Sunday, October 29, 2023

Monte Zovo and their wines of the Valpolicella

As I wrap up this months feature on the Veneto wine region I’ll share some of the Veneto’s great red wines, those that come from the Valpolicella wine appellation.  Some years ago I visited the wine estate of Monte Zovo and wrote briefly about my visit. Today I’ll give more of an overview of Monte Zovo and a couple of their wines that I tasted this week. 

The Monte Zovo winery 

Monte Zovo began back in 1925 when the grandfather, Carlo Cottini, of the current owner, Diego Cottini, bought the land.  At the time it was mainly used for fruits, especially cherry plants, along with cattle grazing.  Carlo’s son, Raffaelo, in the 50’s and 60’s converted the land over to vineyards in order to start to make wines.   

Cottini family of Monte Zovo
Cottini family

Monte Zovo has 4 different vineyard sites with three of them in Lombardy located near Lake Garda in the municipalities of Desanzano and PozzolengoLake Garda borders both Lombardy and the VenetoThe three vineyards include Monte Zovo, Spiazzi and BettinelleMonte Zovo is located around the winery in Caprino VeroneseBettinelle, is their experimential vineyards located on the plains of RivoliLastly is Spiazzi, which was Diego’s idea to plan Pinot Noir, Sauvignon and Mueller Thurgau at high altitudes of almost 3,000 feetHe wanted to plant vineyards in an area that was outside the normal altitudes that would allow the aromas in the wines to shine. 

It wasn’t until 2000 that the Cottini family ventured into the Veneto purchasing the Tregnano estate.  This was Diego’s desire to purchase land from where he was born and worked with his grandfather.  The Tregnano estate is located northeast of Verona, in the eastern area of Valpolicella.  The vineyards sit on top of the hills that divide both the Ilasi and Mezzane Valleys that also border the Monti Lessini national park.  At the top of the hills they built a drying facility that sits at about 1,650 feet that provides great ventilation for the grapes to dry.  Out of the 345 acres that the Cottini family owns, about 123 acres are located there in Valpolicella. 

Tregnago estate of Monte Zovo

The Wines of Monte Zovo 

If you are familiar with the red wines of the Valpolicella most of them are based on a number of native grapes including Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Molinara.  Some of them are produced as a dry style wine, while others are dried resulting in wines with a deeper, intense profile and concentration.   

dried grapes of the Valpolicella with Monte Zovo

I tasted the Monte Zovo Caligo Veronese IGT made from 70% Corvina, 20% Corvinone and 10% Rondinella.  I was pleasantly surprised by this wine, especially at its price point at $18, as it gives a nice introduction to the grapes of this region at a reasonable price point.  The grapes are grown in the northern area of Verona on morainic soil.  The grapes are left on the vines an additional 2-4 weeks to overripen going through a drying process while on the vine.  The wine is then picked and fermented for 25-30 days and aged for 12 months in a combination of barrique and tonneaux.  Ruby and rather transparent in the glass.  Violet and blackberries filled the aromas.  A medium-bodied, but on the lighter side with juicy fruits of dried cherries and blackberries that rounded out the palate with a hint of black tea.  Rather soft, but fruit filled.

Monte Zovo Caligo Veronese IGT

I had the pleasure to taste the 2018 Monte Zovo Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG. I usually drink Amarone for Thanksgiving so I’ll probably have this one on the table that day. Made from 70% Corvina, 20% Corvinone and 10% Rondinella this wine also comes from the Tregnano estate from 12 year old vines. The grapes are picked and laid in boxes on one layer and moved to the drying facility where they rest to concentrate for a few months. The fermentation then takes place for 20 days and the wine is aged in barrique for 24 months and an additional 6 months in wood vessels (not sure of the exact kind). It then spends an additional 12 months in the bottle. This is part of the reason the price for Amarone is rather high is due to the extensive aging process.  

The 2018 Monte Zovo Amarone was ruby colored with garnet edges. Ripe raspberry and black cherry fruit aromas were apparent with a dusting of cocoa, dried herbs, licorice and some baking spice. A whole array of aromas! It was still a little tight, but I didn’t give this wine much time to aerate. Full-bodied on the palate, rich and smooth. Mostly currants and plums with some vanilla and baking spices again. For a wine that had 16% alcohol I didn’t pick up the heat at all thankfully. It had a nice elegance with integrated tannin and a nice acid backbone. SRP $50 

*This wine was provided as a sample, but opinions are always my own.

Friday, October 20, 2023

The Volcanic Wines of the Veneto with Monte Tondo Soave

Sometimes when I write these blogs I remind myself how many great native grapes are grown in Italy, hence why it can be so challenging when someone asks what’s your favorite Italian grape.  Why pick just one?  It’s been some time since I covered the Soave wines of the Veneto and have been fortunate to try many from this region through the years.  The Soave I’m sharing today is from Monte Tondo.  Let’s learn more about this great white wine of the Veneto.   

The Territory – Soave 

Soave, pronounced so-ah-vay, is located in the Veneto region set in the eastern hills in the province of VeronaThis area was granted the DOC designation in 1968.   These wines of the Soave DOC are made of at least 70% of the Garganega grape with an allowance of up to 30% of Trebbiano di Soave or ChardonnayThere is also an allowance of 5% of non-aromatic white grapes of the area that can make up part of that 30%According to the Consorzio of Soave wines Garganega is “straw yellow with greenish huesAroma is intense and delicate. It’s medium bodied, well balanced with slightly bitter almond finish”.  Garganega also produces high yields and is part of the reason that much of the Trebbiano di Soave were replaced in favor of Garganega, but that has slowly changedTrebbiano di Soave adds freshness and delicate floral aromas.   

Garganega grapes
Garganega grapes sourced from Consorzio Tutela Vini Soave

There are the wines of the Soave DOC and those of Soave Classico DOC with differences between the twoSoave DOC wines are grow in the alluvial plains that are lighter and fresher compared to their counterpartThose from the Soave Classico DOC are grown in the historic area between Soave the town, for which it is named, and Monteforte d’AlponeThe hills and valleys of this area were geologically formed 90 million years agoThe soils in the Soave Classico area are of volcanic origin consisting of basalt with limestoneThis results in the wines of this area to be more complex and structured.   Plus, the grapes are hand harvested due to the landscape so there is close attention to quality pickedThe vineyards there are between 165 to 1,650 feet above sea level with slopes that are between 10-80 degreesWhen they say winemaking is a labor of love this is just one of the many examples why. 

Depending on whether the Soave grapes are grown in volcanic balsalt soil or limestone is one of the key factors in what you taste in the glassSoave grown in basalt will show more minerality where those grown in limestone show more citrus, white flower and apricot flavors.   

wine tasting in Soave
Sourced from Consorzio Tutela Vini Soave
The Winery – Monte Tondo 

Monte Tondo began in 1979 with Gino MagnaboscoHe is joined today by his daughter, Marta, whom assists him with winemaking and promoting the wines of Monte TondoThey are located about 90 minutes inland from VeniceThey produce wines from low yields set in the hills above the town of SoaveIn total they own 32 hectares, about 79 acres, across both the Soave Classico DOC and ValpolicellaTwenty-two of the hectares are in Soave Classico with vineyards that are 360-490 feet to up to 1,150 feet for their cru sitesThey own another 10 hectares in Valpolicella, just set on the opposite side of the hill with vineyards 1,475 feet above sea level.   

The Wine 

I tasted the 2019 Monte Tondo Soave Classico DOC made from 100% Garganega.  This wine spends over 12 hours with the grapes being coldly macerated.  They are softly pressed and then fermented in stainless steel. This wine was straw colored with aromas of mostly apricot and a touch of petrol. It was light to medium-bodied with a touch of crisp acidity along with grapefruit and apple flavors filling the palate. Some salinity showed up on the finish as well. ABV 12.5% SRP $17 

2019 Monte Tondo Soave Classico DOC

Importer: August Wine Group 

Information sourced from Consorzio Tutela Vini Soave

*This wine was provided as a sample, but opinions are always my own.  

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Prosecco Superiore Wines with Bellenda and Villa Sandi

If you’ve been a follower of my blog you know that October is a month that I have much to celebrateFrom my birthday, to my 10 year wedding anniversary since I got married in Italy, to one of my favorite holidaysAll the more reason to celebrateWith many Prosecco calling my name in my stash I wanted to highlight a couple wines from the Conegliano Valdobbiadene wine region featuring both Bellenda and Villa Sandi. 

The Wineries 


The Bellenda winery has been run by the Cosmo family since 1986.  Originally founded by Sergio Cosmo, but run today by the brothers, Umberto, Domenico and Luigi.  Bellenda is located about 40 miles north of Venice in the village of Carpesica, a tiny village in Vittorio Veneto, within the Treviso provinceThis family-owned winery produces Prosecco from the Conegliano Valdobbiadene wine region in a variety of sparkling wine styles on about 86 acres overlooking the Prosecco hillsides. 

Bellenda winery
They were the first winery in Conegliano Valdobbiadene to restore the use of the classic method that had been practiced until the 1930’s when it was forgotten What is the classic method It is when the secondary fermentation takes place within the bottleThis way the bubbles are created within the bottlesThis differs from the typical method that is used in the land of Prosecco where the Martinotti method is used, also known as the tank method or charmat methodFor this method the refermentation takes place in pressurized tanks.     

Bellenda pays close to attention to sustainability in a number of ways and preserve their biodiversity with the surrounding woodlandsThe do not use any herbicides or pesticidesThey recover their vine prunings for energy production as well as the use of solar panelsThey also use recycled glass for their packaging materials as well as their wine bottles.   

Villa Sandi 

You may remember me mentioning Villa Sandi when I spoke about the owners of Borgo Conventi recently. The same owners of Villa Sandi, the Moretti Polegato family, purchased Borgo Conventi years back. In 1920 Mario Polegato, the grandfather of the current President Giancarlo, purchased vineyards and created the beginnings of Villa Sandi.  

After the Second World War Divo, Mario’s son, along with his wife Amalia dig into the family business and have two sons, Mario and Giancarlo, whom also get involved with Mario becoming an enologist and Giancarlo, focused on the financial side of the business. Unfortunately, they experience a sudden loss as Divo passes away leaving Amalia and the two sons to take over. They end up purchasing the current Villa Sandi estate in the end of the 70’s, which is a Palladian style building built in the early 1600’s. In the 80’s the three of them start getting worldwide recognition for Prosecco and developing themselves in the worldwide export market. 

Villa Sandi winery
Villa Sandi

During renovation of Villa Sandi a network of underground cellars were discovered that had been in existence since 1622. Giancarlo and Mario decide to use these cellars and produce wines using the classic method after a visit to Champagne. 

Today the winery is operated by the 4th generation including Giancarlo and his wife, Augusta, and their two sons, Diva and Leonardo. The generations continue on. Villa Sandi now has 5 estates in the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions. They have vineyards in many areas of the Prosecco designations from the Asolo DOCG to Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG and in Cartizze DOCG, which is considered the cru of Prosecco.    

The Wines 

I received a number of Bellenda samples to try that I will continue to share on my social media and maybe in future articles, but I wanted to focus on their 2020 Bellenda “Sei Uno” Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Rive di Carpesica Extra BrutWhew that was a mouthfullThese grapes are grown in limestone-clay soils on ancient Piave glaciers that are rich in morainic depositsThis wine spends several months sue lie and is disgorged after 12 months with an additional 6 months aging in the cellar.   

2020 Bellenda “Sei Uno” Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Rive di Carpesica Extra Brut
More to come on the other bottle soon

I recommend not using a flute when you drink sparkling wines so that you can get the aromatic expressions from the wineThis wine was pale straw colored with an intense mousse upon pouring it into the glassApples, peach and citrus were expressed in the aromasMy first impression of this wine upon first taste was that it was like biting into a crisp, tart appleClean and light with citrus flavors and finesse in the bubblesA touch of bitterness near the end with a persistent finishA lovely wineABV 11.5% 

What does the Rive mean in the Prosecco Superiore wines of the labelThe rive were established back in 2009Rive are the steep slopes that are difficult to farm within the Prosecco Superiore territoryThere are 43 rive in total and each rive define a specific vineyard site that display particular characteristics in the wines that are produced from those sites.   

I also tasted the NV Villa Sandi Valdobiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry. Made from 85% Glera and 15% Chardonnay this wine was inoculated with selected yeasts and fermented in temperature controlled tanks until it reached the desired alcohol and sugar levels and was stopped by refrigeration. The color on this wine was very pale with a touch of straw color. Some stone fruit and apple on the nose. This wine had frothy bubbles with lively acidity on the palate. Nice juicy green apple notes with the fruit noticeable on the palate. A touch of peach on the finish along with some sapidity. ABV 11%, SRP $25.

NV Villa Sandi Valdobiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry
You can find Villa Sandi and other Prosecco Superiore wines on 

*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are always my own.  This post contains affiliate links to keep the costs minimum to run Vino Travels.  Purchasing through the links allows me to collect a small commission without any cost to you.  Thanks in advance!