Veneto without Valpolicella is like soup without salt, like a day without sun. Just outside Verona lies the valley where milk and honey flow, so to speak. Or at least wine flows there, with world fame, and it is extremely sought after. We are on the trail of such a coveted wine, following it to its origins. It leads us to the picturesque Valpantena, a side valley of the Valpolicella.
The south-facing valley is predestined for the cultivation of fine wines and famous for its exquisite red wines. The Lessini hills in the north provide cool night winds, while during the day, a Mediterranean climate prevails in the valley. Valpantena is one of the top vineyards in Valpolicella. The Romans already knew about the quality of the soil and planted the first vines here. Thus, the wines from this side valley are considered more intense and full-bodied than their relatives from the Valpolicella Classico. The best conditions for excellent wines. Wines that Corte Figaretto produces with a lot of passion and heart and soul.
Between Poiano and Quinto, we find the small, fine winery, a family business, run by two brothers. Alberto and Mauro Bustaggi have Valpolicella, Ripasso and Amarone in their blood, they are completely dedicated to it. The land has been in the family for a long time, but it became a wine estate only recently. Before, it was used as a farm, with cherries, kiwis, peaches, and olives. Wine was only cultivated a little, for own use or for the cooperative. In 2002, however, that changed. Fundamental. Mauro Bustaggi came back to the family farm, and the two brothers decided to turn everything around properly. At 22, he had already had a successful career as a shop manager in Verona and he was looking for new challenges. "For me it means freedom, it's pure luxury to do what you enjoy, to act on your instincts." He found and still finds his fulfillment in the winery. He becomes philosophical when he strokes the plants and looks at the beautiful valley. "Respect and care are the most important things. We only have custody of this earth, to care for it. It's not ours, and if we leave, after all, we can't take the land with us. You can't own land, you have the privilege of using it."
"To me it's freedom, it's pure luxury to do what brings you joy, to act on your instincts."
Mauro Bustaggi about his winery.
The two brothers have done a great job. The large part of the vines is still young, twelve years old on average, already now the quality is remarkable, and there is still a lot of room for improvement when they get older. There are three basic rules at Corte Figaretto: tireless care of the vines, strict yield limitation, and meticulous cellar work.
In 2004, they built the new operating buildings. In Valpantene, they are the only ones with a gravity system, Mauro says proudly. Grapes, mash, must and wine are only transported from one container to the next by natural gravity. The result of this very gentle processing are varietal and extra-rich wines.
Meanwhile, they own about 14 hectares of land, ten of which are planted. Valpolicella is the second strongest denomination in Veneto after DOC Prosecco, and it is one of the most profitable wine growing areas in Italy. This leads to very high land prices, and winemakers are always on the hunt for treasure. Just recently, Corte Figaretto found one, a real treasure. High above the valley, they got hold of an orphaned piece of land, which has been unused and overgrown for more than 50 years. Now it is being awakened from its slumber. The clearing revealed arbors and paved walkways. In tireless research, Patrizia, Mauro's wife, has uncovered piece by piece the history of this spot. It must have been a place for Verona's nobili, for summer retreats and diversions. Mauro's tales bring times long past to life, with carriages pulling up, strolling ladies and breathtaking views of the beautiful valley. A magical place full of stories and myths. "It will all be resurrected, we will entertain guests here and I will cook for them here," Patrizia beams. If anyone knows how to bring this place back to life, it's these two. We marvel and listen and are already looking forward to our next visit, when this place will shine in a new light and we can stroll, feast and taste noble ripassi or amaroni in the old manner.
Text: Domenica Flütsch | Picture: Flavia Vergani | Source: Vergani Magazine 10