Tasted With Le Caveau – Veneto Wine From Monte dall’Ora

In the kingdom of the biodynamically blind, the man who has read Monty Waldin’s book is king. Well that’s certainly how it felt while I was being quizzed about the topic by a friend over dinner recently. We happened upon the subject after I ordered a bottle of Valpolicella from Monte dall’Ora, an estate that I first came across at the Le Caveau artisan wine tasting in February.

Monte dall'Ora Amarone
Monte dall’Ora, although only certified organic, employs biodynamic preparations and practices in their wine growing. Faced with the rather daunting task of explaining biodynamics in the time it would take the waiter to return with the bottle we ordered meant that it was a whistle-stop tour.

Like any good story-teller, I managed to ham up the more controversial, and likely most trivial, bits of the philosophy. As a result, it’s highly likely that my friend now associates biodynamics with an ‘Indiana Jones Temple Of Doom’ style sacrifice of a cow just so one can stuff the horns with manure and bury them in the ground in line with the phases of the moon and movements of the planets.

I suspect that my initial intrigue with biodynamics mirrors the experience of many others. Wowed by the purity of fruit and cleanly defined minerality of a particular wine, I did some research into the topic and before I knew it, I was denouncing every bad biodynamic wine experience as a ‘root day’ and attributing every good wine to a harmony between vine and land that can only be achieved through biodynamic methods. Although I’m still sceptical about the theories, I’m firmly convinced that many of the winegrowers who employ these methods value expression of terroir above all else in their wines. If biodynamics, whether employed as a dogma or in more of an ‘a la carte’ fashion, is the vehicle that allows them to best express those values, then I’m all in.

When I met Carlo Venturini from Monte dall’Ora at the Le Caveau tasting, we talked about biodiversity in the vineyard (Carlo has planted cherry trees and herbs, and sowed cereals amongst the vines), soil (the soft and relatively thin layer of clay in the vineyard covers a deeper limestone stratum), the overhead pergola veronese vine training system (providing protection from the hot sunlight to the Corvina and Corvinone in particular) and the addition of sulphur to wine (Carlo has attempted to make sulphur free wines but didn’t think it worked well for Monte dall’Ora).
Monte dall'Ora Valpolicella Ripasso Sausto
The Valpolicella Ripasso ‘Sausto’ 2009 was a case study of winegrowing over winemaking. Had it been tasted blind, I would’ve surely struggled to identify it as a ripasso; it exhibited little of the jammy raisin flavours that can afflict this style.

With its sweet fruit nose, drinking the full-bodied Amarone della Valpolicella 2007 (€49.00) felt as if a conductor was coaxing forward the dry, deep mineral and rich fruit flavours across my palate into a tumultuous crescendo that lingered long after the wine had been swallowed. Because it wasn’t so immediately ‘in your face’, but was still unmistakably Amarone, it retained an enjoyable freshness and elegance.

Monte dall'Ora Valpolicella Saseti
The highlight for me though was the light bodied Valpolicella Classico ‘Saseti’ 2011 (€14.95); fermented in stainless steel with indigenous yeasts; unfiltered and unfined; this showed vibrant, juicy, fresh, and snappy red fruits with a rustic and earthy core. It didn’t have great length but it had energy, the sort of energy that I seem to find in many biodynamic wines and continues to fuel my further exploration of the topic.

There really was a lot to enjoy about the wines from Monte dall’Ora; they had personality, a feature that it so often lacking from a region whose winemaking styles, despite providing much drinking pleasure, frequently mask the underlying characteristics of the land. As with many wines of this type, they require a little patience and understanding however; don’t just dismiss these as wines lacking the immediate ‘oomph’ of other Ripassos and Amarones – they have an authenticity and drinkability that quickly won me, and incidentally my friend, over. The personality shown in the wines is also evident in the labelling of the Valpolicella Classico ‘Saseti’ with one in every six bottles festooned with handprints rather than the conventional labelling – a nice, quirky touch.

The wines of Monte dall’Ora are imported in Ireland by Le Caveau, Kilkenny.