Matilde Poggi at Le Fraghe had a problem. Her family winery, on the eastern shore of Lake Garda in Veneto, grows Corvina and Rondinella to blend into their excellent Bardolino. As the 2010 vintage was bountiful, she had more Rondinella than was usual and was unsure precisely what to do with it. Not her favorite grape to begin with, Sra. Poggi counts on Rondinella to add structure and herbal notes to the dominate Corvina. Rondinella is seldom bottled separately, and if it is, the wine may not be called “Bardolino”,instead, it must be labeled as a ‘IGT’ Rosso, a simple ‘table wine’ from Veneto.
Bardolino is one of those wine regions that delight wine geeks and confuse the rest of the public. Located in north-eastern Italy, within the Veneto DOC, Bardolino is known as a medium bodied red, fragrant and crisp, a wine for the table. It shares grapes and style with its better know neighbor, Valpolicella, but does not have the benefit of a local wine behemoth (you remember Bolla?) or a powerhouse wine (Amarone) to draw the attentions of the wine press.
Typically, Bardolino is aged in stainless steel, in order to allow its bright and fresh tart cherry flavors to shine. But Rondinella, without the more fruity Corvina, needed a different approach. Poggi fermented the grapes in stainless and then aged the wine in old oak casks, with the intent being to bottle in 8 months or so. For better or worse, she forgot about the wine, which remained in barrel for 3 more years.
When the wine was remembered, and sampled, Poggi was amazed. The herbal character of the grapes remained, but softened, the scarcity of fruit was transformed into a graceful savory berry tinged nectar and the enlivening acidity remained. The wine was different and delicious.
The name of the wine, ‘Chelidon’ comes from the ancient Greek and it means “swallow”, the translation of Rondinella from Italian. Two swallows, whose tails become roots, are drawn on the label. It symbolises the long historic roots of the Rondinella grape in the Bardolino wine region. It’s a homage to the grape, the vineyard and the region. There are no plans to ever make this wine again.
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