A Taste of History
Acinatico derives from the Latin, acinaticum, signifying grape or grape stone, and is the ancient name for Veronese Recioto wines. With the 1928 vintage the blend of grapes, comprising Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Molinara and Sangiovese, was exposed to an unusually extended drying period at the Bertani family cellars in the Valpolicella-Valpantena DOC. Piero Venturi, a long-time cellar master, vividly recalled the singular conditions of the 1928 vintage: hot, above-average temperatures and little precipitation, followed by an exceptionally cold, dry winter – in short, ideal conditions from which to produce a Recioto of truly outstanding quality. According to Venturi, the grape skins were exposed to a particularly long maturation, favoring an especially high sugar content.
The 1928 Acinatico was aged in a 60-hectoliter oak barrel, which exists to this day. In 1938, after about 10 years of barrel aging, the wine was bottled in specially purchased handmade bottles bought from a supplier in Verona. Such bottles were reserved exclusively for use with the finest wines of the period, such as Recioto, Marsala and Port.
In 1940, soon after the outbreak of WWII, German soldiers were billeted in a villa adjacent to the Bertani family’s cellar. Faced with loss of their entire stocks to thirsty German troops, the family determined to preserve at least their very best wines. The Acinatico was discreetly moved to the family’s Saccole farmstead and carefully walled in, to remain lost from sight and from mind, destined not to see the light of day for the next 40 years.
That was until 1984 when laborers carrying out construction work uncovered this extraordinary and forgotten cache of wine. Wood cases containing 7,500 bottles of the precious wine were carefully removed and returned to their original resting place in the Bertani family cellars as an important part of the family’s heritage.
Tastings showed that the wine was perfectly conserved and its enological condition spectaculur, due to the excellent storage conditions, a 17.8% alcohol content and an acidity level of 0.33%. Giovanni Bertani reports that a bottle recently opened was re-corked and then subsequently re-opened the next day – it’s freshness was astonishing.
Soon after the bottles were discovered, a decision was made that they would not be sold but preserved instead for special occasions. Four bottles were, however, put up for auction by Christie’s New York on January 12, 2001 and sold to a single buyer for $9,200. Some 2,500 bottles remain in Gaetano’s Bertani’s cellars today.