A recent research project brought me to the medieval town of Soave, where I met up with famed wine maker Stefano Inama. A vineyard started by his father back in the 50’s, Inama is known for his incredibly mineral white wines and is now experimenting with reds in the area of the Colli Berici. The family began by planting the Sauvignon grape, not the Garganega grape typically grown in the area and used to create Soave. But then again, this is not your typical family and this is not your typical wine.
Stefano is proud of his land and the accomplishments both he and his father have made over the years. They try to make wine as natural as possible and keep things clean and minimal in the cantina. Like many producers, he feels like the Italian associations created to help promote Italian wine are not doing their job and instead of joining the Soave Consortium, he and eleven others founded Soave FIVI (Federazione Vignaiolo Italiana Indipendenti). This group believes that tradition and territory will guide the producer in the creation of his wine. That quality will always overcome quantity and that rules and regulations should be followed regarding these traditions, not for monetary or promotional reasons, but for respect of the wine. I was lucky enough to taste a variety of Inama’s wines to understand better his thought process when it comes to wine making.
The first was the Soave Vigneti di Foscarino, 2010. With 26,000 bottles made annually, this white gets its golden yellow color from passing its fermentation period in old wood barrique. Stefano calls it his ‘first light’ wine because of its northeastern exposure– a desirable location, considered by the French to be the best. Its elegant floral aromas match the fruitiness of peach, apricot and white berries. The minerality lingers in the back of the nose and after a sip of this wine, it is the minerality that plays the main role. Still young, it’s easy to see that it can age for a long time. The alcohol is warm and the tannins from the barrels shine. It is full, round and typical of what a great ‘old-school’ Soave should taste like.
The next was the Vulcaia, 2010. This unaged Sauvignon is a clear green yellow color and extremely terrior driven. The smells are crisp, clean and elegant with hints of pine wood, pineapple and grass. The taste is also clean with salt and marble remnants on the tongue. The alcohol, even at 14.5% doesn’t bite and it is intense and long lasting. The Vulcaia Fume, 2010 is the brother to this wine. Same land, same grape, just processed differently. It is the first wine ever made by Inama and ferments and matures in new barrique for almost a year. Intense and fruity; cantaloupe, jasmine, honey and mint are some of the aromas present. The taste seems like a mix of Chardonnay and Sauvignon due to the aging process which makes it round and fatty like a Chardonnay, something unusual for a 100% Sauvignon wine. It is very salty and mineral, like that of slate. The fruit also comes through in the mouth– pineapple, guava and other tropical fruits. This powerhouse white is a great food pairing wine; try white meats and heavy Southern Italian pastas. It’s a red wine dressed as a white.
Next were the reds. First up was the Carmenere Più, 2009 Riserva. Barrique aged for a year, this pure bred wine smells of viola flowers, vanilla and blueberry– almost reminds me of a blueberry cheesecake. The tastes are a bit aggressive and separate. It is surely young, sharp, warm and a bit short, but will round out when left to settle in the bottle for a few years. Bradisismo, 2008 is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Carmenere. Aged for 15 months in old barrique, it is spicy and a bit Syraz like in its aromas and offers hints of white chocolate and fresh red fruits. The palate is strong and young, spicy and warm. It is full and fresh, but not heavy and the light tannins sooth the belly.