Episode 4 | The Noble Wines from Trentino
Two nobles families, two of the most famous in Italy, for two wineries that make the history of Trentino wines and italian wines in generally: Marquis Guerrieri Gonzaga family and Counts Bossi Fedrigotti family. They are the protagonists of this new Wine Passport episode, filming in Trentino, that starts at Mart, the modern and contemporary art museum of Rovereto. Here Francesca meet Maximilian, an architect from Austria with the passion of cooking and wine.
STEP 1 | CONTI BOSSI FEDRIGOTTI
The noble Conti Bossi Fedrigotti family has lived in Trentino for almost 600 years, and for more than 300 of them family members have cultivated vines with love and dedication. Their first vintage was in 1697. The biggest innovation came in 1961 with the creation of Fojaneghe, the first Bordeaux blend wine in Italy.
The current proprietors, Isabella, Maria Josè and Gian Paolo Bossi Fedrigotti, continue to produce wine on their ancient estates with the same passion as always.
Since 2007, this historic winemaking enterprise has benefitted from a collaboration with Masi Agricola, whereby the Bossi Fedrigotti wineshave been brought up to date and their links with the great oenological traditions of the Trentino region have been reinforced.
Here Francesca and Maximilian will meet Maria José Bossi Fedrigotti and Raffaele Boscaini, the marketing manager and technical staff chief of Masi Agrigola, the great winery of Amarone (and not only) that has a 10 years partnership with Bossi Fedrigotti.
The most prestigious wine to be produced among the various labels of the noble range is surely Fojaneghe, the first example of a Bordeaux blend in Italy. The other wines produced are: the unique Vign’Asmara, the characterful Mas’Est, the refined Pian del Griso and the elegant sparkling Trento DOC wine, Conte Federico.
The historic estates consist of 40 hectares in the most prestigious sites of the region, principally in three sites on either side of the River Adige: Maso San Giorgio in Rovereto, Fojaneghe in the communes of Isera and Mori, and Sant’Antonio in Pomarolo. The soils are truly unique and different: volcanic origin basalt, chalky moraine and bottom-of-the-valley alluvial. The red grapes grown are Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon, Merlot, Teroldego and Marzemino. The whites are Traminer and Pinot Grigio. Chardonnay and Pinot Nero are grown for the sparkling wine. Vineyard training is pergola Trentina and Guyot.
Cellars and Shop
The cellars contain the steel fermentation tanks used in vinification and a beautiful area dedicated to the barrique-ageing of the prestigious Fojaneghe wine. The wines can be sampled and purchased in the small shop.
For more information, telephone +39 0464 439250.
STEP 2 | WINE GAMES
Francesca and Maximilian will take a “rest” with wine games, in Avio, a small village, dominated by an ancient castle, few chilometers far from Conti Bossi Fedrigotti and Tenuta San Leonardo, their next stop. Francesca will make slalom with barrels and crush the grapes with her fooths. But what about her heels?
STEP 3 | TENUTA SAN LEONARDO
More than 1000 years ago, it was a monastery, but for over 3 centuries now San Leonardo has served as the residence of the Marquis Guerrieri Gonzaga family, its proud custodians. Today, the San Leonardo estate is a garden of vineyards and roses, protected by the massive barrier of the Alps, which blunt the force of the cold northern winds, while the valley floor benefits from, and in turn releases, warmth from nearby Lake Garda. The Tenuta remains an ancient world, in which winemaking practices, still uncompromisingly artisanal, yield wines that are true gems of Italy’s wine tradition, marked by freshness, harmony, and an innate elegance.
Tenuta San Leonardo saw that moment at the end of the 1960s, when Marquis Anselmo Guerrieri Gonzaga (1895-1974), agriculturalist and passionate vigneron, passed on to his son Carlo the responsibility of giving a new face to the family farming estate. Quite a few changes then ensued in the Trento-based winery’s vineyards: the traditional pergola system was joined by the Guyot method and by spurred cordon, and Carmenère and Merlot, varieties that had flourished here for decades if not centuries, gained new neighbours, above all cabernet sauvignon.
1982 was “harvest zero”, when San Leonardo, the wine that we know today, first emerged from the vineyard. The first oak barrels made their entry into the wine cellar, and winemaking focused no longer on vineyard-grown field blends but on assemblages following tastings in the cellar of the barrel-aged wine lots. That year too marked the entry of San Leonardo onto the stage of Italy’s select wine producers.
All of this flowed naturally from the conviction of Carlo Guerrieri Gonzaga that his land displayed the required qualities to make it a growing area of renown.
The evolution of Tenuta San Leonardo wines over these last thirty years of history owes much to two outstanding figures, true stars of Italy’s wine world; both have made significant contributions to the success of a uniquely Trentino style that has gained the attention of the world.
From 1984–99, the Marquis Guerrieri Gonzaga sought the advice of Giacomo Tachis, whom he had met during his time with Marquis Incisa della Rocchetta. Since 2000, Carlo Ferrini, one of the most brilliant of the “new generation”, has been overseeing Tenuta San Leonardo projects.
The vineyards are also entrusted to the supervision of consultants Marco Simonit and Pierpaolo Sirch, the renowned “pruning guys”.
But every day, since far-off 1970, has witnessed the presence in the winery of Luigino Tinelli, manager of the Tenuta and right hand to Marchese Carlo. He is the one who puts into actual practice the professional advice advanced by the winery’s consultants. Not only is his technical expertise crucial to success, but he also represents the priceless “memory” of the production history of each of the wines that the Tenuta has made over the last 40 years.
Waiting for Francesca and Maximilian, there will be Carlo, Anselmo and Luigino.
From warriors to vignerons
The family motto is “Belli ac Pacis Amator” (lover of war and peace) and it may be difficult to imagine it today, but once upon a time, the Terzi – the family’s original surname – men were warriors. Niccolò, son of Ottobono, was even called “The Warrior” for the valour shown in many battles. In 1506 the surname was extended to include that of Gonzaga, to show the gratitude of Marchese Francesco, Lord of Mantua.
Only in 1894, however, did the Guerrieri Gonzaga family take up regular residence in Trento, when Marchese Tullo, grandfather of Carlo Guerrieri Gonzaga, married Gemma de Gresti, whose family had owned the Tenuta San Leonardo for almost two centuries. It was their son Anselmo who cast a more business-like eye on the property and who introduced significant changes, the fruit of his passion for winemaking.
The family’s first real winemaker, however, was Carlo Guerrieri Gonzaga, his training directed not only by what was required to personally manage the family agricultural concern, but above all by a lively curiosity for the world’s great wines, with Bordeaux in first place. This interest led to his decision to study oenology in Lausanne, and to deepen his knowledge with research trips to France and Tuscany. It was precisely here, on the San Guido property, that he began the long, profitable partnership with Marquis Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, who revealed all the secrets of the Bordeaux blend to Carlo and became his “oenological godfather” to all intents and purposes.
Today, Marquis Carlo has spent nearly fifty years dedicating almost all of his time, energy, and attention to the Tenuta San Leonardo. For some years his son Anselmo has been fully involved as well with the winery, like his father passionately committed to the Trentino area, to its cultural and physical landscapes, to its distinctive fragrances, even though he often has to separate himself from it to introduce the family’s wines to far-off lands.
Tenuta San Leonardo, Gateway to Trentino
It is not difficult to fall in love with this corner of earth. The winery lies in the southern portion of the Trentino region, just a few steps from the border with the Veneto, in what was once a fief of the Church, but today is a small hamlet synonymous with one of treasures that contributed to the creation of Italy’s wine culture.
Here we are in the Vallagarina: along the Adige river, a modest church seems to nod to a place out of the ordinary. Next to it a gate and a low circuit wall of medieval origin introduce the world of San Leonardo. This small village of times past is a place of traditional Trentino-style houses containing offices, the cellar, the ancient granary renovated into a museum, and various barns housing agricultural equipment.
Then there are the vineyards, 25 hectares in all. Sited at a relatively low elevation of 150 metres,
Only red-wine grapes are cultivated in the vineyards behind Tenuta San Leonardo’s ancient stone walls; they produce four wines, San Leonardo, Villa Gresti, Terre di San Leonardo, and Carmenère. Ten hectares are dedicated to growing white-wine grapes, planted in the Val Cembra, whose soils and climate ensure grapes with distinctive crispness and minerality.
What sets San Leonardo apart from other wines and gives it an inimitable uniqueness is its terroir, that “warm northern character” of its growing area, which allows no over-opulence or excessive alcohol, but rather infuses the wine with a judicious natural balance. A clean-edged crispness and elegance, heightened by a few years in the bottle, are its characteristic qualities, obvious right from its bouquet, fragrances that, far from being explosive, build gradually in an intriguing crescendo.
Following lengthy fermentations which allow the extraction of the noble tannins, the wine is matured according to practices honed over many years: 10 months in cement vats, 18-24 months in new, once- and -twice-used French barriques, followed by the assemblage of the final wine, and finally a minimum of 20 months of bottle-ageing.
Villa Gresti, largely Merlot, with some Carmenère.
It is a finely-balanced, immediately appealing wine, with a velvety, supple mouthfeel and an emphatic, compelling finish. The harvest for Villa Gresti usually begins in mid-September. After the fermentations, the wine matures in barriques for 12 to 14 months, depending on the characteristics of the growing season, then spends a minimum of 12 months in the bottle before release from the cellars.
Terre di San Leonardo Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot e Carmenère
The grapes are sourced from the youngest estate vineyards. The wine displays then a more modest concentration and lively drinkability, plus a refined pleasurableness that gives it a definite elegance. Terre di San Leonardo’s roundedness and harmony are finally crowned by a six-month bottle-ageing before release.
The grapes ferment in 50- 80-hl concrete vats, in which it spends its initial months of maturation as well before passing into new, once- and twice-used French oak barriques. A further three years in the bottle are necessary to ensure that Carmenère exhibits its full character and intriguing complexity.
Vette di San Leonardo, Monovarietal Sauvignon Blanc
A wine with a distinctive freshness tinged with floral notes, with a stylishly woven structure and complex minerality. Its name is a tribute to its truly Trentino identity, while the Marchesi Guerrieri Gonzaga guarantee quality by selecting grapes personally from the Val di Cembra growers.
And finally, Riesling, the latest-born, but from a variety that boasts a lengthy history indeed, inasmuch as this grape was grown here almost two centuries ago and its bottles graced the tables of the Austrian noble families. The vineyards are located in the Valle di Cembra at some 700 metres elevation, in porphyritic sandy-loam soils that yield grapes with classic characteristics of elegance and firm structure.
There are grappas as well, in both standard and aged (stravecchia) versions. They are made from the pomace of the estate-grown grapes, obtained when the new wine is lightly pressed off after fermentation, thus engendering the San Leonardo magic in yet another product. Time-honoured traditional steam distillation in single-batch pot-stills is preferred as the only method which guarantees grappas that are smooth, clean-contoured, and elegant. At the end of the distillation cycle, standard Grappa Bianca is bottled immediately to preserve its freshness and simplicity; the Stravecchia is left for five years in barrels previously used for maturation of San Leonardo, and thus acquires an amber hue, with a textured, velvety flavour.
SPECIAL THANKS TO
Masi Agricola con Conti Bossi Fedrigotti www.masi.it
Tenuta San Leonardo www.sanleonardo.it
Uva e dintorni www.uvaedintorni.com
Wine Lover Bag www.winelover.wine