Valentina Zanella works in Vincenza, Italy as a wine industry event planner. In this role, she organizes high-end wine events for top sommeliers and journalists from around the world. You can follow Valentina on facebook or on instagram.
3, 4, 5, 7, 10.5. No, I’m not losing it... I’m counting years; the years that those amazing bubblies spend on their lees. And no, I’m not talking about Champagne, even though those wines are every bit as good.
It was a beautiful Saturday morning in early November when my friends and I reached this small winery atop the Vicenza hills—in Northern Italy. I had waited quite a long time for this visit. Every wine lover I spoke with, or at least those who knew of it, were telling me that “Opificio del Pinot Nero” (“Opificio” translates in English to “Workshop”) is one of the local wine scene’s highly treasured, hidden gems.
When we got there, Marco Buvoli—owner and winemaker—welcomed us with a kind smile. Accompanied by his two beautiful dogs, he immediately began showing us around. In front of us, with the sun on the horizon, we had a spectacular view of the gentle slopes with the city spreading out at the foot of the hills.
As we walked, Marco began telling us the story of his “creative workshop”, as he loves to call his winery, and his undeniable passion for Burgundy wines—Pinot Noir being his first and biggest love. It’s a story that dates back to 1997, when one night, sipping an old Champagne Blanc de Noir, he understood that the time had come for him to start his own production of sparkling wines. Pinot Noirs... of course.
But Vicenza is not Burgundy or Champagne and the choice of growing Pinot Noir in this area was not a sure bet.
Marco went on to explain, “My choice was, to be sure, the result of the beginner’s recklessness. I had been visiting wineries for years and thought I’d picked up all the tips and tricks for making a great Pinot Noir. But then I had to face the truth. The soils and climate of this area are so different from Burgundy that everything I thought I knew was barely of any use. And there wasn’t anyone else growing Pinot Noir around here, so I couldn’t even compare my experience with others. My only option was to try, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes and figure out how to tame these wonderful grapes.”
“So,” I asked, “what are your challenges and what gives you the most satisfaction?”
“I love being in the vineyards,” he responded, “especially during winter. That’s the time when you actually start building for your next vintage, but the greatest pleasure for me is in the cellar creating the cuvee for my traditional method, or blending the wines from different barrels to make a unique expression of my Pinot Noir and tasting samples of the micro-vinifications to understand how the wines will develop.”
“The most challenging moment?” He thought for a moment before saying, “Managing the harvest. The vineyards are quite far, so organizing the people and all the necessary equipment at the perfect harvest moment is quite stressful.”
Then it was time for the most serious business… tasting the wine!
When we enter the room, bottles surrounded us. Burgundy. Burgundy everywhere! Chablis, Pouligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, Mersault. Meo Camuzet, Domaine Leroy, Clos de Tart, Dugat-Py… I began to understand. I could see what was moving him… his passion.
And when we start tasting the wines… oh boy! There it was... his love in a bottle.
The wines were all named with numerical references that indicated how long they had been on their lees before degorgement.
Tre (Three) Rosè was the first wine we tasted and probably the one I loved the most—along with its older brother, Sette (Seven). A dry wine with fresh red fruits, spices, herbs and a racy acidity that just made us want more and more. I’m not not always a big fan of rosè, but this one got my complete attention.
The tasting lasted for over three hours. I won’t bother you with the details of each wine, but if there was one other that deserved a shout out, it was the Cinque (Five) Pas Dosé. It was incredibly sharp, with perfect balance and strong character. I tasted bread crust, custard, nuts and tertiary notes of mushrooms and the forest floor. As Marco pointed out, “it’s humble, but very self confident”.
One final wine of note was the single-varietal Pinot Noir, in its purest expression. The 2015 vintage is still a child, but will be able to grow older in the bottle for at least the next 10 years. It was vinified in the Burgundian fashion through barrel fermentation and aging to enhance the typical spice and red fruits aromas of the grape. It is full bodied and concentrated, with elegant and ripe tannins. The wine rested 18 months in bottle before release to allow the fruit and spice notes to further develop, which resulted in black fruits, violet, pepper and cloves. The younger brother, the 2016 vintage, is about to be released and I can’t wait to taste them vertically.
Before leaving, I asked Marco one last question. “If your wines were a feeling, or an emotion, what would that be?”
“Music has always been another passion of mine,” he offered, “ and I can compare my wines to songs I know. Some of my sparklers are definitely rock, pretty much like a Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page solo, with its ‘gritty’ sound that compels you to keep listening. Others are more polite and jazzy. But that’s me. Sometimes I’m rock and sometimes I need a little poetry in my life.”