Direct from Giuseppe Quintarelli’s cantina in Negrar, we’ve hand-carried a few bottles of this mind-blowing vintage of Alzero back to our temperature-controlled warehouse in Napa. These are truly collector-quality wines stored in the best condition possible for their entire life — there’s no guessing about the integrity of this wine.
Alzero is a dry wine made in a quasi-Amarone style, but more dry and with less residual sugar than Amarone. Produced by the Quintarelli family led by the late, great master Giuseppe Quintarelli, this unique wine shows off what can be done with International varietals in the Veneto. Quintarelli’s grand wines are some of the few on the planet that are well worth the exceptional price tag (though we try to keep them priced fairly).
The Quintarelli Alzero 1998 vintage starts with an explosion of super-ripe blackberry, plums, black cherry and black currant in the mouth, followed by chocolate and coffee, sweet tarragon and spices on a finish that relentlessly goes on and on. This is a vintage prized for its balance and aging-worthiness, and with only 3,000 bottles produced, a truly rare treat to experience.
How this wine is made: Alzero is made in a style similar to Amarone, but with some important differences. Grapes are selectively harvested before most others in late August and early September, then placed on straw mats and wooden boxes to allow them to naturally dry and concentrate the sugars (a process called passerillage). The grapes are pressed in mid-December and macerated for 20 days. Native yeasts are used in the fermentation process, which lasts 45-50 days. The fermented wine is then allowed to age in French barrels for 2 to 3 years, then racked and aged for 4 more years in Slavonian oak barrels.
Expected maturity: Now through 2030.
Food pairing: Quintarelli Alzero, like it’s Amarone brother, pairs very well with marbled beef steaks grilled rare, wild boar, venison, braised short ribs, grilled or stewed lamb, and pasta with very rich and meaty ragu sauces. Alzero is also nice with blue-veined and strong-flavored cheeses like gorgonzola, robiola, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Visiting Quintarelli: Rumor has it that visiting Quintarelli is tough. Not really, but you definitely need to make a reservation. The family will graciously open up their tasting room for visitors, and they’ll even sell you some of their wines — but be forewarned, Quintarelli wines can be spendy. To avoid breaking the bank, buy a bottle or two of their Valpolicella Classico wines. If you’d like me to help you book a tasting reservation, contact me or send the family an e-mail or call them at +39.0457.513.241.
Cantina Address: Via Cerè 1, Negrar 37024 (VR) Italy. Google Map
Learn More: While Quintarelli does not have a website, my fellow importer Kermit Lynch has a very nice write-up on the Quintarelli family & wines.