If I find the right wine for me, I don’t mind where it has come from, and I’m quite happy to go through life trying new wines from all over the world to find my new favourite (which does change periodically). At the moment, my current favourite is Amarone della Valpolicella. I do love Valpolicella reds, so I thought I would give you a little idea of the different wine styles and winemaking methods of this region, which might inspire you to give them a go!
The Valpolicella wine region is found in the North Eastern corner of Italy, in the province of Verona, and it is one of the country’s top wine producing regions. The wines in this region are usually made from the following grape varieties: Corvina; Rondinella and Molinara.
Valpolicella was originally a smaller region in the Verona hills and valleys to the north west of the province. This original zone is now called Valpolicella Classico, and the wine from this area is considered better, and more prestigious, than the newly extended area of Valpolicella DOC. I love the red Valpolicella Classico wines, which are light bodied and fruity with typically sour cherry flavours, and no noticeable tannins. They go brilliantly with Christmas dinner! The Valpolicella DOC wines are a bit more basic in style, but perfectly quaffable!
The next rung up on the Valpolicella ladder would be the Valpolicella Classico Superiore, which has been aged for one year in oak, adding more complex flavours, such as vanilla, coffee, smoke etc and changing the fresh soured cherry flavours into more baked fruit flavours.
Although we have started at the bottom of the ladder and are moving up, I feel right now, that I should jump to the top of the ladder. This is more to explain the production methods of the top wines from this region.
Certainly, the top dry red of this region is Amarone della Valpolicella. The grapes for this wine are kept on the vine as long as possible, so that they reach the maximum sugar concentration possible, then they are harvested and laid out to dry into raisins, typically in well ventilated hay lofts. This raisining process means that there is very little juice, so all of the flavours and sugars are very concentrated. When this juice is fermented, the sugar turns into alcohol, and as there is so much sugar, it makes a wine which is very high in alcohol (about 15.5% ABV) which is the maximum it can reach as, at this level, the alcohol kills the yeast and no further fermentation can take place. Then the wine is aged in oak for several years. The resulting wines are dry, but full of rich dark chocolate, toffee, figs, prunes and earthy flavours. They go fantastically well with rich meaty dishes, and I love them!
Also at the top of the ladder we have the sweet red wines, called Recioto della Valpolicella, which are made in a very similar way to Amarone, but they are not allowed to ferment until they have turned into dry wine, so they keep some residual sugar, which is why they are sweet.
So, on the Valpolicella ladder, just below the Recioto and above the Valpolicella Classico Superiore, is the Valpolicella Ripasso, and then the Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore which are made by adding the pulp, skin and pips left over from making the Recioto and the Amarone, to Valpolicella. The resulting wines are richer with more complex flavours and body than normal Valpolicellas.
So you see, that from one small region, using the same grape varieties, there is a lot of choice, and I’m sure that there is a wine to suit any taste! The great thing is, that we re all different, and my favourite will not necessarily be yours, but we can have fun comparing! So why not try some Valpolicella wines for yourself!Cheers!