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Essential Winemakers of Italy ©Opening a Bottle

Colli Euganei, Veneto  

Primary Grapes: Moscato Giallo, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon

Primary Appellations: Colli Euganei DOC, Colli Euganei Fior d’Arancio DOCG

American Importer: Wilson Daniels



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Why Maeli is Essential

Winemaker Elisa Dilavanzo is an up-ender of convention. A native of Rovigo (“the one town in Italy without a vineyard,” she laughs), Dilavanzo has found her calling in Colli Euganei, a seemingly random series of volcanic hills southwest of Padua. Here, the historic grape is Moscato Giallo, a member of the larger Moscato family of grapes, and Dilavanzo seems determined to bend this grape as far as it will go.

Moscato is the pop music of Italian wine: abundant, hard-to-escape, overtly sweet and consumed by many with little thought. Of course, this being Italy, there are a handful of different Moscato varieties, but in general, they carry the tune of a radio hit that brushes your ears and cloyingly sticks to the sides of your brain cells.

Elisa Dilavanzo has defied this notion with her Moscato Giallo wines. They are compelling, layered, and even savory at times. That’s because many of her wines are vinified dry and handled with the kind of care and reverence reserved for a grape like Pinot Noir. She allows the tones and aromas of her volcanically grown Moscato Giallo to reveal what is usually cloaked in sugar. Her two sparkling wines are so food-friendly — vivid, smooth, mineral, salty — they belong with any course, from appetizer to dessert.

And even when the sugar kicks in — as with a little passito wine called “Diloro” — the story of intrigue remains. All of Maeli’s wines seem to suggest that a whole universe of Moscato could exist out there, if only more were experimenting to this degree. By the time my visit at her winery was finished, I found that I still had more questions than answers. In a country that is simultaneously emboldened by tradition and burdened by it, I find it refreshing to come across a winemaker who dares to push the envelope like Elisa.

Wines to Seek Out

Working in volcanic soils, Dilavanzo has managed to coax a rainbow of aromas, flavors and sensations that are somehow unified and cohesive. There is nothing else in Italy like these wines.

Maeli “Bianco Infinito” Colli Euganei Fior d’Arancio

This dazzling dry Fior d’Arancio has a robust, mineral and addictive profile thanks to its long maceration and volcanic origins.

Maeli “Dili” Moscato Giallo Metodo Ancestrale

Ancestral method wines are often curious but ultimately fatiguing. But “Dili” is a different beast, with savory edges and minty cuts that perpetuate the enticement through a whole bottle.

Maeli “Dila” Moscato Giallo Metodo Classico Brut Nature

While I can’t imagine ever growing bored with champagne, this traditional-method sparkling Moscato Giallo presents a fascinating alternative for restless wine drinkers, with honey and lime and coconut cream flushing through the mid-palate.

Maeli “Diloro” Colli Euganei Fior d’Arancio Passito

This generous and sunny passito wine is the rarest of Maeli’s wines, as it is a struggle to have enough grapes to even make from year to year. Bearing strong tones suggestive of oranges, roses, rosemary and — the “tell” of Moscato Giallo — lemongrass, it is a highly rewarding nectar.

Originally listed: December 2018.

Visiting Maeli

Elisa Dilavanzo is naturally hospitable, and one of the most enthusiastic winemakers I’ve met. So, it is only fitting that she welcomes visitors and offers tours (summer only). Reservations are needed, and be prepared to wear a yellow straw hat — its part of the “Moscato Giallo experience.”

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