Time After Time with The Speri Family
Nov 15, 2017
The world is a noisy place. Too often quiet voices are drowned out. In the wine world the irony is that some of the best offerings are made by some of the most modest folks. You barely hear a peep out of them. This may surprise you but it happens even in Italy, a land generally not known for understatement.
It definitely happens in northern Italy, in hilly Valpolicella where the whispered voices of the ancestors are carried in the ears of their descendants throughout the long grueling days spent working in the ancient hillside vineyards. Memories never fade and change is slow in these parts where secrets are carefully guarded and legends demand respect. Understanding this is imperative to understanding the Speri clan, one of Valpolicella’s most respected older families.
Valpolicella is a series of valleys just north of Verona. Classico is its historic core covering the best 20% of the total Valpolicella appellation. This is the sweet spot where sunshine and alpine elevation match perfectly. Its superiority is acknowledged by its DOCG status, as opposed to the 80% of Valpolicella that’s classified DOC. The Speri family, now entering its seventh generation, owns 125 acres of vineyards in these hills. Their holdings have grown over time and are divided into Crus called La Roverina, Sant’Urbano and the new one, La Roggia. These Crus are cultivated solely with native clones based on massal selection (from the best performing vines only).
A strictly held point of view at Speri is that in Valpolicella fads don’t fly. Roughly translated this means the best wines are made from the oldest native grapes. While not dismissing some of the newer participating grapes like Oseleta, Speri prefers to minimize their role. Speri family wines are made exclusively from Speri family grapes so this selectivity is key to the family gestalt.
The Speri range is robust without being redundant. It’s an expression of the family’s historical sites, most emphatically mineral rich La Roverina and volcanic Sant’Urbano. From these treasured crus come Speri’s Valpolicellas and Amarones. The DOC Valpolicellas are all “classico superiore” (classico refers to specific locations, superiore to strict processing standards) while Speri Amarone is DOCG and Speri Recioto is Classico DOC. Essentially all their wines are in the highest classifications.
As linked as the Speri family is to their venerable heritage in their vineyards, in the winery where everything is state of the art it’s the total extreme. Every vineyard is vinified separately and a Speri family member is hands on every step of the way. This is the case from bud break in the fields to bottling in the cellar.
Italy’s leading wine journal, Gambero Rosso has called the Speri family, “an authoritative point of reference within the Italian wine scene.” This is a homage to the family’s link with their past as much as it is a signal to the rest of Valpolicella to keep following the leaders. Those who love the svelte and subtle spiciness of these unique northern Italian red blends already know this. But just as a reminder here’s a few good reasons why we love these wines.
Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico
The terroir is alluvial with abundant mineral beds, a perfect nursery for the main horses in this quartet of Corvina, the lead player at 70%, Rondinella, the second lead at 20% and two minor attendees, Molinara and Oseleta, both at 5%. The grapes are picked late but not too late, processed conventionally and aged for up to a year in Slavonian oak.
Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso DOC
How can you miss with this Valpolicella combination – the Speris, one of the oldest families and Ripasso, one of the oldest wines. As expected, it’s a “can’t miss.” It starts with 70% Corvina Veronese and 20% Rondinella augmented with a 10% sprinkling of (they shall be unknown) “others.” All the fruit is grown in elevated vineyards in the heart of the Classico zone. After conventional fermentation, the wine is held in tank until the following spring when it’s combined with must left over from the previous year’s final pressing of Amarone. A slight second fermentation ensues leaving the finished wine dry but extra rich. A year in Slavonian oak brings the wine together and adds an element of creaminess.
Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Sant’Urbano
This is one of the world’s great Amarone wines made from the top three historical grapes only – 70% Corvina Veronese, 25% Rondinella and 5% Corvinone, in this case sourced from the Speri estate’s very best single Cru site in Sant’Urbano. Volcanic soils, perfect exposures, altitude and excellent drainage combine to set this site apart. Special care and handling are applied throughout the labor intensive fermentation process concluding with three years in a combination of medium Slavonian casks and smaller French oak “tonneaux.” The end result is about as “wow” a wine as one can find.