Moving eastward from my beloved region of Piedmont and the wines of Barolo and Barbaresco, we find another region that is different in every way; the Veneto.
The Veneto features big showy wines, from the vibrant, plush Valpolicella to the big and brooding Amarone. These are wines that are made by the hand of man through processes like Recieto (Appassimento), where the harvested grapes are left to dry for months before being pressed, raising sugar (hence alcohol) levels and giving the wine a haunting level of depth, complexity and the ability to age. There is also Ripasso, which is a process where the newly fermented juice (usually Valpolicella) is passed back over the lees of an Amarone fermentation, which adds depth and complexity to an otherwise fresh and easy, drinking wine. Be warned, however, that in the hands of some producers these techniques are used to cover up an otherwise inferior wine; but in the hands of quality producers they can create works of art (think Quintarelli). What it comes down to is that the Veneto is the perfect place to look to for a lover of big, bold Italian wines when you're in the mood for decadence instead of austerity.
Looking back on producers who stand out in the region, I think of Quintarelli, Masi, Marion, Alighieri, Bussola, Dal Forno, Alegrini and… L'Arco.
There’s nothing I enjoy more than stumbling upon a producer making a superior product that has yet to be reviewed by the major publications. L’Arco is just that. In a sea of mediocrity, in the land of many cellars (Valpolicella), L’Arco is producing wines that are vibrant, exuberant and down right sexy. Luca Fedrigo is the winemaker behind L’Acro. After working as the vineyard foreman and assistant to Giuseppe Quintarelli, Luca set out with Quintarelli’s help to start L’Arco.
I’ve been following these wines now for over a year and have tasted their entire lineup. Each bottle, from their Valpolicella rosso up to the Rubeo IGT, is stunning and returns relative value for their cost. The only problem is finding them in the States. The e-mail based wine retail company, Garagiste, has been known to sell the utterly captivating Valpollicella Superiore, and I have also been lucky enough to find them at a local retailer: Varietal Wine & Spirits. I would start here, but I would also recommend asking your local supplier about L’Arco wines, because a producer like this deserves a little more of the spotlight. (Even if my first urge is to keep it a secret for myself.)
On to the notes: And keep in mind, I don't usually throw big scores around.
2004 L'Arco Pario Veronese IGT - Italy, Veneto, Veronese IGT
L'arco took it up a step with the Pario in 2004. What came across as residual sweetness in the '03 has been turned into a sweet and sour effect on the palate of the '04. The nose was intense with dark port-like fruits, christmas spice and ginger bread. On the palate, I found a fresh sweet and sour play with a burst of spiced sour cherry and a dark run raisin that led into the long finish. This wine was, all at once, rich yet finessed and truly stunning on the nose. (95 pts.)
2003 L'Arco Valpolicella Classico Superiore - Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella, Valpolicella Classico Superiore
The nose at first showed rich chocolate covered cherry, but upon second sniff, the details begin to come forward with crushed fall leaves, undergrowth and cinnamon. The palate was remarkably finessed and showing ripe cherries, dried cherries, tobacco and flower petals. As it flowed across the mid-palate, bitters and spice yet somehow with slight sweetness. The finish was long... long... long with cherries and christmas spice.
My only regret is that I didn't buy more. This was a beautiful wine for the price. I could convince someone that this cost more than twice its price. Stunning. (93 pts.)
2004 L'Arco Rosso Veronese IGT - Italy, Veneto, Veronese IGT
A gorgeous floral nose with violets, blueberry and undergrowth. The palate showed blackberry and allspice with a juicy, almost sweet cherry fruit that washed across the mid-palate. The finish lasts, with cherry that turns a bit dry yet highly enjoyable. I found myself updating my last score since this had gone from bruiser to beauty since my last tasting. (90 pts.)
2003 L'Arco Amarone della Valpolicella Classico - Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico
The color was dark red to almost black in the glass, showing aromas of plum, confectioners sugar, floral fall leaves, coca, roasted chestnut and cinnamon. On the palate, I found cherry cough syrup, raisin, more cinnamon, clove and dark chocolate. It was full and soft on the palate but carried by a hidden layer of acidity that kept it fresh. Lastly, is showed a long, long cherry, chocolate finish. This was the wow wine of the night.
Important to note that this wine was opened 12 hours before it was poured. (94 pts.)
2003 L'Arco Rùbeo Veronese IGT - Italy, Veneto, Veronese IGT
The color was a medium ruby red. The nose was seductive with candied cherry, brown sugar, tobacco, sage and hot chocolate powder. The palate was full with blackberries and plums followed by mushroom, clove and oak. Gorgeous! A long finish revealed cherry, cinnamon and flower petals. This was a great wine that really came to life after four hours in decanter. Made from a combination of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, rondinella and molinara, which are air dried for 60 days before pressing.(96 pts.)
Check out the L'Acro website here: L'Arco