Masi Agricola’s Masters of AppaXXImento
by Jessica Bordoni
Pinot Gris, Verduzzo, Refosco dal peduncolo rosso, Marzemino, Oseleta, Malbec and Teroldego. What have these native and international varieties got in common? They are all grapes that are particularly suitable for drying. You can take Masi Agricola’s word for it, the well-known winery in Valpolicella that has been studying this technique for making Amarone for over thirty years. Masi’s expertise has perfected the AppaXXImento technique, a special procedure which returns to the ancient system used by the Romans, but innovating it in light of scientific research and new technology to make wines with marked personality.
FIL ROUGE: DRYING – Raffaele Boscaini, the seventh generation to work in the winery and also manager of Masi Technical Group, showed us the advantages of overripening grapes in the production of still wines, both blended and 100% of one grape variety. The special tasting took place at Westin Palace in Milan, hosted by the Italian Sommeliers’ Association. There were seven bottles to be tasted: as well as the wines of the head office in Gargagnago in Valpolicella, the guests tasted wines from the Serego Alighieri Estate, also in the Verona area, Bossi Fedrigotti in the Trento area and the Masi Tupungato winery in Mendoza, Argentina.
MASIANCO AND MAS’EST – The journey began with Masianco, Delle Venezie IGT 2013: 75% Pinot Gris and 25% Verduzzo. It is an interesting example of a Super Venetian white wine, as Raffaele Boscaini explains, “it is made from Verduzzo grapes left to slightly overripen on wooden platforms for 20-25 days. This gives the wine an aromatic quality and roundness, while maintaining good freshness from the Pinot. The wine is richer, more balanced, but not cloying.” Then came the Mas’Est, Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT 2013 made from Marzemino and Teroldego. “Here, drying is not needed to give body, but rather to ‘tame’ a notoriously rustic variety with a certain acidity and tannic quality like Marzemino,” the producer points out. Both varieties are left to dry for 40 days, but only 30% of the total are overripened. Then the grapes are vinified in four separate batches in order to create a blend, then left to mature in barriques. In this way the typical character of wines from the Trento area is rendered surprisingly and unexpectedly soft for such a young vintage.
CAMPOFIORIN AND PASSO DOBLE – Then there was the legendary IGT Veronese Campofiorin, which has just celebrated half a century of history. The forerunner of a new category of wines produced with the Ripasso technique (using Amarone pomace), since 1983 it has been made with double fermentation. Then we moved on to Argentina to taste the Passo Doble 2012, a red made from Malbec and Corvina grapes at the Masi Tupungato estate. “The weather conditions are very different, in some ways the opposite of Valpolicella. The dry heat makes the drying much quicker, so it must be very carefully monitored. In this case only Corvina grapes are partially dried, this gives the wine the elegant and ‘cordial’ style typical of the Veneto area.”
COSTASERA RISERVA, GRANDARELLA AND RECIOTO ANGELORUM – The tasting continued with a world-beater, Amarone Costasera Riserva 2009, the result of long overripening of the grapes on bamboo trellises, followed by three years of ageing in wood before release on the market. “We call it the gentle giant,” jokes Boscaini. “The three varieties Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara are joined by 10% of Oseleta, the very old cultivar that Masi has helped to rediscover and save from extinction.” The tasting continued with Grandarella, Refosco Venezie IGT 2010 from grapes left to dry for 50 days. “This manages to soften the rough edges of Refosco and refine it a little.” The last one was Recioto della Valpolicella Classico Angelorum, a sweet, round and refined red, but not without good acidity.