have to drink your Bardolino quickly, you can age them for some years and get really good results – with the right wine!

Albino Piona also have a few that are really good, especially the 2012 vintage, but I’ll gladly have the 2011 as well. Le Fraghe also have some very good Bardolino DOC’s, here the 2010, 2011 och 2012 vintages are splendid and her 2014 is a good example of the better ones from 2014.

Withthis in mind do we need a red revolution? Obviously there are winemakers that can do really good traditional Bardolino DOC. Still I think that Bardolino should go through with the revolutions. The +80% corvina wines shows great potential for a change, I think they should have the possibility to explore this cause I want those wines.

Until next year – Cheers!

Magnus Reuterdahl

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