We first visited Corte Adami four years ago on a recommendation from a Lucca sommelier who was a regular buyer of their wine. We quickly became admirers of both their Soave white wine range and their various Valpolicella red wines and because they provide such great quality for the price we bought several cases of them to serve at our wedding a couple of years ago, which is probably as good a recommendation as you’re ever likely to find by people writing about wine.
So it’s just as true for Corte Adami as for all the other wineries we recommend, that we put our money where our mouth is and buy for our own consumption, not something that can often be said of wine writers whether amateur or professional.
Corte Adami is very much a family business with two sisters, Martina and Giulia, running the commercial operations and logistics, the brother, Andrea, being the oenologist and the father, Angelo, having the last word on important decisions and acting as the estate’s agronomist. Gaetano, the grandfather, is also involved as the viticulturalist.
The farming activities of Corte Adami go back several generations through their ownership of prime plots of land near the town of Soave (above and below) and in the eastern part of Valpolicella not far from Verona. The grapes from their vineyards were traditionally supplied to some of the most important wine producers in both regions until in 2004 they took the decision to retain their best white grapes and make Soave themselves under the new Corte Adami label.
Every wine story is different in its details but there are similarities here to others we have told and the recent history of Corte Adami provides yet more evidence that the best qualified and most motivated people to make great wine are those who actually grow the grapes and understand all the nuances of the vineyards that they cultivate.
The last 17 years have seen the family make progress cautiously and deliberately, never getting ahead of themselves and making sure that the burgeoning reputation of the Corte Adami label would not be compromised. In 2008 they repeated the process with their best red wine grapes by adding their range of Valpolicella wines to their label and finally in 2017 they stopped selling grapes entirely and vinified 100% of their harvest themselves. However, only the best 40% of the wine they make carries the Corte Adami label, with the remaining amount sold separately. Quality considerations here very much supercede short term commercial interests.
Being a family with roots in the vineyard and generations of experience tending vines, Corte Adami practices sustainable viticulture, ensuring biodiversity and minimal chemical applications. The proof of their careful stewardship of the land is in the certification granted by the (EU recognized) Italian Sustainable Quality Association (SQNPI). It was formally awarded to Corte Adami for the 2020 harvest and the back label on their bottles for vintages after this date will show this seal.
It’s a certification that stresses environmentally friendly practices throughout the vineyard and requires strict adherence to biodiversity protocols.
The Corte Adami Soave vineyards make up about 75% of their land. 26 hectares lie within the Soave DOC boundaries and a further hectare is inside the Classico zone. Their most important vineyards are located in the Castelcerino hills at over 1,000 feet of elevation looking down on the walled town of Soave itself. Castelcerino is one of the famous areas of Soave and is now recognized officially as one of the 33 cru that can be added to wine labels by producers in this sub-zone to indicate the exact provenance of the wine. Corte Adami produces two of its three regular Soave wines from its vineyards here, both of them 100% Garganega grape wines.
The first one, Cimalta Soave Classico, whose name reflects the location of the one hectare plot at the highest point of the cru where the grapes grow, is produced from 35 year old vines and is a Soave Classico DOC. The second one, Vigna della Corte Soave Superiore, is from a 3.5 hectare single vineyard of the same name using grapes from 40 year old vines in more of a riserva wine style.
Castelcerino lies on a fault line where volcanic soils give way to loamy clay soils of calcareous origin (formed from the crushed and decayed shells and bones of sea creatures) and the Corte Adami vineyards in the Castelcerino reflect these soil combinations.
Their third Soave, the entry level Soave DOC, is a blend of Garganega from Castelcerino and Trebbiano di Soave (the same grape in fact as Verdicchio) from the vineyards surrounding their winery just below the town of Soave. This Soave DOC was the very first wine Corte Adami made under their own label in 2004. As we would expect, none of the Corte Adami white wines undergo malolactic conversion and all are fermented and aged in stainless steel to maintain freshness, aroma and acidity.
There is one other Soave that can’t be described as a regular bottling because it is only made in exceptional years and even then in very small quantities, so you will probably have to be both lucky and physically present at the winery to find a bottle. It’s called Decennale and it is a non-filtered dry wine made from overripe grapes from the Cru Vigna della Corte vineyard in the Castelcerino hills.
In eastern Valpolicella the Corte Adami vineyard on the Mezzomonte estate near the village of Ferrazze covers 10 hectares, has a south-west exposure, is located at an elevation of about 800 feet, contains mostly clay and calcareous soils and was planted 35-50 years ago.
They produce two regular Valpolicella bottlings, a simple Valpolicella DOC which is the newest wine in their line-up and one we had not seen before and a Valpolicella Superiore. There is also a Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore and an Amarone della Valpolicella. The process for each wine is different but the grapes are the same, largely Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella, all sourced from their own vineyard. The aging vessels here are also a more complicated story than with Soave. Stainless steel, tonneaux and barriques are all used for the red wines and the specific details for each wine will accompany the tasting notes further down.
To complete the full range of Corte Adami wines there is a Brut Rosé spumante called Rosa Croina, which is a 100% Corvina sparkling wine, with 'Croina' being the word in the local dialect for this grape. Last, but certainly not least because we love this wine, is a Recioto di Soave which is a medium sweet wine made from 100% Garganega grapes dried for at least 4 months and normally sold in half bottles.
Corte Adami now produces 175,000 bottles per annum with 70% of the total sold abroad. In addition to the more traditional markets for Italian wines (the US, Germany, the UK etc) they have found promising new markets in Japan (Soave goes quite well with Japanese food) Russia, Eastern Europe, Australia and Scandinavia. This has become a familiar story to us and we have found that living in Italy it is often easier to find many good quality Italian wines in overseas markets than it is to find them in their homeland. At least with Corte Adami we can always buy their wines directly from Martina, but relatively few wineries in Italy offer on-line sales to consumers and mostly you need to be physically in their tasting room to buy directly. Quality wine making in Italy is now very much an export dependent industry.
We will be publishing separate travel articles on this whole area of Veneto, including the Valpolicella hills and the towns of Soave and Verona but suffice to say that it is a fabulous area of Italy to visit and explore. Corte Adami should be high up on your list for a visit and tasting to buy their wines and not only because their wines merit your attention but also because as one of the family owners, Martina will give you the benefit of her deep knowledge of the territory, the characteristics of Soave and Valpolicella in general and of course the Corte Adami range in detail.
There are two great resources that people can access at home. First, the Corte Adami website, where you will find a series of short 2-3 minute tasting videos on each wine conducted by Martina in perfect English and second, the excellent Soave Consortium website ilsoave.com where you will find details and short videos on all of the 33 Soave cru and Martina again co-starring in the Castelcerino cru video (above). This is a very informative website and better than most regional Consortium websites we have seen.
Rosa Croìna Millesimato 2020 - Spumante Brut Rosé
(both first and second fermentations in stainless steel, 12% alcohol)
The Corvina grapes are picked early in September to ensure freshness and acidity and contact with the skins during maceration is limited to three hours to get the perfect light pinkish color.
Fresh strawberries on the nose. Perfectly dry on the palate with good acidity. A light and vibrant summer wine that provides an alternative to good prosecco. Fairly priced at 11 euros.
Soave 2020 - Soave DOC
(aged on its lees for 2 months before bottling, 12% alcohol)
This is exactly the type of wine that we reach for during the long hot Italian summer. It's crisp, refreshing and pleasantly acidic but the essential character of the Garganega grape shines through in citrus and apple flavors so while it may be a lightish, simple wine it's not lacking in definition or taste. Garganega is a delicately flavored grape which requires a minimalist winemaking style that Corte Adami provides. There's also some Trebbiano di Soave in the blend here which complements the acidity. Perfect with or without food and very good value below 9 euros.
CimAlta 2020 - Soave Classico DOC
(aged on its lees for 2 months before bottling, 13% alcohol)
Straw yellow with green reflections. Strong perfume of honeysuckle and pear with just a hint of more tropical type fruit in the background. This is quite a luscious, rich wine and much less steely and austere than many simpler Soave wines but there’s still a spine of acidity and minerality running through it that keeps everything crisp and fresh and completely dry.
This wine provides yet more evidence that some of Italy's best white wines come from volcanic soils. The Cimalta is definitely a food wine for us and pares well with many lighter summer dishes. A classic Garganega Soave from an excellent vineyard and priced under 10 euros it's tremendous value.
Vigna della Corte 2018 - Soave Superiore DOCG
(aged on its lees for 5 months before bottling, 13.5% alcohol)
Made from late harvested grapes at the end of October, the must is given extended contact with the yeasts for a full month.
A single vineyard cru wine this is bright straw yellow/gold in the glass and quite rich on the nose with mango and pear in particular and notes of fading white flowers. There's minerality here too from the volcanic rock and just enough acidity to keep everything in harmony. It's stylistically quite different to the previous two Soave wines and this one in particular is very much a food wine and has the structure and complexity to pare well with all sorts of fish and white meats. It finishes with an attractive note of almonds.
The step up in price is surprisingly small as one moves through these three Soave wines so at only a couple of euros more than the Cimalta this is another excellent value.
Decennale 2020 - Soave DOC
(longer fermentation, then aged on its lees for 5 months and bottled unfiltered, 13.5% alcohol)
This is made from the best grapes from the best vineyard and only in the best years so Corte Adami is really searching here to create the highest expression of the Garganega grape. As with the previous wine it is made from late harvested grapes at the end of October. As the wine ages it is continuously stirred (battonage) to keep the lees moving around in the tank providing greater complexity and nuance to the finished wine. Our bottle was number 463 of the 900 produced in 2015.
Golden yellow in the glass, there's a heady rich aroma of ripe peaches that is as perfumed as anything we've had before with a Soave label on it. A fragrance of bread dough is also present. In the mouth it's full and expansive with notes of pineapple. Texturally it's quite a soft wine with some viscosity but there's also balancing acidity so it's never cloying and remains perfectly dry with less residual sugar in fact than the previous three Soave wines. As a hallmark of its quality there's also a long, persistent finish. Definitely a wine to try at just under 16 euros if you can find one.
Recioto di Soave 2015 - DOCG (13.5% alcohol)
Made from Garganega grapes from Castelcerino which are dried for at least 4 months, losing 50% of their weight in the process.
The must is fermented partly in barrels and partly in steel and fermented very slowly until the Spring when the wine has a further 7 months contact with the lees with battonage, and then a further 4 months aging in steel.
For those not familiar with the style of a Recioto di Soave, it is not an exceptionally sweet wine and has some good acidity which makes it lighter and more refreshing than a French Sauternes for example which often has more residual sugar than a Recioto.
There is a purity and elegance to this wine that makes it perfect for the finish to a leisurely summer lunch and it pared superbly with both fresh goat's cheese and fruit.
Very good value at 16.20 euros (half bottle)
Valpolicella 2020 - DOC
(fermentation and aging for 4-5 months in stainless steel, 13% alcohol)
Bright ruby red in the glass it has a very intense nose of red fruits and cherries which had not faded at all by the second evening. This is why I'm a big fan of well made traditional Valpolicella because you get all the vitality and perfume of a fresh young wine without any of the harsh tannins that many young red wines have.
This has enough acidity to be refreshing and versatile in terms of food parings, but soft enough to enjoy before and after eating. This is what a classic entry level Valpolicella should taste like and at 11.30 euros it's priced very fairly. In our fairly extensive tasting of Valpolicella wines in recent months we've found many of the simple Valpolicella DOC wines disappointing, lacking freshness and vitality. Many of those were priced under 10 euros and we wouldn't buy them again, so 11.30 for this textbook Valpolicella is very worthwhile.
Valpolicella Superiore 2018 - DOC (13.5% alcohol)
(a 30 day period of drying the grapes is followed by fermentation in stainless steel and then 1 year aging partly in French oak barrels and partly in steel)
Now approaching three years old this wine is in the perfect spot. The color in the glass is starting to turn a little garnet but there's still lots of vibrant cherries and black fruits on the nose and sufficient acidity. I think the drying of grapes can be overdone in Valpolicella generally for my taste, but the 30 day period for this wine seems to work perfectly without turning it into a baby Ripasso.
Both this wine and the simple Valpolicella DOC above have different taste profiles and may suit different people. Both are very good wines with only a marginal price difference and in the hot summer months I would go with the DOC above and for the rest of the year with this Superiore, which is excellent value for 12.30 euros. It pared well with all'amatriciana (above), not really a summer dish but as we were 3,300 feet up a mountain at the time it wasn't really summer.
Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore 2018 - DOC (14.5% alcohol)
(In January the Valpolicella Superiore wine is mixed with the rich Amarone pomace and left together for 2 weeks at which point a second fermentation takes place. The wine is then aged for a year partly in French oak barrels and partly in steel).
Medium garnet color with a surprisingly pale rim for such a young wine. An absolutely exquisite nose of tobacco and wet leather with a slightly sweet undertone of orange peel and liqueur. This wine just about manages to thread the needle between maintaining freshness while extracting more body and structure from the second fermentation. It’s clearly a Ripasso wine but it's not heavy or stewed and there's a refreshing quality that comes from the fruit and the pleasant and very necessary acidity. It’s quite full and concentrated but stays in balance.
I'm not overly enthusiastic about Ripasso wines in general because too many of them display strong notes of stewed fruits and I really don't see what gap they fill. The three other Corte Adami Valpolicella wines, ie. the simple DOC, Superiore and Amarone provide sufficient variety and delineation for me and from a personal taste perspective I would take these three wines rather than the Ripasso, but that's not a reflection on the quality of the wine here. If you like good Ripasso wines then you'll certainly like this wine but at a price of just under 16 euros for the Ripasso I would definitely take one bottle of the Corte Adami Amarone instead of two of the Ripasso.
Amarone della Valpolicella 2014 - DOCG (15.5% alcohol)
Only the best bunches of grapes (Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella) are selected for the Amarone. They are left to dry for 100 days and then the wine spends 2 years in oak.
Cutting straight to the conclusion, this is a fabulous Amarone at a really great price of about 32 euros. For me the key here is balance. It's certainly a rich quite powerful wine as you would expect of an Amarone but it is completely dry and has just the right amount of acidity. You don't really notice the acidity but you would certainly notice it if there was less of it and that's true of all well-balanced wines. And here the deep flavors of mature fruits and spices do not stray over into prunes and stewed fruits and there's nothing about it that is redolent of port.
There are some lovely notes of cacao on the palate and it remains firmly a dinner wine pairing very well with barbecued baby back ribs (above photo) as did the Valpolicella Superiore until it ran out. There's a very long finish on this Amarone until well after the last drop has gone, leaving you wanting more.