Two well-known producers from northeastern Italy's Veneto region -- Roberto Anselmi in the Soave district and Allegrini in Valpolicella -- have decided to drop their respective Denominazione di Origine Controllata designations. Their decisions, a form of protest against what they believe to be mediocre DOCs, are based on their desire to establish higher-quality wines.
The two producers' latest releases will instead carry the broader Veneto Indicazione Geografica Tipica designation, which allows them to use nontraditional grapes, blends or vinification techniques not included in the DOC standards.
"I am tired of belonging to an appellation which, instead of boosting my image, pulls me down," said Roberto Anselmi, whose 170-acre estate is known for its Soave Classico Superiore Capitel Croce, Soave Classico Superiore San Vincenzo and Soave Classico Capitel Foscarino. He added, "The Soave DOC is mainly sustained by small producers, many of whom think as I do, but none of them have the courage to voice their opinions."
The reputation of Soave, a dry white wine, has been damaged by the often-bland bottlings released by many large producers in the region. "Ninety-eight percent of Soave production is mediocre," Anselmi said. "My aim is to make a better-quality wine. When the DOC quality improves, I may reconsider the DOC appellation."
The main grape in Soave is the largely undistinguished Garganega, which makes up 70 percent of the DOC blend, while the remainder can include various proportions of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Trebbiano di Soave. To boost the quality of his wines, Anselmi has replanted 15 acres of Garganega with Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay vines.
His 1999 vintage will contain the typical DOC blend of grapes, minus Pinot Blanc. In the future, Anselmi intends to add Sauvignon Blanc and more Chardonnay to his wine, and he is also thinking of planting Gew|rztraminer and Riesling.
The neighboring Valpolicella district -- where red wine is primarily made from Corvina, along with Molinara and Rondinella grapes -- has likewise suffered from an emphasis on bulk wine production.
Franco Allegrini, one of the area's better producers, said his company's decision to drop the DOC was triggered in 1997 by his plans for making higher-quality wines. His estate, which comprises 600 acres of vineyards, is known for its Valpolicella Classico Superiore La Grola and Palazzo della Torre.
Allegrini started by replanting 27 acres of Molinara and Rondinella with Corvina and the Corvinone subvariety. "Molinara and Rondinella, which are the two other grape varieties that constitute Valpolicella Classico, are not of high quality," Allegrini said. "So we decided to concentrate on our production of Corvina and Corvinone, which guarantee a more sophisticated blend -- the result being a more elegant wine, which is closer to what I have in mind."
Starting with the 1998 vintage, Allegrini's La Grola is 75 percent Corvina and 25 percent Corvinone, no longer including other grapes in the blend. From the 1999 vintage on, Palazzo della Torre consists of 60 percent Corvina and 40 percent Corvinone, with the added difference that the Corvinone is left on the vines until January to achieve higher sugar levels.
About 4,000 cases of Allegrini's 1999 Palazzo della Torre will be available on the U.S. market in 2002, while 3,000 cases of the 1998 La Grola will be available in 2001. Prices are yet to be determined.
About 7,000 cases of Anselmi's 1999 San Vincenzo, priced at $11 a bottle, will be available in the United States this December. In addition, 500 cases of 1999 Capitel Foscarino, priced at $17, will be in stores as early as April, and 500 cases of 1998 Capitel Croce, also at $17, will arrive on shelves this May.
Learn more about the wines of northeast Italy: