A trip to the Valpolicella to visit a new arrival: Vigneti di Ettore

The zone
The vineyards are all within the Valpolicella Classico area, in Negrar (province of Verona).

The history
The members of the Righetti family have been viticulturists for five generations.  A part of the property was purchased in 1915 and a part in 1932. The wines have been vinified and estate bottled starting from the 2011 vintage. Before then the estate was an associate of the “Cantina di Negrar”, a cooperative. The fresh and dried grapes were sold to the “Cantina di Negrar”. This cooperative sells bottled wine and, over the years, a very thorough work has been carried out on the quality of the vineyards carefully selecting the best plots in the estates and in the best areas. Ettore Righetti was the president of the Cantina di Negrar for which he worked for 53 years. Gabriele, Ettore’s grandson, is now finishing his studies in viticulture and oenology at the University of Trento.

The staff
Ettore Righetti manages the estate and is the agronomist and the oenologist supported by Gabriele. Two full time employees work at the estate and temporary employees work when needed. Furthermore, Ettore knows and is friendly with many professionals, due to his work at the Cantina di Negrar, who are always ready to provide suggestions and advice.

The vineyards
At present the grapes of 5 hectares are vinified and estate bottled. The vineyards are all on the hills of Negrar at an altitude between 250 and 400 meters above sea level. The exposure is south/west and south/east. The composition of the soil is very diversified: alluvial, basaltic tuff of volcanic origin, clayey, calcareous (in fact white calcareous rocks can be seen in the vineyards). The soil is rich in structure (skeletal) and this gives mineral notes, freshness and elegance to the wines. All this area was originally a tropical sea in the primordial times and fossils can be seen enclosed in the calcareous rocks. 
The age of the vines is 15-20 years and 30-40 years in the “historical” vineyards.
The grape varieties are the traditional and indigenous ones of the Valpolicella: 50% Corvina, 20% Corvinone, 15% Rondinella and 15% of other autochthonous varieties such as Croatina, Molinara, Pelara, Oseleta. A large part of the clones are from local nurseries or from a selection in old vineyards of the estate.
The vine training system is the traditional single and double “Pergola”. According to Ettore and Gabriele this is the most suitable system as the berries of the grape varieties have a particularly thin skin. This system provides a protection from the direct sunrays and from the mechanical action of the rain. Furthermore, a favourable microclimate is maintained under the canopy.  The vineyard density is 3,500 vines/hectare.

The type of viticulture
The type of viticulture is practicing organic: only copper and sulphur base products are sprayed and the grape moth is controlled with “Bacillus Thuringiensis” (a bacterium which is toxic for the larvae). No weed killers are utilised as a spontaneous crop cover is left on the aisles between the rows of vines. The grass is mowed once in May/June and once before the harvest.

The harvest
The harvest is carried out strictly by hand and the grapes are placed in “plateaux” (crates) of a capacity of 6.5 kilograms each. The grapes are carefully selected and picked a first time for the production of Valpolicella Ripasso, Amarone and Recioto, after which the grapes for the production of Valpolicella and for the Rosso Veronese IGT are picked.  

The 2015 harvest
“It was a marvellous harvest”. The Righetti family tells us. “We irrigated the vines that were up to 15 years old with a drip irrigation system. We picked the early ripening varieties at the end of August and we completed the harvest during the first week of October..”

The drying process of the grapes
At first the grapes were dried directly on the floor of an open attic without any equipment. Then the drying room was moved to the ground floor with windows that could be closed when the weather was bad. The grapes were dried on wooden shelves called “arele”. In 2003 an underground drying room was built and equipped with fans and with dehumidifiers. The temperature and the humidity of the air are checked many times during the day. The grapes are placed in wooden and in plastic crates which are stacked one on top of the other.

The cellar
A new modern cellar for vinification and ageing has been built underground and added to the room where the grapes are dried. The beautiful white local calcareous rock has been used for some of the floors and for the vaulted ceiling of the entrance and of the first room. The wines mature in tonneaux  (mainly French medium toasted oak) and in Slavonian oak casks of a capacity of 25-30 hectolitres.

The philosophy
“Our aim is to make “classical” wines.” The Righetti family tells us. “Authentic wines that respect the terroir they come from. Wines that express the character of our grapes and of our land. For this reason we decided to work very carefully in the cellar, in a “non-invasive” way and with a very measured use of wood. We do not like wines that are excessively supple or structured. We prefer wines that are fresh, with a right vein of acidity, which makes the wines drinkable and able to age. In conclusion, we would like our wines to be clean, well balanced and elegant, rather than powerful and opulent. ”

The wines
The indigenous grape varieties of the Valpolicella have a high acidity which the Righetti family try to underline maintaining, at the same time, a good balance. All the wines are extremely elegant, they have a pleasant acidity, a distinct cherry note (a delicious and crunchy cherry variety, “Mora di Cazzano”, grows on these hills) and a slight mineral note in the finish which is typical of the zone of Negrar. Tasting these wines makes one think of the white calcareous rocks in the vineyards. In fact the roots of the vines grow into the fissures of these rocks which are called “arsi” in the local dialect. One can see an example in the cellar. All these wines, including the Amarone, are easy to match with food.

The range of wines consists of:

Valpolicella Classico DOC
Grape varieties in the blend: 35% Corvina, 30% Corvinone, 25% Rondinella, 5% Dindarella, 5% Molinara.
Vineyard extension: 0.6 hectares
Average production/year: 6,500 bottles

Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore DOC
Grape varieties in the blend: 45% Corvina, 30% Corvinone, 15% Rondinella, 10% Croatina
Vineyard extension: 1.8 hectares
Average production/year: 15,000 bottles

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG
Grape varieties in the blend: 50% Corvina, 25% Corvinone, 10% Croatina, 10% Rondinella, 5% Oseleta
Vineyard extension: 1.3 hectares
Average production/year: 4,500 bottles

Recioto della Valpolicella Classico DOCG
Grape varieties in the blend: 40% Corvinone, 35% Corvina, 15% Rondinella, 10% Croatina
Vineyard extension: 0.7 hectares
Average production/year: 4,000 bottles

Rosso Veronese IGT Doline
Grape varieties in the blend: 60% Corvina, 30% Croatina, 10% Rondinella
Vineyard extension: 0.8 hectares
Average production/year: 9,000 bottles