- Bardolino, Veneto, Italy
Villa Calicantus is located in Calmasino, a tiny village on the eastern banks of Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake. Owner and winemaker Daniele Delaini’s first vintage was 2011, though his family’s history here, in the Bardolino Classico zone, goes way back. In 1860, his great-grandfather established the winery, with the cellar in nearby Lazise. In 1920, his grandfather inherited it and built the cellar in its current location in Calmasino in 1923. Over the years, the family became one of the largest producers of Bardolino, but with the death of Daniele’s grandfather in the early 1970s, his family’s relationship with winegrowing and winemaking came to a halt. They lived in the “big city” of Verona, only coming to Calmasino in the occasional summer, and so the villa eventually fell into a state of abandonment.
After a stint in banking and “attempting” to sell Italian wine in Paris, Daniele returned to his native land when he inherited Villa Calicantus from an aunt. Her favorite flower was the calicantus (latin name: chimonathus), a flowering tree that blooms between December and February. Daniele started with one hectare of vines around the villa, and while the villa and its cellar were being repaired, he made wine in a nearby garage. His family was one of the largest growers of Bardolino in the past; in 2011 he became one of its smallest. Today he farms eight hectares of vines.
The nearly forty-year gap in his family’s involvement in Bardolino proved to be crucial to Daniele’s philosophy. They entirely missed the area’s “industrial/ chemical conversion.” They skipped the appellation’s unfortunate descent from a historic zone producing soulful, light-to-medium-bodied (but often long-lived wines), to a place making mass-produced innocuous quaffers for lake tourists looking to spend as little as possible on a bottle. Daniele remembers barrels, not only in his grandfather’s cellar, but also all over the appellation. He remembers Bardolino as a wine more worthy of one’s heart and intellect—different than nearby Valpolicella’s more mountainous, calcareous/ volcanic profile and use of appassimento, but no less expressive of place: a softer, prettier wine from of lower altitudes, morainic soils, and a climate kept moderate by Lake Garda.
Today, he farms eight hectares on some of the highest sites in the appellation. Five of the eight hectares are trained in pergola, with many of them planted in 1966. He has farmed organically since day one, and in 2014 began conversion to biodynamics. He’s considering getting Demeter certification. His yields are 1/2 to 1/3rd the allowed limit for Bardolino, and he ages his wines longer than anyone in the appellation.
He restored the abandoned villa, where he now lives with his wife, Chiara, and their young children. For a couple years they also ran a bed and breakfast there, but it was too much to keep up with simultaneously with the winemaking. The old cellar has also been restored and Daniele has filled its minuscule space with concrete vats and used barrels. He makes five different wines—30,000 to 40,000 bottles total—up considerably since 2011, but still one of the tiniest operations in the area. Daniele’s mission has been to find a path forward by returning to Bardolino’s past. We are excited to represent this special winery.
Villa Calicantus is a member of Co.Vi.Bio (Consorzio dei Vignaioli Biodinamici), a group of seven like-minded biodynamic Italian growers who pool their resources, often presenting their wines together and helping each other with logistics. Learn more at www.covibio.com.
You can also visit Daniele’s website at http://www.villacalicantus.it.