This year Italian heavyweight Masi celebrates the release of its 50th edition of Campofiorin with the 2014 vintage. A decadent lunch marked the occasion with a Campofiorin vertical hosted by chief winemaker Andrea Dal Cin.
Taking place at Angela Hartnett’s restaurant, Murano, in London, the tasting focused on deconstructing the appassimento process. Starting with a fresh Pinot Grigio and lightly dried Verduzzo, followed by fresh Molinara, Rondinella and Corvina, and semi-dried Molinara, Rondinella and Corvina; tasters examined the individual components that make up the finished products: Bonacosta 2016, Campofiorin 2014, and Costasera 2012.
The semi-dried grapes that have gone through the appassimento process bring a sweet, honey-like smoothness to the wines. This effect is caused by two compounds: gluconic acid (associated with botrytis) and glycerine. With the correct balance between fresh and dry, the wines can be lively, embody red berry notes, and potentially have long term ageability. The Costasera 2012 shows a stronger element of sweetness, which can be derived from its majority Corvina blend (70%) – a grape that reacts faster and more positively to the appassimento process, bringing tannin, body, aroma and delicate perfume notes.
“We are really proud of the 2014,” said Dal Cin. The Campofiorin 2014 incorporates a blend of both fresh and dry grapes; the blend is made up of 70% fresh Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella, and 30% of semi-dried grapes of the same varieties.
Celebrating the 50th edition of Campofiorin with the 2014 vintage, Masi presented a Campofiorin vertical to explore its capacity for aging through the 1993, 1997, 2007 and 2014 vintages. The ’93 was opened shortly before serving with no decanting; it is “a great example of Campofiorin wine,” said Dal Cin. Rustic and earthy, flavors of orange came through and the aftertaste brought flavors of liquorice candy. The dried fruit flavors of the ’97 came to life with the meal, and the 2007 was fresh and balanced.
Masi strives to produce the highest quality appassimento grapes, and to do so the winery undergoes a great deal of experimentation in conjunction with Italian universities, including the University of Milan, to fully understand the key influences in the appassimento process. One significant discovery was forming a mathematical correlation between the speed of the appassimento process and the structure of the grape, namely the grape’s average volume, skin thickness and hardness, and grape spacing in the bunch, resulting in an algorithm. The algorithm dictates that the speed of appassimento is equal to the density of the grape bunch divided by the total thickness of the skin multiplied by hardness multiplied by the average grape volume. This is also dependent on grape type, and the temperature and humidity of the location used for appassimento.
Other areas of research include the climate, which has proved more impactful than the soil, architecture of the canopy and its microclimate (using Guyot or Pergola canopy structures), supports used in appassimento e.g. plastic, wooden, and so on, how the vines grow e.g. slope angle. Extensive experimentation has led to changing the vineyards from Guyot to Pergola. Although it’s more costly, they are convinced it is better in the long run.
Masi’s aim is to lengthen the appassimento process for as long as possible, whereas in general the consorzio tends to do the opposite. Following successful trials, Masi has patented certain techniques, such as the ‘Ripasso’ process, and using special boxes for appassimento. Masi will potentially patent a type of stainless steel tank used for extracting grape pips during vinification.
Campofiorin has shown it has exciting capacity for ageing thanks to its balanced levels of appassimento and Masi’s commitment to quality and research. Here’s to the next 50 years!