With the Presidential Decree dated 18 July 1969, the originally volcanic hills between Thiene and Bassano and the gravelly plains between the Astico and Brenta rivers, already cultivated with vineyards since the tenth century, were identified as the area of Breganze DOC wines.
Of this continuously evolving viticultural area, Breganze Torcolato DOC is certainly the flagship product, the crowning achievement. It is a wine of excellent ancient tradition, made from the Vespaiola grape variety, a variety unique to the DOC Breganze area. The antiquity of its origin and the continuous commitment to improve production techniques make it a truly remarkable product, worthy of the ever-growing number and quality of its admirers.
The DOC Breganze vineyards extend to the foot of the south side of Altopiano dei Sette Comuni, the high ridge of mountains from which the view opens up to the whole Venetian plain. The major wineries of the DOC area are established among the picturesque hills and in the most suitable areas of the immediate plains. It starts from the valley of Astico, the extreme western border of the foothills, and extends, among enchanting caves and countless valleys, to the opposite Brenta valley. The city of Breganze, which gives it its name, is almost the geographical centre of this DOC area. The other cornerstones are Thiene to the west and Marostica and Bassano del Grappa to the east. Overall, the municipalities included, in whole or in part, in the DOC area are: Breganze, Rugliano, Sarcedo, Fara Vicentino, Montecchio Precalcino, Mason Vicentino, Molvena, Pianezze, Salcedo, Marostica, Sandrigo, Schiavon and Bassano.
The vines are grown mainly on volcanic, morainic and tuffaceous hilly terrain, but also in the plains, where, over the course of geological time, the strength of the streams has accumulated nearly 400 metres of white gravel, which is an excellent substrate for grapevines. The gravel, in fact, retains less water and has the power to reverberate sun rays and sometimes the grapes produced there are even better than those from the hills.
Following easy routes, one can come across peaceful districts or valleys, worked intensively since ancient times, where, like in a travelling museum, remaining traits of the most ancient and genuine farming tradition can be admired. Here, there are signs that bear witness to a rich historical tradition, including a particular view of the origins of civilisation, the glories of the Roman Empire, the era of the Middle Ages, the glories of the Venetian Republic, and also the tragedy of the Great War.
From the point of view of wine, the DOC involves a number of wines that are very different from each other. Here is an introduction to the Breganze DOC, one by one, pointing out that an update of the guidelines decreed in 1995 awarded oenological practices which were previously excluded.
Let's start with Vespaiolo, produced purely from grapes of the vine of the same name, which is only grown here. It is a classic wine of a straw yellow colour, rather strong, with an intense and fruity aroma and a slightly aromatic characteristic, with a fresh and pleasantly sour flavour. Precisely for this reason, it pairs with fish, including eel, trout and cod. It also pairs well with traditional local cuisine: Asiago cheese and Bassano asparagus with eggs. It is excellent as an aperitif. If made from grapes of particular or selected vineyards, with an alcohol content slightly higher than average, it may bear the Superiore label.
Breganze Bianco is basically a Tocai, which can be fermented with a small amount of other white grapes if present in the vineyard. The colour is straw yellow with a vinous, delicately intense aroma and a dry flavour. Rounded and full-bodied. A good all-round white wine, it goes especially well with fish dishes but also goes very well with white meats. Breganze Bianco, if produced from selected grapes, can attain the additional Superiore qualification.
Breganze Chardonnay belongs to the "second generation" of this DOC. Obtained almost purely from grapes of the vine of the same name, it offers its unique and eclectic features to this area. It has a beautiful straw yellow colour. It has a balanced and pleasantly soft taste. It has an intense and pleasantly aromatic scent. It is a wine for all occasions and can be paired with a wide range of food. If Breganze Chardonnay is produced from selected grapes, it can attain the additional Superiore qualification.
Breganze Sauvignon is also a result of the last update of the guidelines and represents a new selling point for this DOC. Made almost purely from the grapes of the vine of the same name, it is enhanced by the personality of the land and climate of this area, characteristics that have made it famous also elsewhere. Delicate more or less aromatic bouquet, which favours a fine, pleasant and harmonious taste, rounded in some cases by the taste of wood. Breganze Sauvignon can also qualify as Superiore.
Breganze Rosso in short, re-candidates the strength and characteristics of Merlot grapes from which it is purely obtained, with the possibility of using a small percentage of other black grapes if they are present in the vineyard. The colour is bright ruby red, the scent is vinous, pleasant, expressive, distinctive, sometimes slightly herbaceous, the taste is dry, robust, smooth, full-bodied and slightly tannic.
It is a wine that can offer a lot, certainly to appreciate, which is at its best after two/three years.
Great with all meals; when aged, it does not fear formidable roasts but rather becomes the perfect complement. It can obtain the Superiore title if made from selected grapes and the additional qualification Riserva if placed on the market after ageing for at least two years.
With similar dishes, Breganze Cabernet can also be paired, made from Cabernet Franc and/or Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Carmenère. This wine best expresses the personality of the vineyard of origin, now spread all over the world. The colour is dark ruby red with garnet hues, accentuated by ageing. Very intense, pleasing and distinctive nose. The taste is full-bodied, strong, dry, austere, slightly tannic and sometimes herbaceous. Ageing does not harm it but rather enhances its natural nobility. If made from grapes of selected quality, resulting in a higher natural alcohol content, it can qualify as Superiore and can also bear the additional qualification of Riserva if placed on the market after ageing for at least two years.
Breganze Cabernet Sauvignon is made almost purely from grapes of the vine of the same name, from which it gets its pleasant characteristics. Intense ruby red colour, tending towards garnet with ageing. It has a herbaceous fragrance with an intense and persistent vinous, distinctive aroma, at times sweetened by the smell of the wood in which it is aged, which also adjusts and rounds the full and velvety flavour. An excellent all-round wine, refined, personal, able to accompany almost all dishes.
Breganze Cabernet Sauvignon can have the Superiore title if made from selected grapes, and the additional Riserva title if placed on the market after ageing for at least 2 years.
Breganze Marzemino also recognized with the Denomination of Controlled Origin with the latest change in the guidelines, highlights the strength and appeal of a century-old local wine tradition. Obtained almost purely from grapes of the vine of the same name, it is a beautiful ruby red wine, often lively, with a very intense distinctive aroma, of personal and very pleasant taste. Sometimes, depending on the processing, it is aged and softened by the flavour of wood. It can attain the Superiore title if made from selected grapes, and the additional Riserva title if placed on the market after ageing for at least 2 years.
Breganze Pinot Noir deserves a special mention, vinified from black grapes from a particular local biotype, derived the noble and famous vineyards of the same name. The colour is ruby red with shades of brick. The aroma is delicate and the taste is dry and fruity with a bitter aftertaste, which places it at the top of domestic wines made from these grapes. Even the Pinot Noir, if produced from selected grapes, can have the Superiore qualification and additional Riserva qualification if placed on the market after ageing for at least 2 years. Truly a great all-round wine, which can be paired with red meat dishes and roasts.
Breganze Pinot Bianco obtained purely from grapes of the vine of the same name, it has a very pale straw yellow colour, dry but very smooth and velvety taste. The aroma is delicate, pleasing and distinctive. It is a respectable white wine, all-round and ideal for fish dishes. If produced from selected grapes and vineyards, Breganze Pinot Blanc can also have the Superiore qualification.
Finally, there is Breganze Pinot Grigio, a particular grape variety, obtained purely from grapes of the vine of the same name, which is vinified here to obtain a dry wine. Sometimes yellow in colour with very distinctive pinkish hues. Delicate and with pleasant aromatic sensations.
Even this wine, if produced from quality grapes can have the Superiore qualification. Excellent all-round wine, but also good as an aperitif. It pairs nicely with both fish and white meat dishes. It also pairs with Asiago cheese and sausages.
The name "Torcolato" is surely handed down from the ancient Venetian tradition and even seems to be a case in point.
It is a wine made from grapes left to wither twisted around strings hanging from beams of dry and ventilated attics of typical houses in the hills. The grapes are then "torcolate", that is gently pressed and a thick and golden must is obtained, which attains a bright amber colour when aged.
Its bouquet expands into an extraordinarily rich and fine aroma of ripe fruit, exotic fruit, honey, wood and vanilla, mixed in an elegant harmonious complexity. In the mouth, it expands into unmistakable, large and slow arches of flavour. The wine reveals a complex sweetness which is not trivial or cloying. It is very balanced with appropriate acidity, freshness and a slightly bitter aftertaste. The taste, especially in products of the finest quality, shows maturity and balance. It is an extraordinary wine, sturdy and stylish at the same time, which is distinguished by great body and depth. When properly aged, it can reflect superbly integrated wood flavour and acidity.
It has been produced in noble houses but also in the most humble farms since antiquity. Drunk at the end of meals in precious glasses in the villas of the rich or sipped in more rustic mugs by farmers in the countryside with just as good taste, who treasured it most of all as a valuable and effective medicine, able to restore vigour to the body exhausted from hard work.
Torcolato has been described over the centuries, although with more generic names, by historians, travellers and writers: "Precious" or "extremely precious wine" in ancient times, "exquisite Vinsanto" and "very sweet Pasquale" in the eighteenth-century rhymes of "Rocolo Ditirambo" by the poet from Vicenza, Aureliano Acànti.
Various documents describe its preparation. In older sources, as in the most recent and innovative ones, certain fundamental characteristic steps are recognised: harvesting the grapes taking care to select the healthiest and most sugary clusters (and sometimes the grapes); withering, which is an important and delicate step lasting for several months in dry and ventilated attics of peasant homes during which the grapes must be protected from the attack of parasites that may affect the quantity.
During this phase, they lose some of their weight due to water evaporating from the grape, while concentrating the sugar content. Finally, the selection of the healthiest withered grapes, their pressing and, once the fermentation of the must obtained is finished, the longer or shorter ageing of the wine, in small oak barrels.
Bottling concludes the production phases after which, according to expert opinion, the most carefully produced and preserved wines from the best vintages can further evolve and age, improving in quality for another ten years and more.
On the type of grape harvested to get the famous wine, the ancient and modern documents differ only on some small details related to the evolution of viticulture itself, which has favoured different varieties of grapes over the centuries. The largest percentage of grapes for production has always been the Vespaiola variety.
The Vespaiola grape takes its name from the fact that it is particularly sugary and thus beloved by wasps ("vespe"). It is a variety of unknown origin and now unique to the area of "Breganze".
Torcolato is thus produced from Vespaiola grapes, with the addition in smaller quantities of Tocai, Garganega, and sometimes Pedevenda or Durella (at the beginning of the last century there was also Piccolit of local production).
Drinking a glass is an experience not to be missed; neither is the satisfaction of keeping a few bottles in your cellar, to be enjoyed while thinking of fond memories or during pleasant and romantic moments.