The Veneto's Celebrated Tommasi Winery Has Expanded To Other Italian Wine Regions

I have always regarded Tommasi as a leading producer of wines from Italy's Veneto region. In particular, the winery's powerful reds elevate fine red meat at the dinner table and age for decades. I was delighted, then, when Pierangelo Tommasi, export director of the family-run firm, invited me to taste some recent examples of their wines.

The first thing that he did was surprise me: In a laptop presentation, he showed me how Tommasi has expanded from its Veronese roots to incorporate properties in Lombardy, Tuscany, and Puglia.  

The original winery, founded in 1902, is in Pedemonte, just northwest of Verona, in the heart of the Valpolicella Classico zone. From just seven hectares (just over 17 acres) granted to Pierangelo's great-grandfather, Giacomo Tommasi, for being a loyal employee to one of the handful of landowners who controlled the Veneto at the turn of the nineteenth century — the land was planted with vegetables and trees as well as vines — the estate has grown to 210 hectares (519 acres), making it one of the largest properties in the zone. The family now also owns two hotels and two restaurants.

In 1997, the Tommasi family started investing outside the Veneto. A search in Tuscany for suitable land yielded nothing in the coveted location of Montalcino, so the family looked further afield. The Maremma yielded Poggio al Tufo, where sangiovese/cabernet sauvignon blends are now made. A few years later, the smaller Doganella estate was added. In 2015, the family was able to find another suitable purchase in Tuscany, Podere Casisano, whose owner had no heirs willing to continue in the wine business. Here, the family grows the most prestigious category of wine in Tuscany, Brunello di Montalcino, and its lesser sibling, Rosso di Montalcino. Given the newness of the purchase, the world will have to wait a few years to see the full effect Tommasi will have on Casisano. Pierangelo is optimistic and also confident that the scandals involving the use of non-approved grapes that beset Montalcino a decade ago are a thing of the past. (The integrity of authenticity is so important in Italy that the scandal led to criminal penalties.)

While still looking in Tuscany, the family also looked south and purchased Masseria Surani, in Manduria, in Puglia. This gave their wine portfolio expressions of primitivo and negroamaro.

In Lombardy, the majority owner of Caseo wanted to sell. Tommasi bought his share and later bought out the remaining owners. The estate produces sparkling wine using the Martinotti (Charmat) method from pinot noir. It also makes an IGT Provincia di Pavia pinot noir.  

Along the way were acquisitions in Soave and Prosecco. This means that Tommasi has a foothold in many major wine producing regions of Italy. Perhaps the biggest omission is Piedmont, where the two great reds Barolo and Barbaresco are to be found.

We tasted a vertical of what is, by reputation and family self-ascription, the greatest Tommasi wine: the Ca' Florian Amarone Riserva. It is sourced entirely from the Ca' Florian vineyard in the commune of San Pietro. The blend is about 75 percent corvina (the backbone red grape of the Valpolicella area), 15 percent corvinone, and 10 percent rondinella. It is aged for a year in 500-liter French oak casks and then for three more years in 6,000-liter Slavonian oak casks. We tasted the 2007, 2008, and 2009. The most striking thing is that all three wines were so young! In Pierangelo's estimation, the 2007 is the most elegant and the 2008 the most structured, while the 2009 will ultimately be the best due to its complexity. My personal favorite is the 2008, but I would keep it for at least another decade given amarone's legendary reputation for long aging. In terms of pairing, Pierangelo admits to being a beef-lover and would pair these wines with almost any cut. I agree, but also feel that these wines would be simply triumphant with lamb.

Regardless of which Tommasi wine you choose, all are imbued with the same commitment to quality, authenticity, and improvement. You can spend $62 on the Ca' Florian Amarone Riserva or less than a quarter of that on their Rafaèl Valpolicella. At both ends of the spectrum, they are outstanding values.