Lionello and I were leaving our 20’s when we first met, the owner of the estate then was Dr Orlandi, a highly respected figure at the wine school in Conegliano and his vineyards were littered with oddities from marzamino to incrocio manzoni. The owner is now Martino Zanetti and he has concentrated his efforts onto the oddest of the oddities; Wildbacher. After years of careful husbandry their vines bear little resemblance to its parent vine from Styria (borders of Austria and Hungary) and it has found a spiritual home on this spectacular vineyard, carved along a contour cut through the woods below the beautifully renovated white farmhouses.
The heartbeat of the estate is Prosecco, the vineyards lie midway between Valdobbiadene and Conegliano, and Case Bianche were amongst the first to commit to expressive single vineyard and single vintage prosecci.
The most difficult style is the driest, the ‘Brut’ with grapes from ‘Vigna del Cuc’, a single old vine vineyard. It is a wine which draws out the very best from the vine.
‘Brusole’ is a single vineyard frizzante that is sealed 'spago' (with a string that restrains the cork), and is alarmingly drinkable.
‘Antico’ is a look into the past, a single bottle-fermented wine made without filtration, brilliant if a little hard core.
The Col Sandago label is saved for Snr Zanetti’s favourite wines and the ‘Undici’ is his ultimate Prosecco, classified as dry, though in Prosecco speak this means it has more unfermented sugars than a Brut, which works to create a rounder, deeper style.
The wines that have really come on in the last few years are the Riva di Rocca Proseccos, where grapes are bought in; there is now more capacity in the new winery, so more effort has been lavished on them.
One experiment that moved on to being a well-established wine is the Passito of Prosecco, made in much the same way as a Vin Santo, though the drying and ageing periods are shorter, it has become a non-vintage wine that has been blended with great skill from the ageing wines.
The sparkling brut rosé of Wildbacher has been a revelation and has now also been joined by a traditional method made as a blanc de noir.
The ‘Wildbacher’ remains the signature red and each year tiny tweaks in the vineyard and cellar deliver improvements. There is also a Passito of Wildbacher, Dagobertus, which is only released in miniscule quantities; we buy it and one day we will sell it too.
The classic still wines are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The Cabernet is a favourite of mine, restrained and un-showy which tends to make it a little un-commercial and it is all the better for it.
These are not wines that will appear in many guide books, I will never understand (though I think I know) why, but Decanter has been kind as has Tim Atkin, more importantly our customers have a mild addiction to these wines, all of whom have the knack of delivering a smile.