Celebrating 120+ years of wine

By Shelley Boettcher

In 1898, the United States invaded Cuba and declared war on Spain. Hawaii became part of the U.S. A speed record for automobiles was set—at 63 kilometres per hour! And, in Italy, one Pietro Sartori—a restaurateur and father of five—bought his first vineyards in Negrar, the heart of Italy’s famous Valpolicella wine region.

Flash forward 120 years. Sartori di Verona wines are sold in more than 70 countries, including Canada; in fact, more than 80 per cent of Sartori’s wines are exported beyond Italy.

Sartori di Verona is now one of the largest and oldest family-owned wineries in the Veneto region and Andrea Sartori—the fourth generation of the family and great-grandson of Pietro—is now the Sartori president, a role he has held since 2000.

He has earned his role at the top. In addition to managing the Italian market for a few years, he lived in the U.S. for a time. He is also president of Consorzio Italia del Vino and president of Consorzio Tutela Vini Valpolicella. He also serves on the board of directors of Federoc Roma, an organization that focuses on protecting the authenticity and integrity of Italian wine.

Andrea was in Canada briefly recently to promote Sartori di Verona. He was here to celebrate the release of Sartori’s three limited-edition commemorative wines, made to celebrate the winery’s 120th anniversary.

While the anniversary was in 2018, the wines are only now available in Canada. Each bottle features a vintage label modelled after labels from the 1950s and 1960s found in the winery’s archives. And each wine is made from single-vineyard estate grapes, hand-selected from the winery’s more than 2,300 hectares of vineyards.

Valpolicella, incidentally, is a viticultural zone located in the Veneto; Italy’s eighth-largest region, the Veneto region is located in Northeastern Italy and includes the cities of Venice, Verona and Treviso.

Sartori 120th Anniversary 2016 Valpolicella Superiore(Veneto, Italy)

Bright, medium-bodied, easy-drinking, food-friendly and delicious, this is one of the better Valpolicellas on the market in Alberta these days. “Sharing is art,” says Andrea and his team. “And welcoming is a gift.” Share away, I say. About $30.

Sartori 120th Anniversary 2015 Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore

(Veneto, Italy)

Ripasso means “re-passed” and refers to the fact the wine has been refermented on Amarone skins; it offers some of the Amarone characteristics, but at a much lower price. While not quite as intense and full-bodied as Amarone, it’s still elegant, dark and delicious, with some of those same spicy cinnamon and clove notes, plenty of richness and body on the palate, and a gloriously long, generous finish. About $33.

Sartori 120th Anniversary 2012

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico (Veneto, Italy)

Oh, I love a fine Amarone. What red wine drinker doesn’t? Made from grapes that have been dried first for a few weeks to intensify flavours, this rich, velvety, dark, full-bodied, high-alcohol spicy red is loaded with cinnamon, clove, dark cherry, plum (even a hint of pomegranate!) flavours and aromas. If you’ve never had an Amarone before, this is an outstanding place to start. Classy, well-balanced and smooth, it would be a fine addition to a holiday dinner table, as it’s drinking well now (open about 30 minutes before serving). Also a good cellar candidate—and a beautiful gift for someone special. About $66.