While traveling through Italy last month, my friend Marissa mentioned we must stop at Tommasi Winery in Verona for a tasting – she said they have the largest wine barrel in the world in their underground wine cellar. This was enough for me to squeeze them into our short itinerary in Italy and I am so happy I did!
Tommasi Winery is located in Pedemonte, a small village in the heart of Valpolicella Classico wine region, just 10 minutes northwest of Italy’s most romantic city known for love, Verona. It’s a 4th generation family run winery that started in 1902 and has grown exponentially in the past few years acquiring new wineries in different regions throughout Italy. Not only have they owned and operated Tommasi Winery in Veneto since 1902, they’ve also acquired incredible properties to add to their portfolio, extending over 570 hectares across Italy. With a key focus on outstanding terroir and focus in the vineyard, these wineries include Tenuta Caseo in Lombardia, Podere Casisano in Siena (Tuscany), Poggio al Tufo in Tuscany, Paternoster in Basilicata and Masseria Surani in southern Puglia. Each estate has their own history and identity with one goal in common, to produce wines of the highest quality from some of the best vineyards in the country while keeping the heart of operation in the family.
We started our experience with a tour of two Tomassi Vineyards in the heart of Valpolicella wine region. Tommasi Family owns 195 hectares of vineyards located on steep hillsides allowing for maximum sun exposure in the day, and cooling in the evening. As part of our tour, we had a chance to drive up to the mountainside and walk through two of their award-winning vineyards: La Groletta and Conca d’Oro.
Both vineyards are home to some of the most important grapes for Tomassi that make up their incredible flagship wine, their Amarone, which includes varietals Corvina, Rondinella, Corvinone, Molinara and Oseleta. We drove up high- 250m altitude- to La Groletta Vineyard which offers beautiful valley views including Lake Garda. The Lake is an important player in helping to shape this vineyard as it offers winds in the evening that naturally cool down the vineyard. With its southwest exposure, sun beams down on the vineyard throughout the day and the limestone mountain behind acts as protection.
The next vineyard we visited, Conca d’Oro, was only a few minutes drive away and offered the most picture-perfect view I’ve ever seen in my life! I took a few moments to myself to take it all in because it was breathtaking. The Conca d’Oro is known as the Golden Shell – because from above the view shows a shell shape figure and the vineyard gets optimum 2/3 sun exposure during the day. What impressed me the most about both vineyards is the care that goes into every bottle of Tommasi wine. Every single grape that is grown on these very steep, terraced vineyards is handpicked.
When we got back to the winery, we had a chance to tour the production facility and learn more about how their flagship wine, Amarone, is made. We saw the natural bamboo mats that dry the grapes that are carefully hand selected for this wine. Rows and rows of these mats are located inside an open-sided building which allows the autumn and winter cool breezes to come in and dry the grapes. This happens for at least 100 days until they are ready to be pressed.
This process, Appassimento, completely reduces the grapes losing about 50% of their weight/size which results in a higher concentration of natural sugar. Once pressed, the wine ages at least three years in Slavonian oak barrels before it is bottled. Then, it spends at least another year in bottle. The labor of love and attention that goes into making this wine is absolutely exceptional.
Next stop, we got to walk down a few sets of stairs into the underground Cellar and I immediately had goosebumps – for the second time this day! This is the heart of their winery with large barrels made from Salovonian oak – which really helps to distinguish Tommasi wines from others. As we walked through the long rows of barrels, I was shocked when I approached the biggest barrel in the world, the Magnifica. What a site it was! The largest wine barrel in the entire world.
Then, we walked into a private room overlooking the wine cellar with a table full of carefully selected wines by one of the owners, Pierangelo, waiting for us.
Here was the lineup of wines we tried:
Casisano Brunello di Montalcino 2012: recently scored 92 points with Wine Spectator
Casisano Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2011: grapes from the highest point in the vineyard, 4 year barrel age
Paternoster Synthesi 2015: vineyard at 450/600m altitude. Made from 100% Aglianico grapes aged in 8 months Slavonian oak. Cherry and plum notes.
Paternoster Don Anselmo 2013: vineyard is at 600m altitude (one of the highest in Italy) with minerality influence from its natural terroir overlooking Mount Vulture (extinct volcano). Made from 100% Aglianico grapes aged in 50% Slavonian oak, 50% French oak. Ruby red, complex fruit and spicy notes.
Tommasi Masseria Surani Dionysos 2012 Primitivo di Manduria: grapes from Puglia. Old vine Primitivo, full bodies big red.
Tommasi Rafael Valpolicella: Single vineyard, Corvina Veronese (60%), Rondinella (25%) and Molinara (15%). Aged for 15 months in Slavonian Oak Barrels.
Tommasi Ripasso: Made from Valpolicella (Corvina Veronese, Rondinella and Corvinone) grapes that undergo re-fermentation from the left over grape skins from Amarone production. The wine is then aged in Slavonian Oak for 15 months.
Tommasi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2013: Blend of Corvina Veronese (50%), Rondinella (30%), Corvinone (15%) and Oseleta (5%).
Tommasi Riserva Ca’Florian Amarone: Blend of Corvina Veronese (75%), Corvinoe (15%) and Rondinella (10%). Aged for 4 years in large Slavonian oak casks.
After our incredible wine tasting, we checked into our hotel – Villa Quaranta which is owned by Tommasi and right in the centre of Valpolicella. I highly recommend staying at this hotel because it has everything you could ever want while in the area. Not only is it just minutes from Verona, the city centre, but you don’t really need a reason to leave. The hotel has comfortable, large rooms, a full spa, an outdoor large pool area with loungers, an indoor pool and hot tub, a full European breakfast buffet and a restaurant.
This was by far one of the best winery experiences in Italy to date! We can’t wait to go back. Thank your for such a memorable trip, Tommasi!!