To close out the month of January, we are looking at the most well known red wine of Veneto – Valpolicella. When people refer to Valpolicella, there are actually a handful of different regions just north of Verona they could be referring to, all of which overlap with one another. These wines are all based on the same local varieties, mainly Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara, though other local varieties can also be used. Corvina is typically thought of as the finest of these grapes, and the blend in many Valpolicella wines can consist of upwards of 80% Corvina. However, it is more common for the blend to be more balanced between those grapes and a number of other local varieties. What makes Valpolicella unique (and confusing) is the fact that the different regions are really just different ways of making the same wine. While most wine regions in Italy are unique because of geography or grapes, these differ on winemaking.
As with many other Italian regions, the Valpolicella DOC has a sub-region for wines made from grapes grown in the traditional Valpolicella zones. Like it’s next door neighbor Soave, these wines are labeled as Valpolicella Classico. For both regions, this stems from the 1970’s when, to meet rising demand for the wines (as well as others like Chianti), the DOC zones were greatly expanded. This increased the volume of wine produced, but decreased the overall quality by including areas not typically as well suited to making the wines. The Classico sub-regions went back to the sites where these wines were originally produced and they typically make for better, more consistent wines. Valpolicella, Classico or not, can also carry the designation ‘Superiore’ if it is aged for at least one year before being released.
In addition to the variations on the Valpolicella DOC, there are also three separate regions which overlap with it: the Valpolicella Ripasso DOC, the Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG, and finally the Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG (though this last region is often just thought of as Amarone and is not always lumped together with the others). These regions differ from the Valpolicella DOC in the way in which they are made, employing techniques knowns as Passito and Ripasso which involve drying the grapes before they are made into wine (more on this later).
This particular wine is produced by Tedeschi, a well known producer in the region. Though this wine is from the Valpolicella DOC (and carries both the Classico sub-region and Superiore designation), the grapes used to make this wine were actually dried for a short period of time before being pressed, as indicated on the label with ‘Appassimento Breve’, which roughly translates to ‘short drying’. The wine is made up of 30% Corvina, 30% Corvinone, 30% Rondinella, and 10% Rossignola, Oseleta, Negrara, and Dindarella. It’s appearance is clear, with medium intensity and dark ruby coloring. The nose has medium intensity, with notes of black fruit, red cherry, other red fruits, and green bell pepper (which I wasn’t expecting), along with some smokiness. The body is medium to light and dry, with few tannins and a good amount of acidity. There are notes of red cherry, more green pepper, raspberry, and other red fruits, along with some spice and smokiness. It has a nice, medium finish. Overall it is quite a nice, well balanced wine, with more depth and complexity than you might expect from a wine from the Valpolicella DOC.