WHEN WINES by Abele Bolla of Soave won special acclaim at a merry Renaissance festival in Verona in the early 1800s, Signor Bolla decided to continue producing the wine, which now, four generations later, has made his company one of the leading wine exporters of Italy.
Fratelli Bolla is northern Italy's only family-owned wine company, with Abele's great-grandson, Pierluigi Bolla, serving as one of the chief administrators.
Its white wine, Bolla Soave, has become an international favorite in the past decade. As the company has expanded production, it has needed more vineyard sources than Bolla had ever dreamed of. It has also needed to develop quality-control measures for its growing number of grape suppliers. In 1973, the Bolla Wine Producers Club was formed to inform the selected growers about technical assistance Bolla provides them, including constant seminars and added incentives for producing high-quality grapes.
The Bolla Foundation, established in 1980, publishes a technical-scientific magazine devoted to soil studies, vine species, fertilizers, pruning methods and research for finer viticulture and enology. That magazine is distributed to the grower-members of the Bolla Club.
In 1977, Bolla expanded its production beyond Soave to include the red wine Barbaresco. The new Signature Series marks an expansion into Piedmont with the fashionably popular wine named after the village of Gavi. It is a fine white from the Cortese grape.
The Gavi has been a favorite in the Big Apple for several years, and the Bolla 1987 Gavi di Gavi ($8.49) is due to arrive in our Southern California marketplace any day now. It's a lovely, delicate wine. Cortese means "courteous," an apt description for the non-aggressive nature of this light, pale, straw-yellow, gently fragrant Bolla Signature Series wine. In the bouquet, there is the lightest perfume, suggesting lilies of the valley, with an even more subtle peppermint hint in the aftertaste. Gavi di Gavi's hand-harvested grapes are cool-fermented in stainless steel. This wine is to be enjoyed young.
Other Gavis include the beguiling Principessa Gavi. (The 1987 vintage is now here in Southern California, too, for about $11.95.) The 1986 Granduca Cortese di Gavi ($8.95) is very subtle, tart, crisp and clean. And Pio Cesare's 1986 Cortese di Gavi ($12.95) adds further luster to Gavi as the noblest white wine of Piedmont.
Any account of wines by Fratelli Bolla would be incomplete without mention of its Amarone. This wine is produced, as in Roman times, from grapes air-dried in lofts before crushing. (It is often sipped after lunch.) Select clusters getting the most sunshine were called "recioto" because they protruded like ears from vines. ("Recioto" is from colloquial Italian orecchia , for "ears.") Vintages of Recioto della Valpolicella have been prized by red-wine lovers, who almost revere those scents suggesting rose petals, tar and plum-jammy richness.
The Bolla 1982 Amarone, in its new Bordeaux-style bottle, is due to arrive with the Gavi. Its price is not available as we go to press, but I tasted it in September and it is certain to be a good value indeed.
Unlike Gavi, it will benefit from cellar storage. But, like Gavi, it can also be enjoyed even now as a worthy part of the Bolla repertoire in Southern California.