The SOMM Journal

June / July 2015

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{ }  63 from key markets who were passionate about Italian wines was only part of the process; the team also created seminars with local experts such as Patricia Guy, author of Amarone: Verona's Great Red Wine, and Professor Diego Tomasi, director of CRA-VIT, the Center for Viticultural Research in the Veneto. "We were eager to strike a balance between an advanced tech - nical education with a particular focus on the Bertani Amarone Classico production alongside local histor y, culture and gastronomy to capture a full and immersive experience of the Bertani winery itself and the wider region," Willcock said. When not in class, the group drank in (quite literally) the sights of Verona and Venice. Italian-born Mangiarotti offered up that the academy was a way to engage new ambassadors who could speak the very specific language of Amarone. "We really need people who every day talk about wine to help us. Bertani is not like any other winery. It is clas - sic and distinctive—it never follows trends," he said. "Italian wine without Bertani wouldn't be the same." And that wasn't just the company-speak of a long-time employee: Guy, a former wine buyer in London, noted "Without Bertani, the whole of Valpolicella and Amarone would be different because they held fast to the tradition and didn't rush to market." Bertani is, indeed, distinguished by its adherence to tradition, but also its forward vision. It is one of the few wineries that still use 100-percent traditional methods for making Amarone—a historic process, yet with some 50 years of cutting-edge research behind it. In the vineyard, too, advanced viticulture practices are ensuring the health of vines. Academy grad Madeline Puckette, co-creator of, a site oriented toward Millennial wine consumers, noted she was impressed with the unique processes and practices. "The most important takeaway was seeing their long-term vision and ideol - ogy," she said. "They are a classic winery producing classic wines and we could see this connection within all aspects of the winery." Bertani's consistency and commitment was also a memorable point for Kimberly Fisher, Director of Fine Wine at Badger Liquor, in Fond du Lac., Wisconsin. "[M]any new wineries have come to market, [and] have changed their philosophy on how to produce the wines, making them more affordable, but lacking on structure and complexity," she noted. Pride of place here is the appassimento tradition of drying Corvina and Rondinella grapes in the rafters of old open-air lofts. Some wineries use dehumidifiers or large fans for air circulation, but Bertani relies on the winds off Lake Garda to dry the grapes, which can take up to 140 days. The cellars at Grezzana and Novare still use the historic glass-lined and glazed cement tanks, but in some of the cellars, stainless steel tanks vinify younger, fresher wines such as Valpolicella Classico. In a nod to science, and to ensure future vintages, Bertani reconsidered pruning techniques, employing Friuli-based specialists Simonit & Sirch, whose clients include Château d'Yquem and Louis Roederer, to retrain its vineyard workers. The cutting-edge (pun intended) technique focuses on increasing the live wood of each vine, minimizing cuts and wounds, and helping the vine to reorganize its resources—water transmission and nutrient consumption—to become more balanced, and prolong its life. "Bertani understood how important it was to apply a scientific method to the tradition," said pruning specialist Livio Tognon. "Here, we are putting together the natural features of the plant and the needs of the estate." All academy attendees tried their hands at pruning, making deci - sions on which canes to cut and which to wrap for next year. Student James Gallagher, an Orlando-based Sales Manager for Southern Wine & Spirits of Florida, said, "The pruning was great and something I have never done before . . . ." He noted it showed "they are always looking to the future in the vineyards." Puckette added, "Pruning was a very visceral experience. We got to get out of the theory and into the practice of what it means to make great wine." Willcock said feedback from the trip had been positive, add - ing, "although it's too early to confirm a 2016 Bertani Amarone Academy, I believe there is an appetite from all those involved." Gallagher said he appreciated the opportunity to see the back - story of this storied wine. "We get hung up in daily operations and sales. A trip like this makes you realize what you do for a living and why. It's also a refresher on your wine education," he said. He noted that the balance of guest speakers and blind tastings kept it from being too brand-serving. "It was not 'brand brainwashing,' " he said. "The message was there about the brand, but you as a student had to figure it out." At week's end, all students not only graduated from the academy, but received special induction as Cavalieri of the Sovrano e Nobilissimo Ordine dell'Amarone e del Recioto, a historic frater - nity for those dedicated to the iconic wine. Grapes being dried for Amarone in the traditional appas- simento method. Left to right: Bertani winemakers Andrea Lonardi and Cristian Ridolfi and U.S. Director of Sales Stefano Mangiarotti in the Bertani wine museum.

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