The first time you cram your nose into a Bardolino is an event like no other. Such an interesting set of nuances. I feel the vast majority of you–especially Americans–have not had this opportunity, something desperately in need of change. The locals love to proclaim how it is so Pinot-like, and frankly, I never really *got* that. I tasted a ton of them–from barrel through 15-20 years of age–and I never quite agreed with the notion they were “Pinot-like”. Their Chiaretto Rosé they love to compare to proper Provence Grenache rosé–a juxtaposition I WHOLE-HEARTEDLY agree with, but the Corvina-Pinot thing I’m just not feelin.
Light ruby with a wide pink edge. The classic smoky, earthy, dusty, but-bright cheery fruit jumps out at you. And this is NOT from oak–in fact very little if any oak is allowed by Bardolino Cru regulations. But the fruit has a definite smoky sensation to it, something the makers attribute to careful, non-oxidative handling of the raw fruit. No long macerations or cold-soaks are allowed either, giving the wines a solid red clarity, but never skin-contact inkiness like almost every other wine-producing region in the world strives for. Round, glorious cherry, blueberry and plum combine with a certain vegetal spice giving a modern take on old-world style. But I wouldn’t compare it to Pinot. If anything: Cabernet Franc meets Grenache. Maybe Cab-Franc and Mourvedre’s love-child. It has Gamay-leanings, and this one is extremely young, but NOTHING like Nouveau. And NOTHING like Valpolicella, so get that idea out of your head. A glorious bouquet.
Then you taste it. More concentrated than expected, raspberry and nectarine in a Meyer lemon baste, charmingly acidic, raspy and dry. Brittle, stony gravel abrades the fruit–a dark bitter streak packing the core with density and seriousness. These are incredible little wines–EXACTLY the sort of wines the wine 1 percent and geeks everywhere are screaming for. We must do all we can to get these on American shelves.
2020 CORTE GARDONI ‘Le Fontane’ Corvina/Rondinella 60/40 Bardolino Veneto Italy 12.0