2003 Zyme Harlequin Veneto Rosso IGP

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About the Wine

Celestino Gaspari may not be a name you recognize from the Valpolicella, but his hand has touched some of the most important wines to ever come out of the region. After marrying Giuseppe Quintarelli's daughter, Celestino apprenticed with the master for a dozen years until 1997. Celestino then ventured off on his own and consulted at several top properties in the region including Bertani and Romano dal Forno. In 1999, he launched Zyme, his own project from his garage.

Zyme is Greek for "yeast". The logo for the winery and the winery itself is a pentagon, which mirrors the grape leaf. If you're ever in the area, the winery must be seen to be believed as it's an incredible dichotomy of modernity and natural winemaking built above a 15th-century sandstone quarry. There is literally an underground stream running in between the huge boulders in the cellar that help maintain natural humidity. It is a contemporary winery that oozes eco-sustainability.

Everything about Celestino and Zyme is like peeling an onion. Layer upon layer is gradually revealed in the label, the symbols, the names, the blends, and in the wines he crafts too. From the first scent of the nose on the wine, you'll be drawn in, wanting to know more about the wine, the man, and the place. The winemaker is a philosopher and a competitive person striving to experiment and tinker until he can produce the perfect wine.

If you love aged Italian wines, this wine over-delivers. Celestino's top wine is Harlequin and it's priced similar to the top Amarone of the region (>$400/btl) This was originally intended as an experimental blend but it became as famous and more famous than the Amarone Celestino crafted. With age, these wines are transformed into a true experience that must be tasted to be appreciated. 

The label is inspired by the character of Harlequin. It represents his mask, the tear flowing down his face and the tomato stains on his jacket. Harlequinʼs costume is composed of pieces of many colors, just as the wine is composed of 15 different grapes, each with its own characteristics.

Aging: 30 Months in 200% New French Oak

Tasting notes: Red Wine. 15 Different Varietals (4 white, 11 red: Garganega, Trebbiano toscano, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syraz, Teroldego, Croatina, Oseleta, Sangiovese, Marzemino) with some air drying of grapes prior to fermentation.

In the glass, the wine is a dense ruby red, with garnet highlights. The nose explodes with rich and complex fruit.Driven by fruit, spices, marmalade, and forest floor, followed by pipe tobacco, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. A kiss of minerality following the complex palate put the tremendous depth of this wine on display. Pairs with elaborate dishes of all meats with hearty and spicy sauces. Excellent with aged and full-flavored cheeses and with game.

Run, don't walk to purchase this wine. This wine delivers the joy we all need.

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Reviews

An enticing, enveloping nose offers prune juice, cinnamon and nutmeg, with citrus peel and vanilla bean notes. Full-bodied, with juicy fruit and red licorice coating the fine, firm tannins. Finishes long, with a fresh, spicy aftertaste. An exotic Veneto red using more than a dozen local and international grape varieties, both red and white. Best after 2010. 250 cases made. ~95 Wine Spectator

The 2003 Harlequin is a remarkably layered wine boasting tons of sheer concentration and richness as suggestions of dark fruit and balsamic notes swirl around in the glass. As with the 2003 Amarone, the French oak is felt in the slightly dry tannins, but that notwithstanding, this is a fascinating, full-throttle wine. Gaspari's aim is to make a wine that is as consistent as possible from vintage to vintage, so he leaves himself the option of back blending a small percentage of wine from previous vintages. ~93 Antonio Galloni

Proprietor Celestino Gaspari boasts one of the most extensive resumes in Valpolicella. Once widely considered the heir-apparent at Quintarelli, where he worked for a number of years, Gaspari subsequently consulted for a number of local wineries, helping launch some of the most exciting young properties on the scene. More recently Gaspari has scaled back his consulting activities to focus on his own project. The dramatic Zyme cellars are carved out of rock and hold some of the most dramatic wines being made in Veneto today. Zyme is still a young property, and I am curious to see what happens here over the coming years. Gaspari is highly ambitious and technically very proficient, as these wines clearly show. The open question is whether he will allow the wines to express more personality over the coming years. Given his track record elsewhere, there is every reason to think that will indeed be the case. There is a very clear struggle here in trying to acknowledge tradition on one hand, while not being excessively bound by convention on the other hand. As a result, the top wine here is not Amarone, but Harlequin, a blend of various grapes given a short time of air-drying and aged in 100% new French oak. All of these wines required considerable aeration for some of the SO2 to blow off. ~93 Wine Advocate

Gambero Rosso ~Due Bicchieri

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