Wines by Monte dei Ragni
There are names and there are names, and then, near Fumane in Valpolicella Classica, there’s Monte dei Ragni, ‘Mountain of Spiders’, home to the Ragno family for at least a century and a half, and to the eponymous winery they have cared for over five generations.
Not that this means a sprawling family empire – today, Monte dei Ragni continues much as it always has, converting 7 ha of vines into roughly 4000 bottles per annum. It used to be the family themselves who would take care of everything, from growing to bottling, but now the task of cultivating and caring for this small and precious land has passed to head winemaker Zeno Zignoli, who has carried on the artisanal practices of this storied winery with precision and conscientiousness.
This tradition is immediately apparent to the visitor. The rows of vines are interspersed with rows of cherry and olive trees, a natural symbiosis found in much of the winemaking world, for where you can grow grapes, you can grow olives. The land is divided and bordered by the ancient drystone walls, known as ‘marogne’, typical of the Valpolicella Classica, and the vines themselves are arranged on simple pergolas, long favoured here for how they promote sun exposure for the grapes. This sense of tradition continues in the winery – mostly spontaneous, wild yeasts, very soft grape-crushing, no mechanical pump-over to artificially ‘boost’ fermentation, and a preference for larger tonneaux oak barrels over barriques, to encourage slow, gentle acquisition of those woody characteristics in the wine.
This minimally intrusive approach is in harmony with this quiet but brilliant winemaker and winemaking family, the unhurried and unfussy but nonetheless passionate and loving craft that makes these wines, and makes them sing. A real treat, and a rare one given the tiny production, and one well worth stopping to sip, to taste all that work and tradition and history, and think about the minds and hands behind it.