A well-priced northern Italian white blend that brings back happy memories, and ages unintentionally well.
2019 from €9.45, 14.50 Swiss francs, 160 Norwegian kroner, £14.79, 179 Swedish kronor, 2,244 Japanese yen, 2,390 roubles
2018 from €9.95, $11.99, 15.10 Swiss francs, £14.50, NZ$29, 2,343 Japanese yen, 855 New Taiwan dollars, 2,340 roubles, 349.90 Norwegian kroner, 213.20 Brazilian reais
Bristol, in south-west England, is what I think of as my wine home, where wine really got under my skin, where I started being more adventurous, spending a little bit more money on wines I had never heard of. This was in the 1990s. I remember ‘splashing out’ in an Italian deli on various white wines made by Roberto Anselmi, and loving them.
When UK importer Enotria & Coe (owners of online retailer The Great Wine Co) sent me a mixed case of Italian wines during lockdown to remind me of La Dolce Vita, I was delighted to see it included Anselmi, San Vincenzo 2019 IGT Veneto, bringing back vinous memories of Bristol but also reminding me of the lovely surprise of a bottle of the 2005 accidentally tucked away in my cellar until 2018. I expected it to be shot or delicious. Happily it was very much alive, even if it is a wine you could just as well have drunk in its youth. Over the years I have learned that price and ageability do not always go hand in hand.
Since the 2018 is also still widely available, I tasted this vintage too and found the wines pretty similar, both equally vibrant though the 2018 seemed slightly riper and more tropical than the 2019 even though the acidity tasted a little higher. The 2018 was still beautifully fresh, even though it came to me in a half bottle. Both have an alcohol level of close to 12%.
For young and relatively inexpensive wines, they have a complex range of flavours, from rich citrus to ripe yellow fruits, with tangy quince and pear in between. This is probably because of the blend of varieties: a majority of the local Garganega, plus lesser amounts of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Traminer, Pinot Bianco and Incrocio Manzoni.
What could have ended up as a bit of a mishmash is in fact an excellent blend of complementary flavours that evolved very well in the glass. The 2019 showed some aromas of box tree that I associate with Sauvignon Blanc but the 2018 had a touch of guava as well and the Sauvignon influence seemed less obvious, though this might have been because it has had an extra year in the bottle.
Both wines are made in the same way: each variety fermented separately in tank by ambient yeasts (ie not inoculated with cultured yeasts) following a cold maceration to extract extra flavour, blended and then kept on lees in the tank for six months. The time on lees, and the little bit of residual sugar (see below), has given the wine a nicely rounded texture that is a foil to the freshness and zip of the fruit.
2018, according to Roberto Anselmi’s daughter Lisa, was a little drier than 2019 but not that different – roughly the same amount of sunshine but a bit hotter. When she wrote to me last week, they were in full harvest, keeping their fingers crossed, and very relieved to have missed the storms that hit the Verona area in late August.
I was surprised when I saw the technical analysis of the two vintages. It confirmed my impression that the acidity was a little higher in the 2018 but I had not expected to see that both wines have 5–6 g/l of residual sugar. This is still very much at the dry end of the spectrum but I am normally very sensitive to residual sugar in supposedly dry whites and have been known to get particularly irritated with Sauvignon Blanc with this much residual sweetness. In this instance I hadn’t noticed it but it must have contributed to the roundness of the wine given the modest alcohol levels.
Anselmi is definitely a family business. Roberto joined his father after leaving university in 1975 and eventually managed to fulfil his dream to buy back the vineyards that his grower grandfather had been forced to sell after World War II.
Now they have 70 ha (173 acres) of densely planted hillside vines within the Soave region, though Roberto chose to leave the appellation and label their wines as IGT Veneto because he was disappointed by the level of quality in some of the wines that carried the Soave label, choosing instead to name his wines after the vineyards.
As Lisa says, ‘My father, as you can imagine, is the BIG BOSS. I do 80% of the marketing and relations with customers. My brother Tommaso looks after the vineyards, production and the winemaking.’
Both vintages are lovely now but, thanks to my experience of the 2005 hidden in my cellar for so long, I’d say there is absolutely no rush to drink them.
The wine is widely available around the world, as shown in the Wine-Searcher link below and the number of currencies listed at the top of the article.