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Giuseppe Quintarelli, Maestro del Veneto

Kevin Peterson

During a time of mass production & careless winemaking in the Veneto of northeast Italy, Giuseppe Quintarelli sought to give his grapes & the winemaking process the time & care that they required in order to produce exceptional, uncompromised wine. Vigorous pruning, low yields, & painstaking patience in the cellar have cultivated a level of quality unmatched in the region and achieved mythic status for Quintarelli. Giuseppe is the Maestro del Veneto, and his wines are the region’s benchmark.

Called Bepi by his friends and family, Giuseppe grew up sharecropping with his father & siblings in the province of Verona. His father Silvio eventually purchased land after WW I, and Giuseppe started working the estate in the 1950s. He strived to produce the greatest wines possible, never mind the expense, time, & work that it would require. He was relentlessly experimental at first, looking to the innovations and progressive winemaking techniques of his time. Ultimately, though, he came realized that the traditional methods passed down by his family rang true.

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Today’s wine market can often feel polarizing, with mass-produced, boozy bottles obstinately opposing bright, young, juicy natural wines that exude barnyard funk like self-righteous hippies. Wines like Quintarelli, however, stand apart, having little to do with either side of the current equation. Like Marlon Brando or James Dean, they are talked about extensively, but they don’t condescend to engage in the conversation.

Wines like Quintarelli are so important because they neither appeal to the masses nor subscribe to trends. Giuseppe's approach is refreshing & inspiring. He is Cool Hand Luke eating 50 eggs in an hour. I believe Harry Kalas once famously referred to him as, “The Man.” But seriously, the Quintarelli wines reach mesmerizing levels of depth & complexity. They complicate the natural wine conversation because in most respects they are natural, yet they don’t advertise as such or taste like the bright & barnyard wines that are currently trending. The wines ask us to think deeply about what's in our glass, requiring more thoughtful responses than, "This is good, and that is bad," or, "I like this, but I don't like that." They're challenging & rare, and we’re lucky to have them. In the 11-year history of the shop, we’ve only carried them on one other occasion. This time around the entire Nashville market only received one case of three different Quintarelli wines, and we received half of the allocation.

The Primafiore, which translates to first flower, is a blend of corvina, corvinone, cabernet sauvignon, & cabernet franc. After ripening in wooden boxes, the cabernet sauvignon grapes are partially dried whereas the others are freshly pressed. Fermentation starts naturally with indigenous yeasts, and then the wine is aged several years in Slovenian oak barrels. With an elegant texture, Primafiore is marked by notes of savory herbs, blue fruit, leather, & spice. It's the youngest red wine released by the estate, and its

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The Valpolicella Classico Superiore is a blend of corvina, corvinone, & rondinella. Half the grapes are pressed immediately following harvest, and the other half are dried for two months. After a natural fermentation, the wine is racked and sits until February when it is racked again onto the lees of the Amarone, starting a second fermentation (a process called ripasso). After the second fermentation, the wine is aged for seven years in Slovenian oak. The Valpolicella is captivating with juicy red fruit, baking spice, violets, herbs, & find tannins.

Rosso Ca’ del Merlo is a single vineyard bottling of corvine, corvinone, rondinella, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, nebbiolo, croatina, & sangiovese. Like the Valpolicella, half the grapes are dried for two months, the wine is racked over the lees of the Amarone, and then aged seven years on Slovenian oak. Rosso Ca' del Merlo has a smoky & mineral element, along with notes of cherry, leather, & violets. The vines for all three wines are on average 30 years old and rooted in soils of limestone & basalt. And each wine is capable of aging for a decade or more.

Giuseppe passed away in 2012, but his daughter & son in law, Fiorenza & Giampaolo, along with their children, Francesco & Lorenzo, are keeping the legacy alive. If you're interested in reading more about Giuseppe’s life, Check Out this thoughtful article by Eric Asimov that appeared in the New York Times following his death.

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Giuseppe Quintarelli  Primafiore
Veneto, Italy
Corvina, Corvinone, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc
$72

Giuseppe Quintarelli Rosso Ca' del Merlo
Veneto, Italy
Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Nebbiolo, Croatina, Sangiovese
$112

Giuseppe Quintarelli
Valpolicella Classico Superiore, Veneto, Italy
Corvina, Molinara, Rondinella
$112