There is Amarone. There is Amarone della Valpolicella. And then there is Giuseppe Quintarelli. The Italian Wine legend passed away in the third week of January 2012 at the age of 84. Wine writer Jay McInerney writes a good and succinct account of Quintarelli’s accomplishments, and I encourage the read.
In short, GQ mastered the Veneto. He elevated Valpolicella, a wine-producing region whose bottles are often disregarded in the spectrum of great wines, to the level of Superiore. His Amorone, is “near-mythical” according to the Italian Wine Merchants in New York City, where I have purchased a few bottles of Quintarelli in my lifetime. And I agree. The bottle pictured above is a blend of quite a few Italian varietals but mostly featuring Corvina, a grape known to produce a mild fruity, high acid wine with hints of almonds.
The 2000 Ca’ del Merlot (“house of the black bird”) I shared with a friend one fine afternoon – a chap who was used to drinking $10-$15 wines without regard for varietal, vintage, region, or much else – but knew he enjoyed sippin’ on the vino. I figured if I was going to entice him to break out of his shell, I would need to show him what wine can be, and a Quintarelli I knew would do the trick. One sip of any of his bottlings and the amatuer non-chalant taster is instantly propelled to curious connoisseur.
The secret lies in GQ’s quality control. A perfectionist in grape-selection who also mastered the art of appassimento or to raisinate the wine. Grapes are laid out to dry typically on straw mats or crates and left for 120 days or more. This process concentrates flavors and sugars. After that, the secrets of fermentation and barrel storage, bottle aging, etc become… part of the mystique of GQ’s wines.
The Ca’ del Merlot produced the desired effect: we were speechless. In fact, we drank most of the bottle in silence. (Also we were in a
library church tennis match golf game skip it).
In truth, I can distinctly recall moments when I’ve had the chance to savor GQ’s wines. Think about the power of our sense memory (sense of smell) and how a particular scent in the air can transport us miles and years away in an instant. Giuseppe’s wines create instant, permanent memories. Four years after my first Quintarelli, I can see my wife (then girl-friend) and I shaking our heads in disbelief over the complexity and sheer enjoyment we were experiencing the first time tasted these wines. And two years have passed, but I can see clearly the expression on my friends face when he had his first sip, and how his expression magnified at the second sip. I can see minute details: the sun shining in our apartment, I can feel the leather of the couch I was sitting on, see the color of the wine, remember the nose of it and how the juice felt in my mouth: round, full, generous, succulent, aromatic, berries, spice, nuts, a lingering fluid finish that goes on and on.
How fun is that?! What other beverage (aside from Yoohoo) has the ability to do that?!
And so, here’s to the memory of a winemaker who leaves us with more than just a superb wine – he leaves a world of happy memories, perhaps mythical at times, but nonetheless a wealth of stories to share. That’s worth so much more than the price of a bottle of wine.