Giuseppe Quintarelli, the man recognised as the father of Amarone, has died aged 84.
Quintarelli: 'uncompromising' [Image: vinoalvino.org]
Quintarelli's death was confirmed by his grandson Francesco Grigoli, who said he had Parkinson’s disease.
Tributes have been pouring in on social media for a winemaker described as ‘maestro’ whose ‘stunning Amarones were legendary’, and who was respected as an uncompromising perfectionist.
Giuseppe Quintarelli was born in 1927, in Negrar in the Veneto, the heart of Valpolicella. His father Silvio had been making wine since before the First World War, cultivating vines with his family under a sharecropping system, and managing to buy his own land after the war.
Giuseppe took over the estate in 1950, and started a programme of gradual improvement and expansion. Today the 12ha of vineyards stretches along the eastern side of the Negrar valley, the grapes brought in and vinified in the estate cellars located on the peak of the Cà Paletta hill in Cerè di Negrar.
As well as its renowned Amarone della Valpolicella Classico and Amarone Riserva, the esate produces a Valpolicella Classico and a Recioto della Valpolicella, and a handful of IGT wines - a Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Corvina blend called Primo Fiore, Rosso del Bepi, Alzero, Amabile del Cerè, and a dry white, Bianco Secco, from a rare local variety called Saorin.
In many ways Quintarelli was one of the most traditional of the Amarone producers, ageing his wine for seven years in Slavonian oak 'bottis', hand drawing – and hand-glueing – all his labels. It was part of the Quintarelli legend that every bottle could be slightly different, even of the same wine in the same vintage. This was regarded as proof of true artisanality.
As many point out, however, Quintarelli may have been traditional but he was not afraid of innovation. In 1985 he introduced new grape varieties such As Nebbiolo, Croatina, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon. Bianco Secco was one of the first dry white wines in Valpolicella.
Italian critic and blogger Franco Ziliani, on his blog Vinoalvino, said that after the death of Guilio Gambelli at the beginning of the month, this was turning into ‘a cruel January, with another serious loss to the world of Italian wine…Giuseppe ‘Bepi’ Quintarelli was ‘the true soul of Amarone della Valpolicella.’
Others paid tribute to his uncompromising nature and his ability to craft wines that were ‘light years away from commodity wines,’ as Ziliani said.
Polish blogger Wojciech Bońkowski wrote, ‘Quintarelli was uncompromising as a person and as a winemaker. Although firmly of the Old School, he did allow new things to be introduced, he grew some Cabernet and Merlot in the vineyards and even used small oak barriques in Alzero, his stunning reinterpretation of Amarone.’
David Gleave MW, managing director of Liberty Wines, toldDecanter.com, ‘The most amazing thing about him was the fact that about 20 years ago he passed on the business but found the quality of the wines dropped, so in his 70s he took over and started making the wine again.’
Many tried to copy the wines, which were ‘traditional but without defects,’ Gleave said. ‘They were not in the modern style but it’s important to have that diversity.’
Giuseppe Quintarelli leaves his wife and three daughters, the eldest of whom, Fiorenza, supervises the winery. Her son Francesco Grigoli runs day-to-day operations along with veteran cantiniere Luca Fedrigo.