Last year I had the honor of aquainting myself with dynamic duo Marco Giovanni Zanetti and Mirco Gottardi – winemakers and owners of Zio Porco and Contrà Soarda near Bassano del Grappo, Veneto.
Although being born and raised in the same part of the world the two come from very different walks of life. Mirco comes from a long line of restauranteurs, and his family still owns a restaurant to this day. In 1999 he and his wife bought a 12 hectars of land outside of Bassano del Grappa, aiming at creating wines from a unique, vulcanic soil. Marco on the other hand grew up in Germany and spent years working as a sommelier in high-end restaurants in different parts of Europe and later as a wine critic, writer and general ‘enfant terrible’ according to the rest of the German wine trade.
What brought the two men together was a random event. A number of years ago Marco had the opportunity of tasting one of Mircos Pinot Nero wines. He fell in love with the wine as well as the style of winemakeing, and asked if Mirco would tutor him. Today Marco owns 6,5 hectars and leases 3,5 more. He also has a project called Gypsy Wines that sources grapes in Italy and Germany for simple but delicious table wines.
Both gentleman are highly eloquent and eager to share their insights on wine. They were also the hosts of a winemakers dinner that I had the chance to attend two weeks ago. The number of wines tasted that evening must have approached about 30 and the conversation veered between ‘the be or not to be of biodynamics’, ‘the terroir and name of Breganze’, ‘Veneto wines on the Norwegian market’ together with other, less serious topics. I did save extensive tasting notes of all the wines, but since my phone did a nose dive into water and oblivion a few days ago I only have the tasting notes from the red wines offered…
2009 Vignacorejo Pinot Nero Contrà Soarda
A bit sweet on the nose with aromas of lilacs and wet rose petals. Juicy, with an almost overpowering acidity. Middle length and dry finish with minimal but present tannins. Collected, dense and with reoccuring aromas coupled with ox meat and cooked tomatoes.
2010 Terre di Lava Breganzie Rosso Riserva Contrà Soarda
Soft supple aromas of dried liquorice, fern and soft leather. Quite integrated with an invigorating acidity and middle + length. Medium, somewhat rough tannins and a slightly unbalanced finish. Would benefit from some more ageing. A fresh and interesting take on Merlot.
2010 Porcone ‘Butchers’ Reserve IGT Veneto Zio Porco
Direct aromas of unoaked grappa as well as sea salt and red wine vinegar. Softer on the palate than expected. Juicy acidity and medium length. Elegant and interesting if somewhat aromatically anonymous at the moment. A new side of the Marzemino Nero grape.
2007 Musso Serafino Riserva Contrà Soarda
Beginning hints of maturity. Quite fiery on the nose with aromas of forest mushrooms. Juicy acidity and middle+, slightly rough tannins. Even finish with aromas of pepper and dried purple fruit. Can and should be aged longer before consumption. Impressive.
This wine – apart from being delicious – is an homage to the donkeys that help Mirco in the vineyards.
N.V. Porcobrut ‘Beasty Bubbles’ Metodo Classico Zio Porco
Love and tannins in an equal amount. This wine has grown more serious with each vintage. Made from 100% Marzemino Nero, vinified at Zio Porcos winery but fermented and aged by a well-known spumanteproducer in the region, it is both an homage to the band as well as an ideal companion to fatty chunks of meat as well as prosciutto.
The winemaker himself likens this wine to “Lambrusco on steroids”. A friend of mine who was also present at the dinner declared that the wine “Makes you kind of horny” after which she blushed and sat silent for almost half an hour.
2011 The Dead Monkey Pinot Noir Gipsy Wines
Richer fruit and aromas more reminiscent of New Zealand or cheaper American than Mosel. Good acidity and a few, but not overwhelming tannins. Good but not memorable.
As the evening drew to a close I took the opportuntiy to aska Mirco and Marco about 2016 thus far. They’ve had a very early budding – almost 15 days now. This is due to the extremely mild winter that has led to a common bewilderment amongst bees and to the almond and peach trees outside of the vineyard already being in bloom. In short both vignerons are scared to death of frost at the moment.