The Tommasi family has been making wine since forever in the Valpolicella, but personally since 1902, when Giacomo Tommasi ordered three 50 hectoliter casks, filled them, and then set about selling the wine. That was four generations ago, and since then things have changed considerably; the Tommasi family is now the largest individual landholder in Valpolicella, and has also invested in other Appellations of the Veneto and Tuscany.
But it remains a family business, with cousins and uncles handling the various aspects, from agronomy to winemaking to marketing, and also related activities such as hospitality. To celebrate their 110th anniversary, this spring they organized a beautiful dinner in Verona’s Palazzo della Ragione, which was followed the next morning by a tour of the cellars, which are impressive, and an Amarone vertical.
The tasting was conducted by Giancarlo Tommasi, who has been Tommasi’s winemaker since 2005. While they were pouring the wines, he noted he still includes 10-15% Molinara in the blend, and has no plans to stop (unlike many others, who now work with Rondinella and Corvina) because it confers acidity and minerality, which translate into freshness.
Tommasi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2000
Fairly deep brick almandine with almandine in the rim. The bouquet is deft, entering maturity, with savory fruit laced with licorice root and some sandalwood with warm sea salt and slight hints of raw beef with dried wild flowers as well, and as it opens leaf tobacco and pleasant acidity. A lot going on, displaying considerable finesse and elegance. On the palate it’s full and round, with fairly rich sour berry fruit with slight leathery accents supported by minerality and licorice root coupled with pleasant acidity, and by tannins that are velvety and warm, and flow into a long warm licorice root laced finish with pleasant bitter accents that gains depth and balance from slight sweetness. Elegant in a rather haunting key, and still quite young.
Tommasi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2003
Deep black almandine with black reflections and almandine rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with minerality and some berry fruit supported by slight sandalwood and some licorice root. It’s a bit more closed than some of the others, but; as it opens some leather also emerges. On the palate it’s full, and fairly sweet, with ripe plum cherry fruit supported by acidity that’s a little brighter than I expected considering how hot 2003 was, and by tannins that are warm and savory, and flow into a clean slightly dry finish. It’s slightly weaker, and this is the vintage; the tannins are a little drier, and this may be related to problems with ripening related to the high summer temperatures.
Tommasi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2005
Deep black almandine ruby; it’s darker than the 2000. The bouquet is powerful, and spicy, with red berry fruit and some jammy accents supported by slight mentholated notes, and by deft sandalwood with some vegetal accents and intriguing hints of mocha that are from grape. On the palate it’s rich, and sweeter than the 2000 – there are more sugars – while the fruit has a riper prune cast to it, supported by moderate acidity, less than in the 2000, and by pleasant savory minerality that flows into a fairly mineral finish. Quite pleasant, and still climbing.
Tommasi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2006
Deep black almandine with cherry rim. The bouquet is intense, with brandied prunes and cherries mingled with wet green leather and pleasant spice, with bitter licorice root, with underlying wet ash. Very young, but quite pleasant and has a ready feel to it; there will obviously be more in the future but it’s not an unfinished painting. On the palate it’s full and round, with rich cherry fruit supported by slight brandied cherries and plums, and by deft acidity that is a combination between berry fruit and mineral, and flows into a long rich berry fruit finish that gains depth from very pleasant acidity Quite harmonious, and already eminently drinkable; it will also age very well for 10-15 years at least. A fellow taster points out that of the wines in the flight it’s the one with the most residual sugar, and this makes it a bit more approachable and more seductive.
Tommasi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2007
Deep black almandine with black reflections and almandine rim. Quite dark. The bouquet is intense, with elegant prune cherry fruit laced with sandalwood and pleasant spice with deft greenish accents; it’s deft and fairly rich. On the palate it’s bright, with lively sour berry fruit supported by considerable minerality and tannins that are fairly silky, and flow into a clean fresh sour cherry finish. It’s leaner than the 2006, but quick on its toes, rather like a dancer, and will work very well with hearty stews or roasts. Impressive agility.
Tommasi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2008
Deep black almandine with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fresh with berry fruit supported by mentholated notes and spice; there are also jammy notes and some licorice root mingled with sandalwood. Fresh and very young. On the palate it’s fresh and rich, with powerful cherry plum fruit supported by some brandied accents and pleasant sandalwood spice with a fair amount of alcoholic warmth, and flows into a warm savory sandalwood laced finish. Quite pleasant, and though one could drink it now with grilled meats or roasts, it will reward those with the patience to give it 3-5 or even more years. In terms of agility it’s mid-way between the 2006 and the 2007 is more agile. At present the 2006 is superior, but this may change with time.
Giancarlo Tommasi did impart a change in direction when he took over as winemaker in 2005; there’s an increase in the richness of the fruit, and the wines become more approachable in youth — one can drink them already without regrets — while also having excellent aging potential. The older wines are a bit drier and have more licorice and spice to them; they are slightly more traditional in feel though the more recent wines are not by any means international. Rather, great attention to the ripeness of the grapes at harvest, and tremendous attention to the grapes during the drying phase. .