Portraits of Bardolino
In Bardolino, some of the finest wines come from Guerrieri Rizzardi. Their quality is celebrated.
In the 1960s, Guerrieri Rizzardi owners, Count Antonio and Contessa Maria Cristina Rizzardi, founded the Bardolino Consortium, making it one of the first in Italy.
In 2010, Contessa Rizzardi received the prestigious Cavaliere del Lavoro award, recognized by the country of Italy with the highest honor given in agriculture for her contributions to Italian wine. She is the first woman to win the award.
In the late 1990s, the Rizzardi sons, Giuseppe and Agostino, became part of the Guerrieri Rizzardi business with Giuseppe serving as winemaker, and Agostino as general manager.
Contessa Rizzardi rarely meets with journalists. However, Angelo Perreti requested she make time for four of us. As a result, Paul Balke, Cathy Huyghe, Bill Zacharkiw, and myself were able to spend an afternoon with her.
Following is part of the story she shared. She spoke to us in English.
Contessa Maria Cristina Loredan Rizzardi, Guerrieri Rizzardi
Contessa Maria Cristina Rizzardi, March 2015
My husband was the founder of the Bardolino Consortium, in 1968. It was one of the first appellations and consortiums in Italy, for both olive oil and wine.
We wanted to specify what was Bardolino wine, how it was produced, and to defend it from confusion. It was the beginning of explaining Bardolino to the world.
There was a lot of fake Bardolino before then, red wine made elsewhere and made falsely. The fakes were being made because Bardolino was good. Otherwise, they would not have bothered. There are now 100 wineries that label as Bardolino. Before 1968, Bardolino was a generic term, and quality had already begun to reduce.
In the 1950s, Valpolicella was a younger wine region, and was not making as much wine as Bardolino.
Valpolicella started expanding in the 1980s. By chance they came up with passito. At first they made it frizzante, then they left it in barrels and discovered wonderful wine.
These last 10 years have made a difference for Bardolino. People understand the land, that you have to treat it well if you want to make good wine from it. It becomes very special.
Bardolino was named best place to live in all of Italy by the top financial paper in Italy, the “Happiest Place to Live in Italy.”
Winemaking and wine growing are becoming fashionable now. The culture needs very much patience and time. It is difficult. If you get land, and then in one night it is all gone, it is very difficult. But, [the young winemakers do not always know.] It is a fashion job now. I think this is partially because there is a desire to return to, or stay in the country life rather than the cities.
Bardolino is a blend. I cannot understand which one is this grape, or which is that grape. You have a perfect marriage of grapes when one grape is not prevailing over another. The perfect Bardolino, it should be light, and that perfect marriage. But I drink with passion, and without brains. [smiling]
The Munus is my favorite from the winery. It has a story. I had an Aunt. She was an old lady but she was so passionate about wine. The way she made it was difficult. She added sugar to it, and everything, but you know, she was an old lady. [smiling]
I decided to make a wine dedicated to her. Munus means, gift. So, I made it, and gave it to her for her 99th birthday, and on her 100th birthday she died.
It is wine that is half between the richness of Amarone, and the freshness of Bardolino. I think it is a very good wine.
We begin getting ready to leave.
Thank you. Thank you very much. I am very happy. I am quite happy to know you, and see how happy, and interested you are. Because to be happy, you must know what you are doing, and know yourself.
Cathy Huyghe asks the Contessa a question, “Is there anything you want this group of journalists to know?”
I don’t know you well enough.
We laugh. Cathy goes on to ask, “what would you want others to know about this region, Bardolino?”
You should know the balance that our territory and our wines can have. Our life – not too much of wine, not too much of sun, not too much of rain. It is for this reason that Bardolino has been nominated as the most happy region.
Cathy asks if the Contessa thinks there is anything missing from Bardolino.
I think the buses are really significant of the soul of a village. It tells you, is it organized? I think it is one of the things we are missing.
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