Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Monte del Fra - A Festival Fave

For the last couple of years, one of the more intriguing wineries attending the Vancouver International Wine Festival has been Monte del Frá. Hailing from the Veneto in northern Italy, not far from Venice and Verona, I've met and chatted with Marica Bonomo on a number of occasions as I know the winery's Canadian representatives, Lucila and Ricardo of Patagonia Imports (the picture is of Marica on the right and Lucila on the left).

With spaghetti and meatballs on the table tonight, I figured that I might as well pull the cork on one the Italian wines that I picked up at this year's show - especially since Italy was announced as the Theme Region for next year's Festival. Marica was pouring four wines at this year's Festival and I took an immediate liking to the Ripasso.

1877.  2012 Monte del Frá - Lena di Mezzo Valpolicella Ripasso (Valpolicella Ripasso D.O.C. Classico Superiore - Italy)

I tend to enjoy red wines that have a touch more body than most of the general release Valpolicella wines we find in the Vancouver market. Accordingly, I'm always on the lookout for a tasty, well-priced Ripasso. As previously noted on Ripasso posts, the making of Ripasso is a relatively recent vinification process (having seen its first commercial releases in the late 1980's). The winery completes an initial ferment of its Valpolicella wine and then (as noted on Monte del Frá's website) "the skins of the grapes that have been pressed to make Amarone are added...setting off a second, slow fermentation." The result is a richer, more flavourful Valpolicella.

The wine is made with traditional Valpolicella grapes and Monte del Frá's Ripasso is 80% Corvina with Rondinella rounding out the remaining 20% of the blend. The grapes are from the Lena di Mezzo vineyard - one of the eleven vineyards in the Veneto region that provide grapes to the winery.

As with so many Italian wineries, there are records of the Monte del Frá vineyards and wines dating back to 1492 when the lands were owned by monks and rented out to different families. The lands have been the source of fierce fighting and legal disputes over the centuries and the properties were even put up for auction by Napolean Bonaparte when they were expropriated from the church. Marica's family founded the current day winery in 1958 and it has been the subject of stories in and reviewed in Wine Spectator, Decanter and the Italian wine bible, Gambero Rosso.

I'll have to find out if the Ripasso is going to be a regular find on Vancouver wine shelves or whether it was just brought in for the Festival. I'm hoping it's the former possibility. I'm also hoping to see Marica and Monte del Frá leading the Italian charge in Vancouver next year. It should be a tasty time.

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