Quintarelli: An icon of traditional winemaking
Quintarelli is one of the most coveted producers in Valpolicella, a region in Northern Italy's Veneto. The family’s winemaking ventures began in 1906 with Silvio Quintarelli. It was under his son Giuseppe that the winery truly grew to prominence. Trained by his father, Giuseppe – or Bepe for short – acquired fame for his rigorous traditional practices. Such was his renown he became known as il Maestro de Veneto. His reign lasted until his death in 2012, with his daughter, son-in-law, and grandsons now running the show.
Quintarelli is perhaps best known for their Amarone della Valpolicella, a specialty of the region, set apart by the fact that the wines are dried before wine is made from them, resulting in concentrated, rich, heady wines that sometimes have just a kiss of residual sugar. A unique factor of the Quintarelli is that they will often declassify wines they could label as Amarone, choosing only the best vintages to use the appellation.
Quintarelli also produces a few particularly special bottlings. The Selezione Giuseppe Quintarelli denotes wine from a particularly prized barrel. The “Rosso del Bepe” is made in a similar style to Amarone, but in addition to the usual grapes (Corvina, Rondinella, Corvinone) includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, and Croatina.
The highly regarded Alzero, while being made in a similar fashion as Amarone, parts with traditional varieties entirely and adopts those traditionaly associated with Bordeaux blends – Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Quintarelli also produces sweet wines including the traditional Recioto della Valpolicella. Made from the shoulders of the grape clusters that tend to ripen first, there is a greater amount of residual sugar as a result. Legend has it that Amarone was invented by a winemaker who had originally meant to make a Recioto, but then forgot about it during fermentation, causing the residual sugar to convert to alcohol.
Patience, attention to detail, and most of all, time, are the keys to Quintarelli’s high quality. Grapes are rigorously hand-sorted. They then must spend months drying, concentrating sugars and aromas. Once crushed, the grapes spend an unusually long time in pre-fermentation maceration, extracting ample color and tannins. Fermentation happens slowly, and once fully fermented wines are aged far longer than the appellation requires.
Such was Bepe’s admiration for traditional ways, the wines were hand-bottled for decades, although in the 90’s the transition to machine-bottling was made. Patience in the cellar results in gorgeously layered wines, rich and powerful. The intensity of flavor, power of tannins and elevated alcohol levels mean the wines can age handsomely. Buy enough for now, and some to explore over the years--tracking their evolution is its own reward.
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