VALPOLICELLA, VENETO • CERTIFIED ORGANIC
Paolo Zardini lives wine. He has been involved in winemaking since the age of 16, working in wineries big and small throughout the Valpolicella before recently acquiring Tenuta Chevalier.
Paolo is a big, jolly guy who has so much to share about the wine region he loves. Having experiences in different local wineries before purchasing his own, he has a very good grasp on what wines from the Valpolicella wines should taste like and how to maintain the integrity of such wines. I admire Paolo for also being on the front lines in terms of education. He has welcomed in students and groups from the University of Chicago for years, even taking on interns to help them learn the winemaking process and understand the Valpolicella region. He takes great pride in this and is sure to remind me each time I visit.
Chevalier is an organic small batch winery and, like many others in the Valpolicella, is on a main road in the town of San Pietro in Cariano. You pull up to what looks like any other ordinary building in the town, but immediately you realize this is not so ordinary. The winery has to be a hundred years old, with many signs of the way wine used to be made in this region. On the ground level, there still exists a spot where the wine would come in and, after removing the stems, the wine would flow down into the basement where it would ferment. Traditionally, that wine would then be moved to massive cement holding tanks for aging. Now it is just for show and you can stand in the tanks were wines once lined and see the permanent stain it left on the walls!
Currently, the ground floor is where almost all the action happens. This is where you find the massive “botti,” the big barrels of 50 HL where most of the wines will age in, including a barrel of Amarone from 2000 that is still aging!
The winery was founded by a family from Burgundy close to 100 years ago. They sold the property in the 50s to Paolo’s father in law who decided to keep the name based on the reputation the winery had created for itself.
Paolo’s vineyards are located in Negrar in the Classico D.O.C. Valpolicella zone, arguably the heart of Amarone. The soil here is what is the key in Paolo’s opinion. The soil has a high concentration of clay, marble-lime and tufaceous layers, making it very suitable to wine cultivation. This particular soil composition helps with ripening, giving the wines consistency and the unique characteristics that make them world renowned.
In total Tenuta Chevalier constists of about 10 hectares of property. This is split between two different small properties located in two of the principle valleys of the Valpolicella. The reason for this is to be able to utilize grapes from different parts of the region to help create unique and balanced wines.
For example, the small property near the town of Marano provide elegance to Amarone, while those coming from Negrar instead provide more power. This comes down, of course to the soil the wine is planted in. The property in Negrar is located at about 450 meters and vines are planted in a heavy clay. This property is gorgeous and provides for a fantastic view of the valley below and Verona in the distance. It is East/West facing, is well ventilated and is exposed to the sun for most of the day. Vines here are an average of 60 years old, most of which are actually still planted on native rootstock! This is quite a rare occurrence as other pages on this website will tell you. The size of this property is 4 hecatres.
In the town of Marano Paolo owns 6 hectares. The vines are located at 300 meters. Here you find clay but also some limestone. This gives more elegance and salinity to the wines here. The vines here are about 40 years old. The important thing to note is that neither site is located in a valley, thus is constantly kissed by the sun and lovely breezes. This is important to note as generally a wine produced from vines in the valleys of the Valpolicella will be less interesting and lack balance.
The vines on both properties are trained in a system called “inclined open pergoletta,” with rows forming an open canopy to help bring grapes to a perfect maturity. Particularly in hilly areas (where you will find these vineyards) Paolo feels that this is the best way to control maturity in what can be a very warm climate despite the benefit of elevation.
Paolo uses a “natural fertilizer” planting alternate rows of local plant life every year. He weeds constantly to be sure his vines are getting the right amount of water and treats vines with natural remedies like copper and sulfur.
On average Tenuta Chevalier plants close to 4,000 plants per hectare. Yield are in the vicinity of 90 tons per acre, with even more selection for the Amarone. This is a small farm, who produce close to 20,000 bottles while selling off about half of their grapes to other wineries. They have the capacity to produce close to 80,000 bottles with the land they own.
Lastly, Paolo has three “huts” for drying the grapes destined for Amarone. None of this process is artificial as he leaves the windows open at each location and lets nature do the work. This is “old school” Amarone production as many have reverted to machines that help dry the grapes in a more controlled environment.
Varietal : Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara
Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso
Varietal : Corvina Veronese 40%, Corvina Grossa 20%, Rondinella 30%, Molinara 5%, Oseleta 5%
Varietal : Corvina 100%
Amarone Della Valpolicella
Varietal : Corvina 80%, Molinara 10%, Rondinella 10%
Amarone Della Valpolicella Riserva
Varietal : Corvina 80%, Molinara 10%, Rondinella 10%
Visit Tenuta Chevalier’s Website
(It’s in English!)