|The Veneto wine region:|
This image by www.cellartours.com
and was utilized with permission.
The northeastern crown of Italy is a great area for wine, both in terms of variety and in terms of quality. It is there you will find Veneto, a region that produces about 20% of Italian wines and whose history in viniculture dates back to the time of the ancient Greeks. Nearly four-dozen grape varietals are agriculturally productive in the wine industry here. It is also is home to at least twenty Italian D.O.C.'s. Among its award winning IGT’s, is one of The Wine Guy’s favorite Italian wines (see 2 previous blogs: “Italian IGT’s are Worth Exploring, 7/6/10 and Palazzo della Torre: An Old Friend Comes To Dinner, 8/4/09). Veneto is also the home to a vino de tabla that, at times, has been one of the most sought after wines in the world: Giuseppe Quintarella’s Cabernet Franc Alzero.
Today’s blog is about Valpolicella, a D.O.C. wine from Veneto that has been sometimes called the Italian Beaujolais. Like Beaujolais, Valpolicella can be made as a young, ready-to-drink harvest wine or made fuller and in some cases, aged to a great refined and complex red. Unlike Beaujolais which is a single varietal based on the Gamay grape, Valpolicella is the product of a blend of grapes. There are mainly three: Corvina, (which can make up to 70% of the wine), Rodinella and Molinara. The winemaker can add up to 15% of what are defined as “complementary” grapes. Barbera, Sangiovese, Rossignola and Negrana are among those that are regularly utilized for this purpose. Up to 5% of the wine can include other red varietals of the winemaker's choosing.
These myriad combinations along with a plethora of winemaking styles result in a wide diversity of wines. Valpolicella can range from a light and sparkling spumante to a richly aged and sweet Recioto. In the D.O.C.'s beginning, the classifications included Valpolicella Nouveau (bottled a few weeks after harvest), Valpolicella Classico (not unlike Chianti Classico, this is primarily a geographical classification), Valpolicella Superiore (requiring alcohol content of at least 12% and a minimum of one year of aging) and Valpolicella Ripasso (utilizing the leftover pomace from the production of Amarone or Recioto to induce a second fermentation). Desiccating, or partially drying grapes, before wine production is a practice utilized in the making of Recioto della Valpolicella and Amarone della Valpolicella. It is a practice that was probably borrowed from the Greeks and can be traced back to the 6th Century A.D. The name “Valpolicella” itself may be partially Greek in origin. It is thought to have derived from a combination of Greek and Latin words that roughly translated to “Valley of Many Cellars”. Cherry is the signature fruit taste you'll find in Valpolicella. It ranges from light and sometimes sour in the younger styles to deep, full and laced with accents of figs in the more rich and aged styles.
Valpolicella largely escaped the scourges of the late 1800’s including the epidemics of phylloxera and downy mildew and the production of wines there mushroomed in the 1950’s. In 1968, it was granted D.O.C. status but a relaxation of geographic, yield and varietal requirements led to production of wines with variable quality. A refocus on the better quality varietals, sources and the growing popularity of the Amarone and Recioto styles from the late 60’s through the 90’s saw a corresponding increase in higher end wines. By 2000, the volume of sales of Amarone had doubled twice over to nearly four million gallons and in 2009 Amarone della Valpolicella and Recioto della Valpolicella were granted D.O.C.G. status. Late in 2009 Ripasso della Valpolicella became a separate unique D.O.C. of its own.
Today, whether you’re seeking the lighter exuberance of a younger harvest-style or the deep, aromatic richness of the more handcrafted styles, ( including Ripassas, Amarones and Reciotos or some of truly artisanal IGT’s and Vino de Tablas) Valpolicella wines from Vento are well worth exploring. Don't forget to try one of the Wine Guy's favorites: Allegrini's Pallazzo della Torre. Seek out and enjoy a glass soon. Salute!
The Wine Guy is in appreciation to Cellar Tours, a fully bonded and registered tour operator and travel agent, for permission to reproduce the Veneto region map contained on their website. For information on the services they offer, please visit