New wines appear and disappear with the regularity of the moon’s cycles. But once in a while, one stays with us like the memory of a super moon. Fifty years ago, Guido Boscaini created Campofiorin Rosso del Veronese, the first Super Venetian wine, and it’s been in the constellation of good-value wines ever since.
The Veneto region in northeast Italy is renowned for its Amarone, made by the appassimento process: The grapes–corvina, corvinone, rondinella, molinara and rossignola–are harvested and traditionally placed on straw mats (now some use plastic trays) for a three- to four-month drying process. Once they reach the proper semi-dried state, they are pressed, and fermentation begins in stainless steel tanks. The wine is then transferred to large Slavonia oak casks (some producers use French oak barrels) where it ages two years and is further refined in bottle for six months.
But a half century ago, Boscaini took freshly made wine in the Valpolicella Classico zone and combined it with the pomace of the semi-dried grapes for Amarone. Then a second alcohol fermentation was initiated, raising the alcohol level by a few percentage points. The process added structure and flavor to the original lighter Valpolicella and created a new wine: Campofiorin.
Last month, 48-year old Raffaele Boscaini, seventh-generation family member and Masi’s international marketing director presented a selection of Campofiorin wines at Manhattan’s Risotteria Melotti restaurant.
In vertical tastings with wines spanning multiple decades, it’s best to begin with the oldest wine as it’s the most fragile, so Boscaini poured the translucent red 1979 Masi Campofiorin Rosso del Veronese into my first glass.
As I was inhaling the cloud of porcini mushroom, blackberry, cinnamon and raspberry aromas, Boscaini grabbed my attention when he said the bottle was opened 24 hours ago. I replied that I couldn’t recall having a wine with such pronounced aromas that was opened the previous day. “Yes, but now you can drink it,” he responded with a smile. I enjoyed its delicious red-berry flavor and the porcini mushroom-like accent I had inhaled just moments before. If there was ever an argument for aging a wine, the 1979 Campofiorin is prima facie evidence for it. 92 points. No longer available in the marketplace, but worth remembering if dining in an Italian restaurant with a wine list of older vintages.
The 1988 Masi Campofiorin Rosso del Veronese had a youthful red color and was not as spicy on the nose as the 1979, but shared its porcini and red-fruit aromas and flavors. It was slightly more delicate—akin to a mature Nuits-Saint-Georges—and with a long, pleasing red-fruit flavor. 90 points. No longer in the marketplace, but like the 1979, worth remembering in the event you stumble across it in your dining adventures.
We had to skip the 1990s as the 1990 and 1997 bottles were corked. But based on the 1979 and 1988 bottles, one could be confident that without a tainted cork, these wines would be in excellent condition.
We entered the 21st century with the lively 2007 Campofiorin Rosso del Veronese. It immediately distinguished itself from its older siblings with its deeper red hue and pungent black-olive and blackberry nose. Its tasty blackberry and raspberry flavors were instantly pleasing, and the soft tannins and long, black-fruit flavored finish made it magnetic. 90 points. No longer in the marketplace, but possibly on a restaurant wine list with an extensive Italian section.
The 50th anniversary bottling is the 2014 Masi Campofiorin Rosso del Veronese. Boscaini said that 30% dried grapes were used in this vintage instead of the normal 20 to 25% to counter the amount of rain during the year. Its visually appealing clear black-cherry color and pungent red-fruit aromas show the benefits of the appassimento method in problem years. Delightful raspberry and cherry flavors are carried on soft tannins making this anniversary wine a pleasing celebration. 88 points. Retail prices range from an incredible good-value $12 to a still-rewarding $20.
Sometime this month or next, the 2015 Masi Campofiorin Rosso del Veronese will be bottled, then rested for three or four months before shipping in July or August to our market.
When it arrives, you’ll find its red cherry and strawberry aromas and flavors to be rambunctiously youthful and the texture similar to some Oregon pinot noirs. Yes, you can drink it, but I suggest its quality and unusually attractive price calls for putting a case in your cellar while you enjoy the 2014 vintage. You certainly don’t have to worry about aging Campofiorin. 89 points. Expect to pay about the same remarkably fair price as the 2014.
As its name implies, Risotteria Melotii specializes in risotto. I ordered the Funghi Misti, which contained porcini mushrooms and reached for the 1979 Campofiorin.
We discussed the three major rices for risotto: Arborio, Carnaroli and Vialone Nano. The first is so popular that many American home cooks never heard of the other two. But chefs and Italian cooks know both of them.
Each creates a very creamy texture while keeping a slight bite for the proper al dente feel. I prefer Vialone Nano, grown in the Veneto and without the use of chemicals. Try it with your favorite mushrooms or winter squash and the 2014 Masi Campofiorin. It might take you over the moon.
Photos by John Foy