Interview about Cesari’s Amarone, as a world leader, by Mario Menozzi
Cesari Vineyards ~ 80 years (1936 to 2016)
Cesari Vineyard of Verona, one of the finest Vineyards of the Valpolicella region, is celebrating 80 years of producing some of Italy’s greatest wines this year. To mark this occasion, Cesari invited me to be part of a group of 80 influencers selected to represent Cesari Amarone. Cesari has been taking over Manhattan with events and giveaways all summer; although I had access to it all, it just wasn’t possible for me to attend. (I’ve been moving home and business into the Mayacamas Mountain range. By October 1, the move out of Windsor will be complete.)
Still, even with all of the moving hubbub, I really wanted to be part of this group, so I took on the assignment. Because I wasn’t able to be in New York, I was given the opportunity to interview Marion Menozzi, who’s worked with the family for 20 years. Presently, Mario works international with the family. I was delighted to have that opportunity.
One of my favorite parts of the interview was asking Mario what foods he would recommend to pair with Cesari’s Amarone. I got an earful. He had so many delicious answers, I tackled that one first. Food and Wine Pairings with Cesari Amarone by Mario Menozzi
Now, let’s explore more questions and answers. There’s a lot to learn about this style of wine.
Cesari’s Amarone is a world leader
1. What can you tell me about the family? In any story, it’s all about the heart and soul, with the family first, then the wine. So, let’s start with the family.
Gerardo Cesari [pictured] the father, entered the wine business in 1936. He wanted to establish a wine company that started as a very traditional winery, using grapes from the Lago Garda [Lake Garda]. At that time, they were not too complex. They were wines that were typically Italian; not wines of great structure, not too complex, and they were fruity wines; Vela Suave, Valpolicella and the classical as well. They were from the Verona side of Lago Garda and from the Peschiera side as well; which means the east and west.
This went on until 1960 (more or less), when Cesari’s son Franco finished oenological school in Italy and then spent a couple of years in France to get deeper into wine and vinification. At that time, these were the main teachers of winemaking. So, from his experiences in France, he fell in love with the grapes that are important in France. When he came back to Italy, he tried to produce the red wines to have the same quality. This was not to have the same quality to copy the French, but to be able to produce wines with Italian grapes that were able to express the same level of quality that the French have.
At that time, Amarone was not yet established, but Valpolicella had a history of having a red wine with potential for great quality, and a huge possibility to be aged. This means that around 1966 or 1968, when the Amarone was fixed by the rules, Franco totally involved himself in this wine. So, he was then totally able in 1971 to present to the market the first vintage of Amarone. This was a wine that totally represented, for Franco, the maximum quality of the use of an indigenous grape of Valpolicella. And, was able to be in competition for the great red wines in France, which is more or less the capital letter of the company, which started in 1968. From that time up to now, the story continues the evolution of Amarone, with the information that markets have had from 1970s until now.
The family was still producing other typical wines from Lago Garda. But, the main focus was to remain on Amarone, and later on with producing the second great wine of Valpolicella, which is the Ripasso.
2. Can you give us a rundown of the major grape varieties that are unique to Amarone and the area in general?
Okay, so one great point of the Amarone is that this wine is produced with only indigenous grapes that have adapted to the territory of about 1,000 years. In the past, we had almost 100 indigenous varieties in Valpolicella. Then, when production became more important, and was researched for quality and became more prosperous, this number of indigenous grapes has reduced. Today. we don’t have the number of grapes; we have fewer. However, a good number of grapes remain.
Of main importance is the Corvina deoneza. Corvina deoneza is giving the most typical and classical identification, in terms of bouquet, in terms of aroma, and in terms of possibility to be dried in the right way.
After the Corvina, we have the Corvinone, which is a different variety than the Corvina, but very close in characteristic to be part of the wine. The main difference to the Corvina deoneza and the Corvinone is that bunches are a little bit bigger; but, the last few years, the Corvinone is less present.
Other important grapes are the Rondinella, which is very important to the production of the Amarone, because it’s very resistant to fungal disease and is well suited to the drying process. And, it’s a full bodied, mild tannic wine, with aromatic quality, which are important characteristics in terms of sugar content and giving the sweetness to the blend.
The Corvina deoneza is used in a higher percent; normally from 70 to 90 percent. The Rondinella is from 10 to 25 percent. These two business grapes are of the main importance to produce the Amarone. Until 2010, another grape was used to make Amarone and it was Molinara. But, since Amarone became a DOCG in 2010, Molinara is not allowed to be used for producing the Amarone. Molinara was mainly used to guarantee quantity of Amarone, but was not so important in producing quality.
So, the four that I’ve mentioned are the most important.
Then, we have many others that are not so important, in terms of percent, but are still present in the vineyard. They are indigenous and they have a long story. For example, we have the Forsellina, the Croatina, and the Oseleta that is used in the quality. Then we have the Vendelena. Then we have many, many others that are not so important in terms of quantity use, but are important in terms of history and tradition. And, maybe in the future will be used for improving the quality of the grapes and making selection for higher quantity for producing Amarone.