Zenato Wines

Zenato wines greatly impressed me at a recent wine tasting. Quality was consistently high across the  range of red and white wines. Moreover, on re-tasting the humble Valpolicella after the delight of Amarone, the quality still hummed.  A good sign!

Alberto Zenato, who heads the family-owned business, kindly gave a wine tasting for Premier Wine Training, at the Radisson Hotel recently.  Zenato is based in Veneto, north-east Italy, home to 12 DOCG and 26 DOC wines.

Zenato whites (almost half of their production) are classic – light, dry, minerally and fresh. Custoza 2010 stood out for its citrus, mineral and floral nuances. Flagship Lugana 2010 made from a premium Trebbiano di Lugana clone was richer and rounder still.

Bardolino 2010, with its light body & tannins, and vibrant cherry & smoky hints was a delight.  Serve slightly chilled for added effect.
Zenato Valpolicella always impresses me for its value for money.  The words Classico and Superiore on the label hint at the superior quality, and make it to my mind, atypical (but in a good way!) in its richness. The 2009 drinks well now, but can develop further character over 3-5 years.
Cormi 2008, new to the Irish market, was a star of the tasting for all. Merlot, partially dried for 6 weeks, is blended with Corvina, adding roundness. The result is a Black Forest gateau of rich chocolate and black cherries, together with the richness of the ripassa technique.
Ripassa della Valpolicella 2009 needed little introduction.  Rich mouthfeel, glycerine (a by-product of fermentation which comes across as sweetness & richness), generous alcohol are complemented by the ‘marasca’ wild cherry character of Corvina, oak and spice. Universally appealing, it will develop further for 5 years. Alberto spoke of the reintroduction of a small amount of low-yielding Oseleta into the blend, adding structure.
Amarone della Valpolicella 2007 showed fabulous rich texture, glycerine, dried fruits, oak & spice. The elevated Costalunga vineyard in the Sant Ambroglio di Valpolicella zone, to the east of Lake Garda is rich with minerals. Grapes ripen well with the reflection off the lake, and the growing season is tempered by cold winds from the Dolomites. Hand-picked grapes are left to dry in crates after picking, so weather and ventilation are also important. During this time, the grapes lose up to 55% of their weight.  Sugars concentrate, tannins increase and acidity alters. The grapes are then fermented normally to about 7g residual sugar, oak-aged for 36 months, and bottle aged before release.
The precious skins or ‘marc’ are not wasted. Valpolicella is ‘passed over’ the skins to produce its little brother, Ripassa.
Sergio Zenato Amarone Riserva della Valpolicella 2005, named after Alberto’s beloved father, is produced only in excellent vintages.  Rich, powerful, raisins, prunes, dried figs, black cherry,  dark chocolate and firm tannins, with an expansive viscous finish.  Magnificent!
I was lucky to have experienced a vertical tasting of this wine, and while generous in youth, its true glory reveals after 10-15 years. The 1985 is remarkably fresh still, a powerful wine with dark fruit, lead pencil, soft tannins and an expansive finish.
Recioto della Valpolicella 2006 took people by surprise with its syrupy sweet richness and soft tannins.

Zenato wines are available in good wine shops.
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