Whistlestop Tour Around Zeni

On a recent visit to Lake Garda, I had the pleasure of visiting the Zeni Winery and Wine Museum. It came as quite a surprise as I hadn’t really intended to make any vineyard visits on what was something of a whistle-stop tour of the eastern shore.
We were staying at the idyllic family-run Ca’ Del Sol, not too far from the equally charming town of Lazise. If you get the opportunity to book a few days there, go! It’s a wonderful location and the brother and sister team of Paolo and Sabrina Pietropoli will give you a warm welcome.

I was spending time with a group of friends and one of my pals tipped off Sabrina’s partner that I had a bit of an interest in wine. “No problem,” he said, “I’ll make a call” and after a long lunch, we were bundled into the back of a mini van and carted off in the direction of the former fishing village of Bardolino. It was a beautiful route and I profited from the added bonus of a crash course in Italian driving! Anyway, puns aside, we made it and it was certainly worth the trip.

The Zeni winery was established in 1870 and sits up in the pretty hills above Bardolino. It is still a family run affair and we were greeted by Elena Zeni, one of the three-strong team who run the operation, now in its fifth generation.
The winery also encompasses the local wine museum, but time was short, so down we went into the coolness of the cellars to escape the afternoon sun. There we found a beautifully presented tasting area against the backdrop of a well-kept cantina. Taking a seat at a rather majestic round table, Elena left us in the capable hands of her staff who proceeded to take us through a few of the wines from their 25-hectare estate. Zeni also benefit from long-forged relationships with some of the region’s top growers, which enables them to create an impressive portfolio.

I stuck to the reds which included a youthful Valpolicella, a rich and flavoursome Ripasso Superiore and the Corvina dominated Cruino Rosso Veronese. All were handsome, well-made wines.

Of the Amarones, we were fortunate enough to sample two. The Zeni Amarone Barriques needed perhaps a little more time and, in my opinion was out-performed by the Ripasso. That said, they had clearly saved the best to last and it came in the form of the Nino Zeni 2010. This delightful Amarone is produced using the best grapes in plots located to the north of Verona. It is a wine designed to pay homage to the man who re-invigorated the modern vineyard and set the winery on its current course. For those who love their Amarone, this will not disappoint and the 2010 was an absolute treat – soft, intense and with more chocolate and cinnamon than you can shake a stick at.

It was a fantastic afternoon and I was very sorry to leave. So, next time you are planning a visit to Lake Garda, spare some time to look in on the Zeni family. They’ve been going strong for well over one hundred years. Long may that continue.

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