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I have tasted wine at over 100 wineries in California over the last few years. But this was my very first trip to Italy and my very first time wine tasting there. Nick & I had just finished our European Summer Tour and tacked on 4 days in Italy as a post-tour mini-vacation. I have been dreaming to wine-taste in Italy for a long, long time. So I was excited. Beyond excited 🙂
With very little cell phone signal, while Nick was driving us from Venice, I googled (please don’t laugh!) “best wine tasting near Verona”. I found Le Bignele, which was one of the first wineries that came up in the search that looked very nice (and it said it has been around since 1818!). I called them, got their voicemail & left a message. Just a few minutes later I got a text saying we can go ahead and come over.
So we did.
GPS in the car decided to stop working all of a sudden (note to self: cursing at GPS does NOT help). But, thankfully, my European cellphone had signal and we were able to use good ol’ Google Maps to locate the winery.
The scenery driving up was absolutely stunning: rural Italy in the summer with vineyards and adorable buildings along the twisty & narrow country road.
We parked in a tiny driveway and walked into a lovely modern building. With nobody around we just followed the signs pointing to wine tasting downstairs. We entered a spacious room with 6 other people seated around a long wooden table. Open windows showed us the idyllic Italian landscapes I always imagined: rows of grapevines, hills and tiny church in the distance. The warm summer breeze was that perfect addition that made us go “awwwww”…
We said “ciao” and were greeted by Debora who spoke English with a charming accent, and were welcomed to sit down.
Other people were tourists from Sweden, England and Norway. Debora gave us all big bottles of water and proceeded to pour the wines, all red with the exception of one rosé, describing the wine-making process and history of Le Bignele along the way. I have to mention that it was our first time trying the Valpolicella varietal, which is the region’s specialty. And it was outstanding!
Debora also gave us crackers and some local cheese to go with each wine. It was perfect.
Neither the wine-tasting fee nor the wine prices were listed anywhere. But it was our first time tasting in Italy, and we were prepared to pay… whatever!
As experienced Californian wine drinkers, we expected to pay a typical $15-30 (or more) per person tasting fee for such special treatment (considering the water, personal attention and all of the snacks). We also expected bottle prices to be somewhere in the $25-$60 range (usual prices in California).
Imagine our shock when Debora said the tasting fee was…. zero! And the bottle prices turned out to be less than $20. We couldn’t believe that such quality wine, in a lovely winery, could cost so little (at least comparing to California, but then again, in California everything is expensive!!!). Would have bought a case but traveling in the summer and flying back to California made it impossible. Shipping to US was out of our budget 🙂
So we bought a bottle (of Valpolicella Ripasso Classico) for ourselves and one as a gift for our tour agent, Elke.
Before leaving, we checked out their barrel room (forgot to take a photo!) and spent a few minutes lounging outside (photo above). Nick and I left with our hearts full of love for this beautiful place.
I hope you, my dear readers, will one day get a chance to visit Le Bignele.
P.S. I did not get paid to write this article. I’m just a wine-loving fan 🙂