Saturday, December 17, 2011

Meet Mariano Buglioni

Mariano Buglioni (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Traveling to Italy is all about making discoveries. This includes new wines, new ristoranti and trattorie and of course, meeting producers I have never encountered. During my most recent trip to Valpolicella, I met Mariano Buglioni, the owner of the eponymous estate in San Pietro in Cariano, located in Valpolicella Classico; rarely have I met such a generous man.

Buglioni, formerly in the textile industry, produced his first wines from the 2001 vintage. He currently crafts several types of wine, from the famous - Amarone and Valpolicella - to the unique - such as a sparkling Molinara and a 100% Garganega IGT. He has also made a name for himself with his eateries, especially with his osteria located on Corso Porta Borsoni in the heart of the old section of Verona. Mariano took me there early on a Sunday evening in November and we could barely move, finally finding a spot at the end of the bar. Mariano told me that I should see the place during the week, as I wouldn't be able to find a place at all. Given how little room was available that evening, I'd hate to see the place even more crowded!

Mariano also took me to see another osteria of his, this one in the town of Santa Maria de Negrar. This one is larger and thankfully, less crowded, but just as engaging. There is a beautiful bar and display of all the foods, which are all marvelous. One of my favorites is the tartina con paté di olive nere con pancetta (a small paté made of black olives served with pancetta); there are several other lovely comfort foods as well. You can take a look at these at the website link here.

Mariano wanted to show me these places, but first and foremost, he wanted to show off his wines with a special dinner, so we went to his locanda, located in the countryside of Valpolicella just a short walk from his agriturismo in Cariano. This is a warm dining room with rich earth tones with food specialy created for the Buglioni wines. I enjoyed five wines with various courses and each wine was extremely well made with excellent balance and ideal structure. The finest wines for me were the 2007 Valpolicella Ripasso "Il Bugardo" and the 2006 Amarone. The former offers ripe black plum and raspberry aromas with very good depth of fruit and peristence and will drink well for 5-7 years; I gave this wine an excellent rating. The Amarone, from the first-rate 2006 vintage has beautiful black cherry and myrtle aromas is is quite simply, mouthfilling! This is a powerful wine (17% alcohol), but nicely balanced with proper acidity along with excellent persistence. I would expect this outstanding wine to be at its best in 12-15 years. Incidentally, the Amarone was served with a veal medallion- a simple pairing that brought out the best in the wine and the food.

All in all, I had a great evening in the company of my new friend Mariano Buglioni. We spent five hours together; this after he drove that morning from Bern, Switzerland, a seven-hour journey! How he found the energy to do this in one day amazed me, but like many Italians, he is a gracious person who saw an opportunity and was more than happy to spend some time with me. Thank you Mariano for your hospitality and for your beautiful wines. A big thank you also to my friend in Chicago, Aldo Zaninotto, who represents these wines in America.

To learn more about the wines, the agriturismo or the osterie, go to the Buglioni website.