Writing the title to this post, I accidentally started humming “sendin’ out an SOS…” – strangely apt, after all what is wine if not a “message in a bottle“? The message from Menti, a small family estate in Northern Italy’s Veneto, has a clear intent – these wines are strong, characterful and rather distinct from the usual light, fruity fare that one would expect.
It is naughty to mention Soave, since Menti are in the neighbouring DOC Gambellara. However Soave has become the reference point for this part of the Veneto and for the Garganega grape variety, albeit for dubious reasons – high yields and plentiful production assured its export success in the 1980s and 90s. In any case, Menti don’t seem too fond of their region’s DOC – on the labels they eschew it for the decidedly barbed “vino volutamente declassato” (“deliberately declassified wine”).
Garganega is the main focus of the family’s 7.5ha, shown in a beautiful light as “Riva Arsiglia”. This is a full bodied, textured reading of the grape, overflowing with rich pear and apricot fruit, plus a citrussy zing. For the geeks, I suspect it went through malolactic fermentation, although the freshness has not been lost.
Of greater interest to “orange weekly” was Monte del Cuca 2013 – also 100% Garganega, but this time fermented on the skins without temperature control for 22 days. Here, instead of ebullient fruit there’s a sense of mystery and complexity. There are fleeting glimpes of baked apple, savoury notes and caramel – plus a substantial tannic grip. Somehow this is achieved without loss of charm or balance. It’s tasty stuff, and I bet it’ll improve for another year or two.
Farming at Menti is biodynamic, with very little intervention in the winery (no added yeasts, filtering or fining). I’ve not met the Menti family, nor visited their estate (yet!), but these wines communicated much about Giovanni and his son Stefano’s passion, skill and daring. A message in a bottle indeed.