Zýmē and Celestino Gaspari, the heir of Quintarelli
It isn’t taken for granted that you will feel the unstoppable passion for innovation, if you grow up in Giuseppe Quintarelli’s austere wineries. Or perhaps you might, as a reaction. The fact is, that meeting Celestino Gaspari is an enlightening experience on how you can go along parallel roads without apparently contradicting yourself. On the contrary, the dialogue between tradition and innovation (for some just a slogan and rather a trite one at that) is a religion for this grizzled fifty-year-old and dreamer at the Zýmē Cellar.
Steel, glass and rock in the Zýmē cellar
For a start you are welcomed with astounding architecture, designed by the architect from the Veneto, Moreno Zurlo, a daring insert of the contemporaneity of living rock. In fact, the cellar is made up of two souls: the one made of steel, glass, oblique crevices and a play of light, and the … underground memories, with the ageing cave, which makes up the original core and was dug from fifteenth-century quarries used to get fine stone to build Palladian villas in the surrounding area. The climate that this guarantees the cellar is extraordinary, a natural radiator.
When you go down the stairs reminiscent of a corkscrew and dive into the heart of Zýmē wine, you are left breathless: everything around you is modern, clean and precise, but in the corner of the floor there is a split where the humour of the earth rises, you look the mineral straight in the eye, a karst crevice wetted by a constant flow of water, which can be quite aggressive on some days. Celestino Gaspari’s philosophy is clear: absolute, obsessive, respect for the noble tradition of Valpolicella and Amarone; total heresy, unconditional freedom for modern wines.
Do you know what a Zymetank is?
You walk among the stainless steel wine vessels, 550-litre casks, French barriques made by different coopers (he asks for a mix of different types of wood to obtain quality and constant results), and then you come across the Zymetank, patented by Celestino “I wanted a machine that was automatic,” he explains, “but which also allowed me to get homogeneous and gentle extraction of the pomace, as well as thermal control and the management of micro and macro oxygenation.” All of this, translated into the glass, means finesse and definition of the elements. Clearly the result of Celestino’s experimental soul, it is used for innovative geographical indication wines.
For Amarone, tradition: fermentation in cement, only native yeasts and very long ageing in large barrels. In total, 80-90 thousand bottles a year, a small production compared to the size of the cellar, and small for the 30 hectares scattered in the best winegrowing areas in the region. It is a growth suitable for small steps, and great wines. The winery was only founded in 1999. The potential of the vineyards is clearly higher, but they prefer to select the best for the winery’s wines, and sell the rest unbottled: this generates quality and money, which finances the winery.
From Valpolicella Rêverie to the Amarone Riserva La Mattonara
Zýmē means yeast in Greek. Therefore the creative activity that transforms fruit into wine, with its metaphor for growth, fits perfectly. Of the twelve wines tasted, I am going to mention the opposites here, the simple and the complex: i.e. the Valpolicella Rêverie 2014 (the 2015 will shortly be released) from Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Oseleta grapes, less than 12 percent alcohol, fresh, caressing but not at all ordinary and sublimely spicy (10-12 euros in wine shops) and, of course, the Amarone Classico Riserva “La Mattonara” 2004 (170 euros), with 9 years in the barrel behind it, ethereal, balsamic, deep, still fruity despite the decisive notes of pepper and tobacco, perfect balance, freshness and persistence the palate.
See also ...
Alto Adige meets Alsace at the home of Gewürztraminer
Gewürztraminer in Alto Adige and Alsace: a focus on the differences in terroir, Read more