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  • Writer's pictureCynthia Chaplin

Lessini Durello: The Secret Bubbles of Veneto

I first got the Lessini Durello bug back in June 2021 when I had the great good fortune to attend a Master Class with the Lessini Durello Consortium at Vinitaly International Academy in Verona.  This is a sparkling wine from Veneto, grown in the hills between Verona and Vicenza, with a great potential to add value to Italy’s growing portfolio of excellent sparkling wines.  Made with a grape called Durella, which was traditionally thought to be useful only as a blending grape, producers of Lessini Durello are now making interesting wines with this high acid grape that is blessed with delicate floral and green apple notes, as well as a definite hit of minerality from the volcanic soils where it grows.

two women smiling in the sunshine in a wintery vineyard in Italy

To investigate more closely, I got in touch with the delightful Patrizia Niero, proprietor of Corte Moschina.  After my first brush with Lessini Durello last spring, I was fired up to become a champion of the DOC and one of my favourite wines from the Master Class had been from Corte Moschina.  Apparently, even most Italians have never heard of this lovely sparkler and I couldn’t find it anywhere in Rome.  Working with Patrizia, I was able to bring it to a few tastings and events for clients, all of whom were excited about a new wine with specific characteristics that distinguish it from its neighbours, Prosecco and Franciacorta.  When I moved to Verona in later in the year, Patrizia and I made a plan to meet in person and talk about all things Lessini Durello – a plan that finally came to fruition on a sunny Saturday afternoon in February 2022.  Patrizia welcomed me to her beautiful property in the foothills beneath well known Monte Calvarina, the easternmost boundary for the Soave DOC.  She and her husband began their winery in 2004, with their sons becoming the 4th generation of the Danese family, winemakers since the 1950’s, whose cantina is visible just down the road from Corte Moschina.  However, the connection between the two wineries is only blood deep in many ways, with Danese bottling wines from around the country and holding an impressively large portfolio, while Patrizia and her family are focused on their 35 hectares, their ancient soils rich with basalt and iron, and the grapes they believe best represent the excellence of this region. 

piece of basalt soil in the hands of the vineyard owner

After a stroll through the recently pruned vines, checking out the evidence of truly ancient soils, dotted with sea fossils representing the prehistoric era when this area was under the sea, on to the volcanic porous basalt and the iron rich strata, we made our way to the beautifully constructed new winery premises, seamlessly added to the old farm buildings in 2018.  Patrizia showed me how they thoughtfully retained the character of the rustic buildings, yet created new space that is completely sustainable, and contains modern stainless steel tanks, as well as expensive and complicated machinery for analyses on site. In the old cantina space there is now room for the oak barrels and the exciting new amphora project.

wine. making clay amphora

In the cosy tasting room, we began with Purocaso, Durella 100%, fermented in bottle and unfiltered, a pet nat style presenting purposefully cloudy due to the retained lees and closed with a crown cap.  This pale straw wine is deliciously fizzy, not a full blown sparkler, but a lighter take on what is expected from northern Veneto.  Acidic and floral, with notes of white blossoms, crisp green pear and lemon, this would be the perfect refreshing wine to carry in a bicycle basket on the way to a picnic in the Lessini hills.

The next wine was the Valgrande Lessini Durello Metodo Classico. Pale gold with a lovely nose of dried apple and lemon peel, sweet white star-gazer lilies and just a touch of apricot compote, there were no signs of age and no drop in acidity, this one will carry its flag for several more years.  A strong sensation of wet stone minerality lifted the fruit and made this wine slide down very easily.  I can envision pairings throughout a meal with this one, from fried appetisers to a creamy pasta course and on to a fish dish fresh from the Adriatic.  Once again, falling in love with the Durella grape and it’s capacity to be, in the hands of smart winemakers, quite different from Glera grapes in the nearby Prosecco region.

Our final sparkler was the impressive Metodo Classico Riserva, having spent 60 months on lees and taking a grand total of 8 years from vine to market.  I was impressed with the colour, only slightly more golden than the Valgrande, with an excellent perlage of persistent soft bubbles that didn’t overwhelm the palate.  An attractive nose full of summer fields; acacia, jasmine, and dried yellow camomile wildflowers, with a touch of golden apple and cassis giving it structure and more body, and a seductively velvety feel in the mouth.  The merest whiff of fresh-cut green herbs and a delicate salinity make the finish long and elegant. 

wine bottles in a row and wine tasting glasses

Having come to Corte Moschina for the Lessini Durello, I hadn’t really given thought to the Soave Patrizia and her family are producing as well.  What a treat for me!  Even though they can’t legally make Soave Classico because they are not in the most historic part of the region, the wines they are creating with the wonderful Garganega grapes are truly indicative of their terroir and have a bit of “something extra” in the delivery.  First up was Roncate 2020, made entirely in steel, with the classic straw green colour and delicate nose we expect from high quality Soave wines.  Balanced and smooth, with a touch of texture across the palate, and a nice sapidity lighting up the fruity notes of white peach and pear. 

Evaos 2019 came next, with its name drawn from old dialect ways of speaking about being from “another place,” that is to say not in Soave itself. This wine benefits from a slightly later harvest than Roncate and has a more intense nose, with a flinty, minty, jasmine overlay to the typical crisp pear and unripe peach.  Captivated, I found myself going back to it time and again, comparing the other wines to this sophisticated expression of Garganega.

I Tarai 2019 was third in the line up, with another interesting and well suited name that refers to the shallow stone terraces along the foothills where the grapes grow for this Soave Superiore. This wine has a properly late harvest and a percentage is aged in oak.  The result is a complex wine that is medium gold in colour with an intense nose of cedar, sage and bitter orange peel.  The acidity keeps the wine from being overpowering and the balance of all the elements makes it easy to see why Decanter awarded I Tarai a World Wines Silver Medal. Definitely my top choice of those I tasted.

Last, but not least by any means, was Eclettico 2017, a play on the idea that in both art and wine, the best things come from ideas that are outside the box.  This deep golden wine is the baby born of the amphora project.  Despite the intentional oxidation, I could still smell the classic Garganega notes of  intense white flowers at night, peach and pear and, again, a stony minerality that comes directly from the soil.  The depth added by the time in amphora presents a wine perhaps not as complex as I Tarai, but every bit as fascinating.  The lasting acidity speaks of the relative height above sea level these vineyards enjoy and makes me look forward to more modern winemaking using this most ancient of vessels.

Leaving Corte Moschina as the sun began to drop to the west over Verona, I realised that my crush on Lessini Durello has really only just begun, and I consider myself extremely lucky to have a new region to live in, surrounded by new vines to explore, and wonderful new wine friends to open a bottle with, encouraging me to continue spreading the Italian wine joy, one glorious glass at a time.   

pink and cream winery buildings with old olive tree

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