The Love for Wine in Verona, Land of Romeo and Juliet

Verona, the small city with a big reputation. Every time I stroll down the beautiful and ancient streets my senses are pulled in all directions and I feel like I walked into history like Alice walks into a Wonderland.

Verona arena with wine bottle in front

Crossing the old Porta, the arch that greets you into the old city, I’m always entering a special place. I have next to me the old Palazzo della Gran Guardia and, in front of me, the magnificent Arena.

When I was a child, I went to the Arena to watch the Opera, Aida by Giuseppe Verdi. Forty years later, I was invited to a gala dinner inside this magnificent structure for the anniversary of Vinitaly.  

Verona is a microcosm representing all of Italy at its best. Culture, food, history… and love! Well, this is the city of Romeo and Juliet and the balcony is here. You can visit it.

I walked the old marble streets that have been walked by millions and millions of people before me. I look inside at all the gelaterias drooling with pleasure. While I wish I could stop in all of the restaurants, I can’t — my most important visit is at Bottega del Vino. La Bottega is situated among the oldest and most prestigious historic locals in Italy, dating back to the XVI century. Today it is owned by the thirteen “Historical Families of Amarone” and is one of the best restaurants of Verona–best wine list and best get together place.

Verona is also at the center of an area devoted for centuries to the cultivation of wines. Here are three friends who represent this region so well: its past, present and future.

Giordano: roots anchored in a solid past.

When I met Giordano Emo Capodilista at his vinery La Montecchia, I immediately described him as the friendliest face of Italy while unaware of the weight of history that Giordano carries on his shoulders.

He was my passport to the past while we were both looking at the future.

To understand, you have to receive a case of his wines (I have many) and read on the bottom of the case where it’s written: “winemakers for twenty-two generations.”

Yes, he received me in his castle. We went into the main room for an aperitivo he served me his Fior d’Arancio Spumante and started to tell his story.

The Capodilista family arrived in Veneto following Charles the Great in the 800’s and were given this land and the title of Counts after fighting the Langobards. That’s when they settled in.

The Emo side of the family was one of the founders of the Serenissima Republic of Venice. The family gave to the Republic of Venice several governors, dukes and admirals throughout the centuries. In 1784, Angelo Emo was named ‘Capitano Straordinario delle Navi’–the commander in chief of the navy who victoriously fought the Beylik of Tunis. The Emo and Capodilista families married at the end of the 18th century.

Today, Giordano continues his extensive involvement in the fabric of the society, with a ceaseless interaction with the community and the economic development of the region. He is also vice-president of Confagricoltura, the organism that represent all the producers of agricultural products. He is in charge of the internationalization of the Italian products and export/import fees — not a small thing in today’s ongoing battle with the custom fees imposed by the US. 

Like a blessing, the sun came through the windows of the castle casting a beautiful golden color. We went to visit the vineyards. Giordano is not here to create another crusade, he wants to be the custodian of the equilibrium that that you can feel in the hills of Veneto. We walked in the woods and then the vineyard rows. It was peaceful all around. It was beautiful!

The wines are elegant and structured. They bring forward the equilibrium that is the footprint of the wines of Veneto. Nothing is out of place: power, acidity, red fruits, dark fruits, herbal notes, tertiary flavors…everything balanced together.

National and international accolades arrive every year, but I can’t ignore when drinking his wines that each and every glass contains a sip history.

Roberto: the present is changing (for the better)

Has this guy tried to change the status-quo? That’s the first question I asked myself when I spoke with Roberto Anselmi.

However, I don’t see Roberto as a rebel or a revolutionary like many other people see him. I see him as an observer and a listener.  A listener to the thrills and the murmurs of the nature surrounding him.

Making wine is his passion not his job.

Perhaps with shamanic powers, he listened to the vineyards and for many years he invested his time, money and soul in rebalancing the environment;  changing the training system of the vineyard, pioneer biodynamic production; and now he receives his payback from the nature he cares for.

Roberto lives with the purpose of crafting wines as an expression of his vineyards, an idealistic veneration for the ancient grapes that he cultivates.

Yes, Roberto broke away from his father for the purpose of making better wine, broke with the consortium of Soave…to make better wine, and has been teaching everyone how to make better wines.

Like a runner who runs alone, not because he doesn’t like other people, he runs alone because he is faster. However, he is teaching the pack to run in the same way.

We owe Roberto (hey, and many others like him, don’t get offended) to have led the way to make better wines, be one of the firsts to improve the quality, and improve the identity of the region. Veneto was great, but with Roberto became greater. 

His wine Capitel Croce was chosen for Opera Wine, the Wine Spectator event that features the 100 best wines of Italy.  

Noemi: the brightest future

With ageless wisdom, she runs the family business and is less than thirty years old.

Noemi Pizzighella took over when she was 19, a three-generation agricultural business that produced grapes, olives, olive oil, cherries, and apricots.

Verona: Noemi Pizzighella with her Le Guaite di Noemi wines.

The wines of Le Guaite di Noemi are superb! She decided that the greatest wines should age and she makes the world wait for it. So, she is now selling a Valpolicella Superiore vintage 2011 and the Amarone della Valpolicella vintage 2010.

What I love about Noemi is that she never cuts corners. She takes care of every detail with meticulous attention. She designs the labels of her wines, takes care of social media, sales, packs her suitcase and you may find her today in Sweden and tomorrow in the USA.

Noemi and her Dad and Mom produce 25,000 bottles per year. It’s a close-knit team of three. Stefano, the Dad prefers to work in the vineyard while her mother Giulietta curates the operations in the cellar.

Romano Dal Forno, one of the most famous producers of the region, is the family’s closest friend and the advisor with a velvet hand.

Noemi is a friend and she makes some of the best wines I know. However, the best part of the story is that she is not alone doing that. She is part of a group of young winemakers/entrepreneurs that are taking over the responsibilities of carrying the torch for a new generation. 

I am a passionate student of the inextricable story of mankind and wine. Wine is depicted in Pompeii, on the vases of old Greece, throughout the middle age in frescoes and canvasses. And I am here to see another generation of great winemakers in bloom.

And I’m here to see another generation of great winemakers in bloom in the lovely city of Verona.


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Stefano Campanini

Italian Wine Contributor

Founder of Italian Wine School, Stefano Campanini is one of the 300 Italian Wine Ambassadors representing 33 different countries, and one of the few people to hold this title in the United States. Stefano’s discerning palate was cultivated in his birthplace Parma, Emilia Romagna and he has travelled extensively in different wine regions. Stefano’s dream of sharing pleasure at the table began in 2011 when he opened Wine by the Bay. Since then, this wine store has quickly become recognized as one of South Florida’s leading Champagne and boutique wine stores and was most recently awarded Wine-Searcher Gold in Overall and French lists in Miami. “Wine is an education and not just a drink,” he’ll say while handcrafting a ‘tale of wine cities’ to both novices and aficionados alike. Follow Stefano at @WinebytheBay .

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