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Copyright © 2015
Forkmedia LLC

by Fred McMillin
for April 19, 2001


Good Food and Good Wine



Good Food and Good Wine

Proprietor Abele Bolla
Town of Soave, 1880


*Gambero is Italian for "shrimp."



"Tickle the Italian soil with a hoe, and it smiles back with a vine." (An adage I heard in an Italian vineyard.)


Abele's Problem

Winegrowing was so easy in the Italian environment some 120 years ago, not much effort went into improving it. West of Venice, Abele Bolla wanted better wines for his hotel restaurant (which is still in operation today!). So, with sons Alberto, Albana and Guilo he started his own wine production, founding the firm of Fratelli Bolla in 1883. (Fratello means brother in Italian.) Their first wine was a Soave, which later would lead the charge to establish the reputation of the wines of Verona throughout the world, with total Bolla production rising to millions of cases a year. Here are some of the...




1947—The first Bolla shipment arrives in the U.S.A., 200 cases of Bardolino.

1953—Bolla is the first winery to label and market broadly Verona's famous red Amarone.

1956—Following Abele (great-grandfather), Alberto (grandfather), and Franco Bolla (father), fourth-generation Francesco Bolla is born. He is destined to lead Bolla through winemaking changes that will make it the leading brand of premium wines imported into the U.S.A. in the mid-'90s. He once wrote me that his policy was expressed by Dante in 1293... "Incipit Vita Nova" (The new life begins!).

Jan. 15, 1971—I taste Bolla Soave for the first time. It's the 1968 vintage. "Much body and flavor for Italian white."

1980—Francesco initiates major upgrading in both grape growing and winemaking, as well as establishing wine science studies at a local university.

1989—Francesco writes me that he is well aware that "varietal wines are now of great interest to the American wine consumer." Consequently, he is introducing the first Bolla varietal, an un-oaked Chardonnay. (The use of oak was soon added.) A few years later, other varietals appear, including Merlot, Sangiovese, Pinot Grigio, and more recently, a Cabernet Sauvignon.



If you don't know Bolla, then start with the 1999 vintage of the first wine it ever produced, the white Soave ($11 range). The other starter should be their best red wine, the remarkably-intense Amarone (the harvested grapes are permitted to dry several months before the concentrated nectar is pressed from the fruit...some of our readers love Amarone!) Price: $37 range. Contacts—Phil Lynch, phone (502) 774-7928 or April Gentile, (502) 566-0616, FAX (502)566-0619.



The Brown-Foreman beverage company has handled Fratelli Bolla wines for years. What does Brown-Foreman think of Bolla? They just bought 'em!


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.



This page created April 2001