From Piedmont we traveled to the Veneto and the fair city of Verona, Italy’s unofficial wine capital and home to Italy’s major wine fest every Spring: Vinitaly. The landscape around Verona is dominated by cherry trees (very beautiful in Spring), and of course, vineyards! Exactly what is grown in the vineyard depends on where you are in the Veneto. The region offers a rich tapestry of wine styles; it is the perfect destination for wine lovers.

Lovely Verona is definitely a destination for wine lovers …

One of the most famous wine regions in the Veneto is Valpolicella, which loosely translates as ‘valley of many cellars’, located about 20 minutes north of Verona. The vineyards in Valpolicella are situated throughout the foothills of the Dolomites (Italian Alps), of varying elevation and exposure (the direction of the vineyard slopes). The soils are fossil rich, a combination of morainic and limestone. This alone explains why the wines are so diverse, but it doesn’t end there…

Here, the red grape Corvina is key. This vibrant grape is cherished for its tart acidity and notes of plum and cherry in straight Valpolicella wines. Rondinella and Molinara grapes can play supportive roles in the wines of this region, but the latter brings less to the blend. And while the blend is more or less consistent, the styles vary.

  • In straight Valpolicella wines, grapes are crushed and the fermentation process is normal. The end result is (usually) a medium-bodied wine with crisp acidity and fresh fruit flavors.
  • In Ripasso della Valpolicella style versions (where the wine is ‘repassed’ over the gross lees, i.e. grape skins, pulp and yeasts, a process known as appassimento) it is a degree higher in alcohol, richness and complexity of flavor.
  • In Amarone della Valpolicella, which is produced from grapes that have been carefully dried for three to four months before fermentation even begins, you’ll get a fuller-bodied wine with deeper, darker fruit notes along with coffee, toffee, sweet spice, pepper, tar and mocha–all of which depends on the use of oak in raising the wine.
  • Lastly, Recioto della Valpolicella is made in a similar method to Amarone, but with even higher concentrations of sugar so the final wine is a sweet, dessert style wine of great complexity. Both Amarone and Recioto are considered ‘meditation’ wines, but can be expensive, as they are very expensive to produce.

These Corvina grapes have been dried for about four months and are ready for pressing. As one can see, there is not much juice left in the grapes!

Next up: What is Classico and Superiore about Valpolicella?