Bad Vintage = Great Wine. Not the equation you usually think of, but it is often a reality. Well, it’s a reality in the hands of a great winemaker. What the best winemakers do when that bad year hits is do everything thing they can do in the vineyard, then brutally select out the best wines in the cellar and then declassify them to a humbler place name or label. The result is wines from great vineyards that usually sell at stratospheric prices are released at a fraction of the price. While they may indeed be a fraction of the wine these vineyards can produce in a good vintage, they still can offer exceptional value and let the consumer come in contact with some of the elements that can make such wines unforgettable at their best.
One such wine is the 2002 Giuseppe Quintarelli Primofiore. Quintarelli’s Primofiore is always a delight, but when vintages like 2002 curse the Veneto, wines that would normally be destined for his rightfully exalted Amarone end up in Primofiore and the results are stunning. Primofiore is a first pressing and includes all of the varietals Quintarelli grows including: Corvina Veronese, Corvinone, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc, which are partially dried before fermentation, then a touch of lees from the fresh Amarone (or in the case of 2002, probably Rosso del Bepi) adds depth, structure and body. While Primofiore is only a faint shadow of the incomparable Quintarelli Amarone, it is a very lovely shadow indeed. The finish of this wine is a haunting reminder of the layered greatness of the Amarone - just at a much lower volume. However, with Quintarelli’s Amarone approaching $300 a bottle, if you are lucky enough to find some, Primofiore will only set you back $40.